Staff Development Guide

Killion, Joellen

This month, articles by featured speakers at the NASSP Annual Convention address significant issues that will resonate with most administrators and teachers. The authors-who present their points of view regarding differentiation of instruction and learning, teacher development, accountability, race and social class in education, and the characteristics that identify a top school-have written whole books on their respective topics (see resources). Each of these rich topics merits further attention by school faculties and could easily become the focus of a multi-year professional development program.

Although undertaking a long-term, intensive professional development program may be a bit daunting, it can be done if it is well-planned and thoughtfully executed. Use the sample outline below to imagine how staff development leaders within your school might construct a multiyear professional development program related to these topics. For the purposes of the example, differentiation will be the topic.

Slow and

Year One

Months 1-3. Study groups within the school meet to discuss the reading they have done on a selected theme. Study groups may read articles or books in common, or they may choose to focus in depth on particular aspects of the topic. For example, study groups might read the article included in this issue and other books or articles on differentiation. (Articles at will help you get started.)

Months 4-5. Study groups develop a set of questions to guide their inquiry into the selected theme. These questions primarily focus on the knowledge, skills, dispositions, and behaviors that teachers use to successfully apply the practice of differentiation, how teachers put their learning into practice in their classrooms, and how it will transform teaching and learning.

Months 6-12. A team of teachers agrees to receive indepth training in strategies for differentiation and begins to experiment with it in their classrooms. Other teachers may join them in applying strategies during this time. Teachers meet biweekly to discuss their application of strategies and to analyze their own and students’ work.

Year Two

Months 13-18. Teachers who have been trained and who have practiced differentiation in their classrooms become trainers for other teachers. In small teams, they present various strategies for differentiation to their colleagues.

Months 19-20. Each team or department creates a plan for implementing specific strategies for differentiation. For example, the science department members study various strategies for differentiation, determine which strategies align most closely with their curriculum standards and courses, and make a commitment to conduct action research about how the selected strategies work within their classrooms.

Year Two-Three

Months 21-30. Members of teams or departments meet to design lessons and units and choose various instructional resources to implement their selected differentiation strategies. They determine the viability of the strategies by examining student work and achievement on common assessments and state tests.

Months 31-36. Team or department members create a plan to implement additional differentiation strategies within their classrooms and repeat both the planning, implementation, and evaluation processes.

In the Meantime

In addition to the work of the teams during these years, school leaders work with teachers to determine what successful differentiation looks like in their school. A team creates a tool such as a checklist or rubric that describes the salient features of differentiation. The checklist or rubric is field tested and revised.

Once a tool is developed, teachers and school leaders use the tool to assess the success of differentiation throughout the school. Teachers may observe one another and use the tool to guide the feedback they give one another. Principals may use the tool for informal observations or classroom walk-throughs.

Teachers and school leaders may also serve together on an oversight committee to review the success of differentiation within the school, ensure that appropriate resources are available for teachers, provide extended professional learning experiences for teachers who want to expand their use of differentiation, and make training and support available for teachers new to the school who may not have the same knowledge and skills more veteran teachers have. In addition, the oversight committee might work with community members and parents to explain the value of differentiation for students, provide information and examples, and address concerns and questions that arise from the community or from the faculty.

This multiyear, professional development plan that concentrates not only on helping teachers understand differentiation, but also on implementing it within their classroom, significantly increases the likelihood that differentiation of instruction and resources will become routine practice within the school.

Professional development often fails to have a long-term impact on teaching practice and student learning because it lacks coherence, support over time, and a comprehensive plan designed specifically to move from the information level to implementation within the classroom. Designing, implementing, and supporting comprehensive professional development requires school leaders to set expectations for implementation, provide ongoing support and varied opportunities for adults to learn and practice new behaviors, and monitor implementation and effects on student learning. Focusing professional development over time on topics of critical importance will produce results in terms of teacher competence and confidence and student learning.

Sharing What You Learned at the Convention

When you return to school after attending an annual conference, the routine of daily life looms large and new learning is quickly tucked away or lost. Before that happens, take 15 minutes to write a list of the 15 most important things you learned. These might be lessons from a colleague, a keynote speaker, or a concurrent session presenter. Next to each item, write the names of one or two people who would benefit most from knowing what you learned. Make a point in the next month to seek out one or two of those people a day and share what you learned and why you thought they might be interested. In this way, your valuable learning experience will be shared and will benefit others. It is likely to generate another conversation or two and perhaps teaching and learning.

Resources by Authors in This

Class and School: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap. R. Rothstein. 2004. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

What Great Teachers Do Differently, T. Whitaker. 2004. Larchmont, NY: Larchmont Press.

Meet Me in the Middle. R. Wormeli. (2001). Milwaukee, WI: Stenhouse Publishers.

Accountability for Learning: How Teachers and Leaders Can Take Charge, D. Reeves. 2004. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

The National Staff Development Council (NSDC) is a nonprofit professional association that is committed to ensuring success for all students through staff development and school improvement. The council views high-quality staff development programs as essential to creating schools in which all students and staff members are learners who continually improve their performance. To learn more about NSDC and staff development, visit

Joellen Killion is the director of special projects at the National Staff Development Council (NSDC). This column is provided in cooperation with NSDC and supports NSDCs Standards for Staff Development, 2001 (www.nsdc/standards/index.cfm).

Copyright National Association of Secondary School Principals Mar 2005

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved

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