Factors Influencing Staff Development
Adults, like children, learn better when they perceive a need for the information they are learning. Staff development should provide teachers with authentic, meaningful tasks that relate to improving classroom instruction.
Helping teachers improve instruction must focus on more than just “going through the motions of teaching.” Showers, Joyce, and Bennett (1987) analyzed more than two hundred research studies on staff development and concluded that a major factor in how teachers teach is how they think about teaching. Staff development should help teachers increase their knowledge and learn to think about their instructional decisions. Having a basic level of knowledge about an innovation is important in helping teachers “buy in” to it (Showers et al., 1987).
Location, Type, and Time
Over the last fifteen years the emphasis on staff development has evolved in many districts from one-large-group, one-shot workshop sessions to more comprehensive, collaborative approaches that focus on the individual needs and concerns of teachers (Waxman, 1987). Researchers have found that the exact location of the staff development meetings (school, district office, and so forth) is not a significant factor in the effectiveness of the staff development (Showers et al., 1987). These same researchers have reached similar conclusions regarding the exact type of staff development and the time at which it is held.
Effective Staff Development
There are many different types of staff development (Ryan, 1987). These may include grade-level meetings, building-level meetings, or district-level meetings. The effectiveness of the meetings is dependent upon factors such as the following:
Teachers should be involved in all aspects of planning and implementation of the staff development (Showers et al., 1987).
Meet Individual Needs
Individual needs of teachers should be considered. These must take into account the teachersÔ experience, level of expertise, teaching assignments, and professional goals, as well as the resources available to the school (McLaughlin, Pfeifer, Swanson-Owens, & Yee, 1986).
Match Content to Teachers’ Classrooms
Content should be introduced and applied in situations that match those of the participants (Dillon-Peterson, 1986).
Thorough Presentation of Ideas
Staff development sessions should:
- Present the background or theory for the innovation or strategy
- Provide a demonstration with interactive activities and visual media
- Provide initial practice in the sessions
- Provide immediate feedback to teachers about their efforts
(Johnson, 1989; Showers et al., 1987; Sparks, 1983; Volker, Gehler, Howlett, & Twetten, 1986).
Expert or peer coaching should be provided to support teachers as they try new ideas in their classrooms (Hoffman, Roser, &Farest, 1988; McLaughlin et al., 1986; Showers et al., 1987).
Attitudes Towards Staff Development
A major concern about staff development over the years has been that it was not viewed positively by teachers and/or administrators (Showers et al., 1987). However, when staff development increases teachers’ knowledge and skills in ways that are applicable in their classrooms, their attitudes are positive and their teaching improves (Showers et al., 1987). Planning and implementing effective staff development is important in helping all students achieve literacy.