20 October, 2011
By Rebecca Alber
Teachers have all experienced a professional development that is so way off target or one that had nothing to do with what they teach or who they teach. We teachers can talk about having to sit in poorly-run, irrelevant PD like they are war stories.
Today, I teach teachers and design and facilitate a good number of teacher workshops. I'd like to share some things I've discovered -- through experience and research -- when it comes to PD.
Why PD Matters So Much
Research shows that teachers tend to teach the way that they were taught. That is, of course, until we gain new insights through experience and development.
And since education is always evolving, professional development is essential for teachers to enhance the knowledge and skills they need to help students succeed in the classroom. Educational psychologist and researcher, Lee Shulman described an elaborate, wide-range knowledge base for teacher education. This knowledge base includes content knowledge, general pedagogical knowledge, curriculum knowledge, knowledge of learners and their characteristics, knowledge of educational context, ends, and purposes.
In the words of Aristotle: He who dares to teach must never cease to learn.
An added layer being that our profession is a unique one in that we don't work with things, but with people. Just like medical professionals (who, of course, also deal in people), we need to continually update, enhance, and reflect our current knowledge and skills base so we can develop a more effective practice. If a doctor said, "I don't need to go to any seminars and lectures ever again," you'd probably choose a new doctor.
Making PD Authentic
The key to an effective, quality workshop is this: PD planners and facilitators need to know as much as they can about the teacher participants and their needs and then strive to meet those very needs.
Let's define needs. They are a gap between what is expected and the existing conditions. A needs assessment, or needs analysis, is an examination of the existing need for training within an individual, group, or organization.
Encourage your principal, instructional coach, administrator in charge of instruction, whomever makes The Decision about how your school's professional development time and money is spent, to conduct a needs assessment before an after-school or weekend workshop.
A good place to start? Consider developing a general needs assessment survey using a Likert scale, 5-1: 5 = completely true to 1 = not at all true. Here are some sample statements so that teachers can rate themselves:
- "I'm able to contextualize abstract ideas and concepts for students"
- "I feel very knowledgeable of the content I teach"
- "I know how to design a rigorous end-of-study assessment"
- "The teaching strategies I select to use in the classroom support diverse learners and learning styles"
You might also create a needs assessment with very specific statements just about teaching English language learners, for example. Always include an area on the survey for teachers to write in any questions or comments.
Use the needs assessment results to guide planning, choice of materials, and other supports needed for the workshop. If the powers that be have an agenda item they would like addressed in the day, that's fine, but the bulk of the agenda has to primarily speak to meeting the needs of the group. Without this, there is danger of an irrelevant, frustrating, forgettable workshop (see war stories comment above). If the only rationale for an entire day's agenda is, "it comes from the principal/district," well, see war stories comment above.
No One-Offs, Please
Quick-fix, single-shot PD can often end up as information overload for teachers. And since the goals of these are so often focused on getting a large amount of information out in limited time, rarely do they include time on the agenda for processing, planning, and reflecting -- all essential.
The aim of a good teacher PD plan is to grow collaborative teams and build capacity by speaking to the specific needs of the individuals in the group (i.e. needs assessment first, authentic training activities/materials that speak to those needs next). Then, the facilitator/administrator provides continued support for the team as they develop new skills and understandings. Follow this philosophy and how will teacher workshops at your school begin to look? The team will plan collaboratively, use research to guide their practice, and reflect and adjust on their own (no presenter necessary, only a facilitator, and one with a minor role).
Many beginning teachers start their careers with little professional support while they are required to carry a full teaching load immediately. Novice teachers may also be assigned to teach a discipline outside their area of training. There are veteran teachers who have a solid pedagogical practice but lack technology training, or need to update some aspects of their instruction. And there are many educators often in the middle who exhibit specific strengths in their teaching methods, while also having some weaknesses.
We talk about personalized learning environs in K-12, even in K-16, and we must apply this same thinking when it comes to professional development for teachers.
How has your school evolved it's professional development, creating time for relevant and authentic learning experiences for your teachers?
For your success and glory!
Read, Learn and Flourish!
By Anne Obrien, A former public school teacher and Teach For America alumna, Anne O'Brien is the deputy director of the Learning First Alliance.
Approximately 32 percent of students report being bullied at school. Bullied students are more likely to take a weapon to school, get involved in physical fights, and suffer from anxiety and depression, health problems, and mental health problems. They suffer academically (especially high-achieving black and Latino students). And research suggests that schools where students report a more severe bullying climate score worse on standardized assessments than schools with a better climate.
This is all common sense to educators. They have known for decades that students need to be in safe, supportive learning environments to thrive. And the vast majority care deeply about keeping children safe.
But especially given that commitment to student safety, why do so many children experience bullying?
In Principal magazine, elementary principal, now retired, James Dillon writes that in bullying prevention trainings, he asks participants to choose the one group they believe is most responsible for addressing school violence and bullying: parents, students, school, or community. Inevitably, he gets a wide variety of responses. He suggests perhaps bullying problems are not addressed because "people think bullying prevention is someone else's responsibility."
A large-scale study by the NEA and Johns Hopkins University that examined school staff's perspectives on bullying and bullying prevention somewhat refutes that hypothesis, finding 98 percent of participants (all teachers and education support professionals) thought it was "their job" to intervene when they witnessed bullying. But just 54 percent received training on their district's bullying prevention policy.
Without such training, some of Dillon's other suggestions as to why bullying is so prevalent -- that adults don't recognize some behaviors as bullying and that bullying is often ineffectually addressed using the traditional discipline system of applying punishment to a perpetrator -- make sense. So whom should we blame for the state of bullying?
As Dillon puts it, "The reality is that no one is to blame, yet everyone is responsible." We all can work to prevent bullying, be it on a school- or classroom-wide basis, or even at home.
Five Tips to Help Principals Prevent Bullying
According to Dillon, effectively addressing a bullying problem requires a culture change. A true culture change takes time, but a few key steps to help principals get started:
- Practice What You Preach Don't use your status as the school leader as the lever for change; instead, "listen before talking and reflect before acting" to ensure your staff feel valued (this is backed up by the NEA survey, which found an important predictor of adult willingness to intervene in bullying was their "connectedness" to the school, defined as their belief they are valued as individuals and professionals in the learning process).
- Assess the Extent of the Problem Survey students, staff and parents to find out how much and what type of bullying is going, as well as where and when, to target prevention efforts.
- Develop a School-wide Code of Conduct that reinforces school values and clearly defines unacceptable behaviour and consequences. Empower bystanders -- teachers and especially students -- to help enforce it by training them to identify and respond to inappropriate behaviour.
- Increase Adult Supervision Most bullying happens when adults are not present, so make sure they are "visible and vigilant" in hallways, stairwells, cafeterias and locker rooms, as well as on buses and the way to and from school for students who walk.
- Conduct Bullying Prevention Activities such as all-school assemblies, communications campaigns or creative arts contests highlighting school values to bring the community together and reinforce the message that bullying is wrong.
Five Tips to Help Teachers Prevent Bullying
Even when a school leader doesn't have a formal bullying prevention agenda, teachers can create safe, bully-free zones in their classrooms:
- Know Your School and District Policies on Bullying Do your part to implement them effectively.
- Treat Students and Others with Warmth and Respect Let students know that you are available to listen and help them.
- Conduct Classroom Activities around Bullying Help your class identify bullying in books, TV shows and movies, and discuss the impact of that bullying and how it was/could be resolved. Hold class meetings in which students can talk about bullying and peer relations.
- Discuss Bullying with Colleagues As a group, you will be better able to monitor the school environment. Discuss both bullying in general and concerns regarding specific students.
- Take Immediate Action Failure to act provides tacit approval of the behaviour and can cause it to spread.
Five Tips to Help Parents Prevent Bullying
Parents and guardians are among a school's best allies in bullying prevention:
§ Talk with and Listen to Your Children Everyday Ask questions about their school day, including experiences on the way to and from school, lunch, and recess. Ask about their peers. Children who feel comfortable talking to their parents about these matters before they are involved in bullying are more likely to get them involved after.
§ Spend time at School and Recess Schools can lack the resources to provide all students individualized attention during "free" time like recess. Volunteer to coordinate games and activities that encourage children to interact with peers aside from their best friends.
§ Be a Good Example When you get angry at waiters, other drivers or others, model effective communication techniques. As Education.com puts it, "Any time you speak to another person in a mean or abusive way, you're teaching your child that bullying is ok."
§ Create Healthy Anti-Bullying Habits Starting as young as possible, coach your children on both what not to do (push, tease, and be mean to others) as well as what to do (be kind, empathize, and take turns). Also coach your child on what to do if someone is mean to him or to another (get an adult, tell the bully to stop, walk away and ignore the bully).
§ Make Sure Your Child Understands Bullying Explicitly explain what it is and that it's not normal or tolerable for them to bully, be bullied, or stand by and watch other kids be bullied.
For your success and glory!
Read, Learn and Flourish!
19 October, 2011
By Stephanie Overman, Senior writer for HRMagazine
To expand your influence and clout, seek the assignment you need and take risks, say three who did.
Professionals in human resource management, like their counterparts in other fields, face barriers to their success. But those who do break through to the executive level have found the right mix of challenging assignments.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), along with the Center for Creative Leadership and Vanderbilt University's Corporate Learning Institute, looked at the assignments and challenges that successful HR professionals need to advance in their careers.
"We found a lot of talented women and minorities were hitting the glass ceiling," says Vaughan Limbrick, SHRM director of education. Limbrick believes HR competencies and leadership skills can be taught, so these talented people can break through that glass ceiling.
"What separates people who are successful is a certain innate political savvy. Can we put a lasso around that? Yes," says Limbrick.
HR professionals generally have the necessary technical skills, but they often lack business skills and influencing skills, according to Limbrick. Those skills generally can't be learned from a book; research shows that 80 percent of them require on-the-job experience.
She cites a series of developmental challenges, adapted from the work of M.M. Lombardo and R.W. Eichinger of the Center of Creative Leadership, as being key to attaining the necessary business savvy. These challenges are ones that
· Include the possibility of either visible success or failure.
· Require an aggressive individual with take-charge leadership skills.
· Involve working with new people, a lot of people, or both.
· Create additional personal pressure such as pressure caused by difficult deadlines, high stakes, heavy travel or longer hours.
· Require influencing people, activities and factors over which the professional has no direct authority or control.
· Involve variety and include dealing with high levels of ambiguity and change such as being placed in charge of an unfamiliar area or juggling multiple problems.
· Will be closely watched by people whose opinions count such as the boss, upper management or outsiders.
· Require building a team, starting something from scratch, fixing a team or turning around a project in trouble.
· Have a major strategic component.
In the following profiles, three HR professionals tell how their willingness to tackle these development challenges has helped them move up the HR ladder.
Sharon A. Lambly, vice president of human resources for Hershey Foods Corp. in Hershey, Pa., knows firsthand about taking risks, taking charge, and being flexible. In the course of her nearly 30-year career, she has learned to seek out a variety of assignments. These have prepared her as she moves to the top in HR management.
Lambly started out at IBM in 1964 as a systems engineer, then became one of a handful of women in the marketing department. A promotion, requiring her to move, gave her the chance to prove her flexibility. And the move was risky. Her new branch had the lowest performance in the region, but two years later "we were the first in the region to hit 100 percent of quota. There's no finer way of proving your credibility," she says.
Lambly changed direction again when she went to IBM corporate headquarters to take responsibility for directing management development.
"I was highly visible to the chairman," she says, especially after she completely redesigned management development during her two-year stint.
"In your career development, there is a point where you have to get out of your technical expertise and demonstrate you can translate strategic direction into action. Frequently people get trapped in narrow functional expertise," according to Lambly.
After her corporate experience, Lambly realized that her perspective was still too narrow. She decided to make another drastic change. Much of IBM's investment was in plants and labs, but Lambly had no plant experience. "I actually took a lower-level job as a personnel manager" to gain that experience.
"Most people who write books and give rules would say that was a very bad thing," she says, but "it was one of best things I ever did. I gained a tremendous understanding of the other side of business. I quickly brought to bear some of the expertise I had from the marketing side and my career took off. About every year I was promoted to greater responsibility."
Lambly took on responsibility for contract negotiation with the federal government and for business and technical planning. She then became director of the personnel division and later was vice president of management services, handling personnel, communications, government relations and administration.
"The theme is constantly getting different experiences, different knowledge skills, going back and forth from functional expertise in HR and business-line orientation," she says. Companies want an HR business partner who has had line responsibility, "not just a personnel technician."
IBM then promoted Lambly to corporate director with responsibility for worldwide HR management, her first international post, an area she sees as critically important in today's business environment.
"I had a desire to run human resources, but I could see I would not have the opportunity at IBM," Lambly says. So when she received a call from Hershey in 1988, she decided to move on to Hershey as vice president of human resources.
Lambly understands the importance of lifelong learning, of staying up-to-date in the industry, of combining classroom and on-the-job training.
Lambly's early experience working with teams taught her a lesson that has stayed with her throughout her career: "I learned at an early age that multiple brains are better than one, that the broader the perspective, probably the better the approach you'll have to the issue."
Lambly is convinced that Hershey selected her because of her rich combination of business and human resource experiences.
"They wanted a business partner; they wanted someone who could lead and take risks," Lambly says.
Ernest P. Moreno believes the key to his success as an HR vice president is that he has empowered others to make decisions about everything from conducting fire drills to running training programs.
"You don't have to be the person doing it all; give people the authority and they'll do it 20 times better than you. Let people make their own mistakes and grow--delegate," says Moreno, who is now vice president of Ruiz Food Products in Dinuba, Calif., a company with 1,100 employees that specializes in packaging frozen Mexican food. He started seven years ago as human resource manager and has grown with the company.
During his tenure, Moreno has completed a highly visible assignment that has become a model for other companies.
When Moreno came up with his most ambitious plan, to teach basic English skills to Ruiz's predominantly Spanish-speaking workforce, he felt that "if I didn't succeed, I would be fired." No one ever suggested that, but he felt he had invested so much time and energy in such a high-profile project that he dared not fail. Today the education center has become such a success that representatives from other companies visit to see how the program is run.
Moreno met Ruiz's need for Spanish-speaking trainers when he developed a successful train-the-trainer program. He also developed a corporate philosophy program that he sees as primarily a training opportunity, "not only to be able to explain what the company wants but to teach self-responsibility. We want to be able to say, 'You can control your own destiny.'"
The question of minority professionals being able to control their own destinies concerns Moreno, a bilingual attorney who sees Hispanics often forced to prove their ability over and over again. To succeed, minorities often have to demand more challenging positions, he believes.
"You almost have to bully your way in, to prove you are somebody. Once you've done that and they see you have the skill, once they can visualize you in the job and start to appreciate you for what you are, then you can be humble again."
Moreno sees himself as a symbol at Ruiz Food Products that "you can be an executive and you don't have to sell out. I'm Mexican and I'm very proud to be a Mexican. Bring your experiences to the table, rather than try to absorb other peoples' experiences and make them yours. I have no idea what it's like to be raised middle class. I know what it's like to be raised by farm workers. Someone else can bring middle class to the table."
Without the traditional middle-class background, Moreno turned to a mentor to fill in the gaps in his education. His boss, Tom Colesberry, "saw a vision that he wanted for the company and he saw me filling that vision. But when I started out there wasn't a fit, so he led me through the business world."
Moreno says Colesberry taught him a lot, not about business itself, but about the social intricacies of that world--"This is how you act, this is what you do, this is how you fit in. If you don't have somebody like that to teach you, you fail. You need somebody to watch over you."
Brenda Schofield, manager of affirmative-action planning for Kraft General Foods Inc. in Northfield, Ill., is an example of an aggressive leader who knows where she's going and how to make herself valuable enough to management to get there.
"Don't let detractors get in the way of your advancement," Schofield advises. "People get defined by their environment, especially women. We have to stand above our environment. You can only be a partner if you think of yourself as a partner.
"I have heard, 'Do you think you should do that or go there?' But you have to do what's important for you," says Schofield, who works near Chicago but whose home is in New York. "I have always had a high level of personal independence."
Women and minorities can stand above their environment by "showing a willingness to take on tasks, by finding creative ways to keep ourselves in a learning mode," she believes.
For example, in Schofield's case, "they recently added interaction with minority conferences; that was not originally part of my job. It's more work, more effort, but you make it happen."
Over the years she has developed essential expertise in equal employment and government compliance.
"I'm known as the resource. They know who to talk to when they need information or need to overcome barriers," she says. "People have to know that you can help them do things, whether they are in a line or staff position. You have to show you're willing to go that extra step, to take on additional responsibility."
Schofield sees her role as being management's conscience when it comes to affirmative-action issues.
"People do get a little bit of religion after they work with me in this area," she says.
Schofield made her move from merchandising to human resources in 1972.
"I was on the fast track and in order to move up, you had to have time in personnel. Then I was recruited by Johnson & Johnson and when they asked me which area I wanted to work in, I decided to stay in HR," she says. "I enjoy the challenges that people bring."
In 1981 Schofield moved to General Foods, which later was bought by Philip Morris. When Philip Morris and Kraft merged in 1989, she became manager of affirmative-action planning.
In human resources, Schofield finds that "it's the creative things you can do that make the job fun for you and productive for the company--things like mentoring and giving awareness programs."
She personally received the benefits of a mentor, who made sure she understood the rules of the company and practical detail.
"He knew I was going to be traveling alone, and he thought I should be independent enough get around," says the native New Yorker, who did not drive until her mentor urged her to learn.
"He liked my energy, my forthrightness, the way I cut to the bottom line. He knew I was willing to do creative things. I was not apprehensive about challenging anybody. I brought new and fun things to the organization," she says.
But he also knew the barriers that even the most determined women and minorities can face.
"He probably figured here was somebody out to make something of her career and he supported me."
For your success and glory!
Read, Learn and Flourish!