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Strategy Give professional development more impact

Summary

This strategy involves designing a professional development program at the district level built on general principles that research suggests are key to influencing teachers' beliefs and reshaping their instructional practices. It requires a shift in the curriculum, pedagogy and discourse of professional development from simply giving teachers things to do in their classroom toward providing support for more reflective approaches to teaching, learning and assessment.

An important strength of this strategy is that professional development is custom-tailored to meet the long-term needs of the district. There are many tools to support on-going professional development and this strategy allows for linking a variety of tools in purposive ways. If a program of professional development is organized around the principles above, it stands a good chance of developing all personnel.

This approach to professional development stands in stark contrast to modal practice. It requires district leaders to take hard positions that “not everything goes.” A district needs to hold firm in supporting with its own resources only those activities that fit with the overall improvement plan. That may mean resisting calls to bring in charismatic or motivational outside experts or consultants when what they offer is not likely to move the district forward.

The "download extended report" provides a full description of this strategy along with guidance about implementing the strategy and strengths and limitations of the strategy.

Applicable tools

Tool Fostering Algebraic Thinking Toolkit: A Guide for Staff Development is a self-study guide, intended for independent use by a group of teachers in grades 6-10, with the help of a facilitator. The materials are composed of four thematic modules, each supporting four 3-hour sessions, with a complete set of materials for each session.

Tool Cognitively Guided Instruction provides a set of tools that reflect this strategy.

Tool Developing Mathematical Ideas is a series of professional development seminars in grades K-6 whose goals are to help teachers learn more mathematics around key ideas of the elementary curriculum.

Tool Talking Mathematics is a collection of videotapes with a leader's guide that offers strategies to help leaders engage teachers in professional development activities that focus on student understanding.

Tool Balanced Assessment in Mathematics Professional Development Series is a collection of Leader Guides that fully support 8 or more 3-hour workshop sessions.

Challenges addressed

Complementary strategies