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Professional Development: A Cornerstone of Whole School Change

By Jill Eurich

“This professional development has been life changing. I have learned so much about how to be an effective coach and provide professional development to facilitate teachers understanding, thinking and practice. The resources that have been provided are invaluable and will be used! It is also great to have a network of colleagues with whom we can collaborate with and problem-solve as needed.”    -Literacy Collaborative Coach

Effective schools acknowledge that “teaching is a lifelong journey of learning, rather than a final destination of ‘knowing’ how to teach” (McRobbie, 2000, p. 6). Professional development enhances teacher quality, and is linked to improvements in student achievement (Wei, Darling-Hammond, Andree, Richardson, & Orphanos, 2009; Yoon, Duncan, Lee, Scarloss & Shapley, 2007).

Ongoing professional development for all educators is central to the values and beliefs of Literacy Collaborative. University trainers at Lesley University and The Ohio State University engage in continuous, ongoing professional development to enhance their own expertise. Initial and ongoing professional development for the school-based Literacy Coaches is taught by these university trainers. In turn, these Literacy Coaches provide initial and on-going professional development for the teachers in their school. This sturdy thread of professional development interwoven into all aspects of Literacy Collaborative assures that all involved with this literacy initiative of whole school change take the stance of a learner to build a common language around best practices and rationales for whole group, small group and individual teaching of students within a reading and writing workshop model.

Knowledgeable, experienced coaches provide an opportunity to explain, model, observe, and support instructional improvements in the real-world context of schools and classrooms. In Literacy Collaborative this happens through professional development and regularly scheduled coaching sessions. Their ongoing, on-site relationship with teachers enhances and sustains improvements in instructional practices and has been linked to student outcome gains (Hough, Bryk, Pinnell, Kerbow, Fountas, & Scharer, 2008).  A study of 17 Literacy Collaborative schools found a strong connection between meaningful, sustained, on-site professional development and progress in student achievement.

Quality professional development is deeply interconnected with the other essential components of effective schools. It is important that professional development be aligned with values and beliefs, standards, and classroom teaching in order to make a meaningful impact (Fullan et al., 2009). Effective professional development also requires that school and/or district leadership allocate time and other resources so that staff members can learn and work together to accomplish the school’s mission and goals. Schools within the Literacy Collaborative network make this commitment for they have found that: Ongoing, site-based professional development offers continuity and coherence not available in one-time workshops, and research indicates it has greater impact on teachers and on student achievement (Wei et al., 2009).

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