Purpose: "Professional learning standards are the cornerstone of quality professional learning, identifying essential elements of quality professional [development] that cut across specific content knowledge, pedagogical skills, and dispositions" (Quality Professional Learning Standards, CA Dept of Ed).
The content of professional development in LBUSD is determined as follows:
- Through a collaborative effort of teachers, administrators, and support staff.
- Driven by identified student needs based on measurable data, that includes a variety of assessment tools (including standardized test scores, district-based assessments, and classroom assessments).
- A process that examines the gaps/discrepancies between what the data indicates and what is desired, and prioritizes needs
- In collaboration with their peers and site-level administrators, teachers will be required to identify gaps in their content and pedagogical knowledge.
- Identifies staff development that has the greatest potential for improving student learning, has institutional support, and has strong advocates at the school and district level
- Based on best-practice research on teaching and learning.
To the greatest extent possible, the data-driven professional development efforts are school-site based. However, it is recognized that consistency in curriculum and instruction across the district is crucial for ensuring the academic success of all students. To this end, professional development programs that are centered on introducing teachers to new curriculum and pedagogical practices be developed and implemented through the Office of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development.
Evaluation: Each professional development program has an evaluation component that specifies evidence that is used to determine if the gap/discrepancy has been resolved. This evidence may include documents that demonstrate effects on student performance and changes in teaching practice. The results of the evaluation should be ongoing and provide continuous feedback to participants, throughout the implementation process.
It is recognized that the context for professional development is crucial for its success. School and district culture has developed a norm for continuous improvement and views staff development as an ongoing, job-embedded examination process. The district culture holds a philosophy that supports inquiry, reflection, and the seeking new knowledge, problem solving, trying new approaches, and assessment of the results. Trust is an important element of the school culture and includes opportunities for the development of a shared purpose.
The instructional leader is critical in becoming an advocate for teachers and professional development. The instructional leader ensures that the professional development efforts are aligned with other initiatives and have the requisite support components. The instructional leader is a participant in the professional development program, assisting with problem solving and taking steps to overcome teachers’ isolation and to nurture collaboration and collegiality. The instructional leaders also hold teachers accountable for improvement. Teachers are recognized for attempts to implement new instructional strategies. This can often be accomplished through release time, funding or additional assistance, and acknowledgement for actions, achievements, and accomplishments.
Another role for the instructional leader is to ensure that professional development programs have adequate resources. This may require revising or reallocating existing budgets and the acquisition of new funds. Teachers must also have adequate time for learning and collaboration. Time reallocation may be accomplished through the use of one or more of the following: expanded staffing, alternative student grouping structures, alternative scheduling, accumulated time, the use of school/university partnerships. To ensure the success of professional development, the allocated time must be sufficient, flexible, and sustained. A long-term commitment to the goals established for professional development should be maintained.
The role of central office support is to provide assistance to schools in the analysis of their data and to aid in the development of improvement priorities. Central office personnel can also provide support as consultants and providers of professional development programs.
The process of professional development is guided by the following principles:
- Designs with the change process in mind
- Organizational (from implementation to institutionalization)
- Individual (internal motivation, self-directed learning, independence & collaboration, identifying outcomes, time, resources, supporting structures)
- Integrates innovations
- Has a clearly defined evaluation plan
- Uses a variety of approaches including individually-guided activities, observation and assessment, involvement in the development/improvement process, training on new content or pedagogy, inquiry models, action research
- Provides support for implementation including peer coaching, collegial support groups, mentoring, study groups, audio/videotaping.
- Promotes teacher collaboration. Activities could be supported through the following: common planning time, discussion groups, peer study groups, peer coaching, committees with decision making power over real issues, teacher involvement in designing and implementation professional development activities, leadership teams, teacher networks, computer networks
- Believes that training programs should include a series of activities spaced over time, theory, demonstration, practice, feedback, and coaching, follow-up, and a support cadre.
Adapted from Learning Forward (www.learningforward.org)