Archive for the ‘Educator Quality’ Category

The implementation of “job-embedded professional development,” particularly in low-performing schools, has been a big piece of recent national policy and initiatives as a means of developing and supporting teacher effectiveness. Unfortunately, the term job-embedded professional development (JEPD) is rarely explicitly defined, and questions remain on how to support the successful implementation of this potentially powerful approach to teacher learning. The National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality teamed up with the Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center, with input from the National Staff Development Council, to develop a new Issue Brief to try and answer some of these questions. The new brief, Job-embedded Professional Development: What It Is, Who is Responsible, and How to Get It Done Well, generates a common understanding of the term and definition. However, it also includes examples from practices and goes beyond an elusive, jargony definition.

As described in the brief, job-embedded professional development is primarily school or classroom based, is integrated into the workday, and consists of assessing and finding solutions to authentic challenges. It relies on the professional knowledge of the teachers in the school as they engage in inquiry-based, collaborative learning and may consist of teams within a department, across departments, across subjects within grade levels, or across grade levels. JEPD can occur in multiple formats including action research, case discussion, data teams/assessment development, lesson study, mentoring, and study groups.

Current research supports a number of necessary conditions for high-quality professional development:

  • Teacher opportunities to learn: Teachers benefit from a culture that supports ongoing opportunities to learn by providing time, space, and structures for these opportunities.
  • Professional learning in a community and as a community: The type of collaborative problem solving at the heart of JEPD is best accomplished through sustained collaboration, which is best achieved through guided opportunities to develop collaborative skills such as conflict resolution, problem-solving strategies, and consensus building.
  • Facilitator skills: Because the quality of JEPD depends largely on the skills of the facilitator, it is important that the facilitator have effective interpersonal, group-process skills and other facilitation skills.

State, district, and school leaders can support high-quality JEPD in a myriad of ways including building a shared vocabulary, creating a culture in which continued learning is valued, and providing support, time, and space for JEPD in the school.

Stephen Sawchuk of EdWeek’s Teacher Beat gets at the need to foster a common understanding and use terms that are understandable and contain relevant meaning. The TQ Center and their collaborators provide a basis for this practical and relevant definition. What from the Issue Brief, your experience, or other sources helps you develop an applicable understanding of job-embedded professional development?

Kimmelman_Paul DSC_3204 3x5
Paul Kimmelman, Ed. D.
Senior Advisor, Learning Point Associates

Education leaders must be responsive to compliance needs, but that alone will not guarantee continuous improvement. Leadership must create conditions that foster innovative solutions and engage all educators in systemic reform to offer the best chance for success. These concepts are the basis of a new book, The School Leadership Triangle: From Compliance to Innovation, which I wrote on behalf of Learning Point Associates and was released by Corwin Press in March 2010.

The book is intended for school-based professional study groups to read and then collaboratively work on implementing authentic innovative approaches to their improvement work. The School Leadership Triangle includes contemporary ideas on distributing leadership throughout a school or district. The book is not a “cookbook” of solutions; instead, it is a framework to assist leaders in understanding why compliance has become so important to federal policymakers, how theory treats leadership as a behavioral science that supports the importance of teachers as school leaders, and what the process of innovation actually looks like.

The School Leadership Triangle provides a rare glimpse into the thought processes of members of Congress (including three of the primary leaders involved in passing the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, other federal and state policymakers, education practitioners, and innovation experts who are highlighted in their own words.

Educators who recognize the importance of innovative solutions in overcoming the obstacles of successful reform efforts should gain an understanding of approaches that will help them engage in the process of innovation. The insight of leaders and policymakers, practical applications, and a framework to support innovation are three things that can help leaders implement innovative reform.