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Inquiring Minds: What Makes for Good Staff Development?

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These principles and standards reflect the emerging consensus about the best practices and characteristics of high-quality professional development.



"Building Bridges: The Mission and Principles of Professional Development" --U.S. Department of Education

Professional development:

  • Focuses on teachers as central to student learning, yet includes all other members of the school community.
  • Focuses on individual, collegial, and organizational improvement.
  • Respects and nurtures the intellectual and leadership capacity of teachers, principals, and others in the school community.
  • Reflects best available research and practice in teaching, learning, and leadership.
  • Enables teachers to develop further expertise in subject content, teaching strategies, uses of technologies, and other essential elements in teaching to high standards.
  • Promotes continuous inquiry and improvement embedded in the daily life of schools.
  • Is planned collaboratively by those who will participate in and facilitate that development.
  • Requires substantial time and other resources.
  • Is driven by a coherent long-term plan.
  • Is evaluated ultimately on the basis of its impact on teacher effectiveness and student learning; and this assessment guides subsequent professional-development efforts.

Contact: Valerie Rockefeller, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Education, 600 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20202-0100; (202) 401-1078.



"Principles for Professional Development" --American Federation of Teachers

"When there are clearly articulated, high standards for student achievement and when conversations take place about how to help students reach them, professional development is taking place, whatever the formal or informal mechanisms that enable this to happen.

The very organization of school should promote and provide for continuous and serious reflection about what students are learning and what needs to be done to continually improve."

Professional development should:

  • Ensure depth of content knowledge.
  • Provide a strong foundation in the pedagogy of particular disciplines.
  • Provide more general knowledge about the teaching and learning processes and about schools as institutions.
  • Be rooted in and reflect the best available research.
  • Contribute to measurable improvement in student achievement.
  • Expect teachers to be intellectually engaged with ideas and resources.
  • Provide sufficient time, support, and resources to enable teachers to master new content and pedagogy and to integrate these into their practice.
  • Be designed by representatives of those who participate in it, in cooperation with experts in the field.
  • Take a variety of forms, including some we have not typically considered.

Contact: American Federation of Teachers, 555 New Jersey Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001-2079; (202) 879-4400. Ask for item No. 176. Single copies are free; $1 each for five or more.



"Standards for Staff Development, Elementary School Edition" --National Staff Development Council and the National Association of Elementary School Principals

Staff development should:

  • Be aligned with school and district goals to improve education.
  • Establish priorities on what issues to address using disaggregated data about students.
  • Prepare teachers to use research-based teaching strategies appropriate to their instructional objectives and students.
  • Require staff members to learn and apply collaborative skills to conduct meetings, make shared decisions, solve problems, and work collegially.
  • Provide adequate time during the work day for staff members to learn and work together to accomplish the school's mission and goals.
  • Be based on knowledge about human learning and development.

Contact: National Staff Development Council, P.O. Box 240, Oxford, Ohio, 45056; (800) 727-7288 or (513) 523-6029, or the National Association of Elementary School Principals, 1615 Duke St., Alexandria, Va. 22314-3483; (800) 38NAESP or (703) 684-3345. The price for the elementary standards is $12 for members of the organizations and $15 for nonmembers.



"Learning To Walk the Reform Talk: A Framework for the Professional Development of Teachers"

"New conditions are necessary if teachers are to learn to teach in new ways. The increased demands of teaching embedded in reform require changes in how teachers work and learn."

They need:

  • Opportunities to work with colleagues, both in their school building and beyond. They need chances to learn from others' successes and failures and to share ideas and knowledge.
  • The support and advice of a principal who understands the demands that reform places on teachers and what it takes to change teachers' roles and practice.
  • Someone, other than the principal, to observe them trying out new practices and provide nonevaluative comments and suggestions.
  • To be part of a larger learning community that is a source of support and ideas—a community that consists of administrators, students, parents, school councils, school boards, and business people.
  • Chances to experience learning in ways consistent with the reforms and to observe teaching practices that help all students achieve the learner outcomes.
  • To develop new understandings of the subjects they teach and the roles they play in the school, classroom, and larger learning community.
  • To feel that they can critically assess their own practice, in order to make progress in the developmental process of learning new practices.
  • The time and mental space to become involved in the sometimes protracted process of changing roles and practice.

Contact: National Center for Research on Teacher Learning, College of Education, Michigan State University, 116 Erickson Hall, East Lansing, Mich. 48824-1034; (517) 355-9302.

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