Strategically Planning for Teacher Development - Steve Barkley

Strategically Planning for Teacher Development

As a school leadership team designs a plan for achieving school improvement goals, planning for teacher growth is often a component. Frequently missing from the planning is an assessment to decide “who needs what training and support?”

Teamwork with laptop at office

Here is a process that I’ve found helpful.

Begin by identifying a classroom where the desired learning and teaching is occurring. If such a classroom isn’t present in your building decide what one would look like. Very clearly describe what you see students doing and experiencing in that classroom and what the teacher is doing or has done to initiate, motivate, and support those student behaviors. This is an important step to confirm that the leadership team is in agreement on “what you are looking to have happen,” in other words, what you believe would produce the desired student achievement.

The next step is to identify a classroom in your school that would have to change the most to become the classroom you described above. If you were to observe in that classroom what would we see students doing and experiencing?  What would we see the teacher doing?

Using the diagram below consider the ideal classroom to be at a 10 or 11 on the continuum and the classroom that needs to change the most at a 1 or 2.


Now the leadership team can decide where they would place each teacher in the school on the continuum. When the leadership cannot decide, additional observation in those classrooms is necessitated. The ideal culture to create in a school would be one where the teachers were asked to place themselves on the continuum. Asking teachers to self- assess provides valuable information for leadership. The accuracy of those self-assessments indicates the level of teachers’ understanding of the desired student and teacher behaviors and the recognition of what is currently happening in their classrooms.

Self Assessment

In one school where I used this strategy the leadership team identified that most teachers were in the category of 4-6. The teachers self -assessed at being in 7-9. When that information emerged, the principal identified that leadership had provided insufficient models of what a 7-9 classroom would look and sound like. This identified what leaders now needed to do.

It is important to recognize that this is not an evaluation of a teacher.  It is an assessment of a single skill set. For example a middle school’s improvement plan might be focused on raising the writing performance of its English Language Learners. The leadership team wants all teachers to support the ELL learners in writing. Likely there are teachers in science and social studies departments who have not had an opportunity to understand the needed ELL student behaviors and experiences to enhance writing performance or the teaching options to create those experiencing.  Being a 2 on the continuum  for ELL writing is not an evaluation of overall teacher effectiveness.

At this point the team can now begin to identify how to provide the necessary knowledge, modeling, and coaching that teachers need and who on the team/staff can provide it.

If the school had a half-day PD scheduled, what would they want teachers who are at 2-3 on the continuum to experience? How would that be different from teachers who were at 6-7?

Would the team create opportunities for teachers to observe in other classrooms? What classrooms should teachers who are at a 2-3 observe? (I recommend observing a 5-6 rather than a 9. The observed behaviors here are likely more adoptable to this teacher as a next step.)

Where should the coach’s focus be in spending her time to advance teachers’ skills? Should she focus on the majority of staff at 5-6 as a group, perhaps doing technical coaching to provide feedback as teachers practice strategies from the PD workshop? Will the administrator focus on the two teachers at 2? Or is reversing the coach and principal roles more appropriate for this staff?

It is critical that teams strategically plan how to use the limited time and resources available to build teacher capacity to support student learning.

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