Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Information Is Not Implementation: Fidelity to a Statewide Professional Development Plan

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Information Is Not Implementation: Fidelity to a Statewide Professional Development Plan

Article excerpt

OVERVIEW

Funded by federal educational improvement monies, a Midwestern state department of education in the U.S. launched a statewide Formative Instructional Practices (FIP) professional development (PD) program to engage school leaders and teaching staff in utilizing e-learning with school level collaboration teams and applying formative instructional practices to enhance the quality of instruction. The statewide FIP PD program sought to improve the ability of K-12 teachers in more than 300 districts to implement formative instructional practices by supporting teachers through a period of change in instructional practice until they were able to see differences in student behaviors or achievement in thousands of schools.

The university based external FIP PD program evaluators (who were also the researchers) were charged with documenting local implementation practices as well as changes in educators and students throughout the life of the FIP PD project. As this large scale professional development initiative integrated many stakeholders' efforts, it was important to verify that the program was being implemented with fidelity in terms of adherence to the content, frequency, duration, and coverage, as well as input, output and continuity prescribed by its designers. What critical elements were in place or needed to be in place to support program fidelity?

INTRODUCTION

The content of FIP professional development was guided by the concept and features of "assessment for learning" (Stiggins, 2008). A national educational publisher provided content and design for five online learning modules emphasizing four core "assessment for learning" concepts. A locally based national nonprofit organization that promotes practices for improving educator effectiveness provided technology and structure to support the delivery of FIP professional development modules online. The state department of education outlined implementation guidelines for the FIP PD project and designated regional support personnel. Statewide FIP training followed a familiar sequence of train the trainers in initiating the program. The sequence originated with national content experts training regional specialists who in turn prepared district or building administrators and facilitators to guide teachers. The FIP PD model was designed intending that teachers would receive an overview of the FIP program from the local facilitator in face-to-face groups, then work through the online FIP modules independently, while regularly collaborating with in-house colleagues in professional learning teams.

By taking a blended learning approach that incorporated online learning modules, teacher-based teams, facilitation materials, and a regional system of on- and off-line support, the FIP PD program was designed to help local education agencies (LEAs) across the state move through an implementation pathway designed to create teacher facilitation, collaboration, and sustainability around formative instructional practices. Individual schools set their own timetables for when overviews, professional team sessions, and online trainings would occur at the school building level. Different approaches to providing on-site work included after school sessions, planning times, using substitutes to free up teachers, delaying start times, etc. When implemented with fidelity, the program aimed to equip educators to adapt successfully to changes in more than 300 LEAs involving thousands of schools and teaching staff. While implementing this school improvement initiative on such a scale, FIP PD preparation and support were intended to provide:

* Guidance for launching FIP PD training at the school level

* Consultation from regional specialists

* Training for FIP local facilitators for in-house professional development

* Blended learning, with interactive online courses and school level discussions

* Emphasis on in-house professional learning communities

* Materials to facilitate school wide and team-based professional development

* Resources to implement and sustain formative instructional practices

As FIP PD implementation was carried out, evaluators needed to determine whether the program was being implemented with fidelity in terms of adherence to the content, frequency, duration, and coverage, as well as input, output and continuity prescribed by its designers. …

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