My Two Cents
A question that I had on my mind right now as I am getting settled in my new role of staff developer is how to impact professional development so that the teachers go back to their classrooms and implement the strategies that are taught. The book, From Staff Room to Classroom: A Guide for Planning and CoachingProfessional Development, by Robin Fogarty and Brian Pete, is a good start to delving into the depths of my question. At times the information is a bit obvious, like many of the “revelations” about adult learners. It is also a bit repetitive as it goes on to review several researchers who have similar conclusions. Overall, there are some valuable ideas about planning and implementing professional development that can change what teachers do in the classroom and impact student achievement, written in very reader-friendly language and a very manageable length (155 pages). Perhaps the most important idea is the necessity of on-site coaching to the professional development model. Coaching is often thought of as an induction tool to train new teachers or as an intervention for struggling teachers, not as an integral step for transferring skills from the staff room to the classroom. A tool I plan in using in my trainings to facilitate transfer is the “Transfer Window” coupled with the “Tiny Transfer Book”, both described briefly in the book. I am also going to put my own spin on the Levels of Transfer as a way of helping demystify teachers of their own process of applying their learning to their classrooms. I have summed up some the main ideas of the book below.
Nuggets of Wisdom from the Book
The book begins by describing the change process and why change is so hard. Contrary to popular belief, a change in practice must come first, then a change in achievement, and finally a change in belief. In other words, teachers must see the effectiveness of the strategy to change their beliefs and professional development must focus on a change in practice.
Any learning that requires a complex process or shift in mindset needs longer term coaching.
There are three stages of change: Initiation (introducing the innovation) , Implementation (applying the innovation to practice), and Institutionalization (monitoring the continued use of the innovation)
Findings about the adult learner include the following:
Control of learning, Immediate utility, Focus on issues that concern them, Test learning as they go, Anticipate how they will use their learning, Expect performance improvement, Maximize available resources, Require collaborative, respectful, mutual, and informal climate, Information must be logically and appropriately organized and paced
The “Cast of Characters” in a professional development training often include the following:
Caretaker, Know-It-All, Hitchhiker, Devil’s Advocate, Omnivore, Inquisitor, Negotiator, Overachiever, Politician, Sage, Clown
Designing a workshop requires the individual to be a designer, organizer, artist, performer, and critic.
A presentation must capture the attention of the audience, keep them captivated, and have a strong closing.
A facilitator helps participants process the information cognitively by making good use of whole group interactions (Questions, Human Graph, People Search, Partner Interview), small group interactions (Turn to Your Partner, Think Pair Share, Trios, Quads), and individual endeavors (required participation on a clear product and reflection).
Participants must also engage in affective processing (Plus/Minus/Interesting Chart, I Appreciate.., and metacognitive processing (Ah Ha/Oh No, How does this connect with what you already know? How can you use it in the future?)
There must be an emphasis on transfer to the classroom (Take Away Window, Tiny Transfer Book)
Coaching is necessary for full implementation of a strategy. Coaches can be “expert” content area coaches or peer coaches. Coaching should be a mandatory component of any professional development in which the expectation is transfer of the strategy to the classroom.
There are 7 transfer strategies: 1. Learn about transfer theory 2. Set expectation for transfer 3. Model with authentic artifacts 4. Reflect on levels of transfer 5. Plan applications 6. Try something immediately 7. Dialogue about the process (here is where the coaching comes into play)
Transfer theory: Two types of transfer-Simple transfer is very similar to the original learning while Complex transfer requires mindful consideration of how to use in a new context and needs “bridging”
Levels of transfer: Ollie Head in the Sand Ostrich—overlooks the opportunity to use the new idea. Dan the Drilling Woodpecker—duplicates strategy exactly as it was learned (often these teachers ask for an extra copy of a handout), Laura the Look a Like Penguin—replicates the learning by tailoring it just slightly, Jonathan Livingston the Seagull—integrates the learning into existing bag of tricks, Cathy the Carrier Pigeon—maps (propagates) the idea intentionally, Sam the Soaring Eagle—innovates and invents applications for the idea.
There are four necessary components to a workshop that are of equal importance: Theory, Demonstration, Practice, and Coaching
Professional Learning Communities are an essential structure by which professional development can occur.