Professional development should be integrated with a comprehensive change process that deals with impediments to and facilitation of student learning (Little, 1993; Guskey, 1995; NSDC, 1995; Smylie, 1995; U.S. Department of Education, 1995). But as Guskey (1995) cautions, there is no easier way to sabotage change efforts than to take on too much at one time. In fact, if there is one truism in the vast research literature on change, it is that the magnitude of change that people are asked to make is inversely related to their likelihood of making it (p. 119). He recommends thinking big (having a comprehensive plan) but starting small (approaching change in a gradual, incremental manner). Small changes alone will not have a significant impact, but multi-faceted plans can be overwhelming.
Educators must practice what they learn. Too often, they are asked to learn new things they cannot act upon because there is no organizational commitment to continuous experimentation and improvement. Teachers need time and opportunities to investigate why some practices might be better than others, see models of such practices, and personally develop these practices. School and district-level support are essential components of this process (AFT, 1995; NCRTE, 1991; Joyce & Showers, 1995). Some district-level types of support for comprehensive change efforts include adequate funding, technical assistance, sustained central office follow through, avoidance of quick fixes, and providing teachers adequate time to learn, plan, and implement new practices (Hodges, 1996).
American Federation of Teachers. (1995). Principles for professional development. Washington, DC. Author.
Guskey, T. R. (1995). Professional development in education: In search of the optimal mix. In T. R. Guskey & M. Huberman (Eds.), Professional development in education: New paradigms & practices (pp. 114-132). NY: Teachers College, Columbia University.
Hodges, H.L.B., (1996). Using research to inform practice in urban school: 10 key strategies for success. Educational Policy, 10 (2), 223-252.
Joyce, B., & Showers, B. (1995). Student achievement through staff development: Fundamentals of school renewal (2nd ed.). White Plains, NY: Longman.
Little, J. W. (1993). Teachers professional development in a climate of educational reform. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 15 (2), 129-151.
National Center for Research on Teacher Education. (1991). Final report: National Center for Research on Teacher Education. Michigan State University: East Lansing: MI.
National Staff Development Council. (1995). Standards for staff development. Oxford, OH: Author.
Smylie, M. A. (1995). Teacher learning in the workplace: Implications for school reform. In T. R. Guskey & M. Huberman (Eds.), Professional development in education: New paradigms & practices (pp. 92-113). NY: Teachers College, Columbia University.
U.S. Department of Education (1995). Building bridges: The mission and principles of professional evelopment. Washington, DC: Author.