Educators have probably all grown wary of drive-by staff development—the one- or two-day workshop that momentarily energizes staff, getting everyone excited about doing something new, but then, like a photograph left too long in the sun, fades over time.
So who are we to blame when this happens? Teachers? Is it their fault when guidance from a workshop doesn’t take root in classrooms?
Not so fast, according to McREL staff members Jane Hill and Anne Lundquist in an article that’s now online at the Education.com site.
School leaders actually hold the keys to making staff development stick.
Hill and Lundquist lay out several strategies that they have used effectively in the English Language Learner Instructional Leadership Academies they have led in Colorado, Nebraska, Virginia, Iowa and other states to turn drive-by workshops into something lasting in schools.
These strategies include identifying, up front, a leadership team, consisting of school administrators, district staff, and teachers, who take responsibility for helping teachers to implement what they learn in staff development sessions in their classrooms.
Leaders also need to recognize that any change worth making is difficult and takes people out of their comfort zones. To loosen folded arms or “this too shall pass attitudes,” leaders must work on getting everyone on the same page (something at McREL we call creating a “purposeful community”) so they see the need for change and believe doing something different will make a difference. They also need to take steps to overcome the anxiety and pushback that comes with any difficult, meaningful change (which we call “second order” change).
Hill and Lundquist’s article offers practical steps for how leadership teams can accomplish both of these objectives. While their article focuses on staff development related to improving the achievement of English language learners, their practical tips and advice for making professional development stick translates well to all kinds of teacher learning.
Bryan Goodwin is McREL’s Vice President of Communications.