Teaching Students How to
Selecting the content of staff development is one of the most critical decisions in the school improvement process. If you are to attain your student achievement goals, the content of staff development needs to be aligned with those goals. And the content needs to be robust enough to effect the types of change envisioned. Even when context (norms for continuous growth, time for learning) and process (analysis of student data, design of training) variables have been carefully tended, the selection of inappropriate or ineffectual content can sabotage the sincere efforts of groups attempting to positively influence student learning.
Contributing to the critical nature of this decision is the collective nature of school improvement initiatives. Choosing content for a collaborative change effort is a crucial step in the process because, once it is selected as a district or school focus, many people are committed to learning and implementing the new content. An individual can fairly easily change course in midstream if the content chosen is not addressing an identified need, but an entire staff abandoning a change effort can be both costly and damaging. We emphasize using the knowledge base on curriculum and instruction as a major source of content to maximize the probability that the content will pay off.
Before addressing the “what” and “how” of selecting staff development content, we'll briefly discuss the “who”—who will select the content for collective study when groups of educators share a common goal.
We have previously discussed in detail the building of a broadly representative and collaborative process for making decisions about staff development and will only briefly reprise it here.