• by Paula Johnson, M.A. • IDRA Newsletter • March 2015 •
At IDRA, we develop integrated, research-based professional development experiences to assure that educators have access to innovative strategies in order to solve problems, create solutions, and use best practices to educate all students to high standards. One of our goals for 2015 is to capture in new ways IDRA’s valuing approach to integrated professional development for a 21st century generation of principal and teacher leadership. This article illustrates our valuing approach to providing quality educational training experiences for teachers.
For more than 40 years, IDRA has worked diligently to assure equal educational opportunities for every child. Our history centers on advocating for quality education and educational services for diverse and underrepresented learners. Our valuing professional development model focuses on personalized learning experiences that develop teachers’ knowledge and instructional practice in order to positively impact student learning and the long-term academic success of all students (Hill, 2009).
A national concern for research during the last decade has been directed at the complexities and technical issues that go into teaching and what teaching quality looks like. IDRA’s work in defining teaching quality exceeds simply determining quality by what credentials a teacher has. Rather, teaching quality includes teacher perspectives and use of effective instructional practices. We also place it in the context of a supportive organizational school and community structure.
IDRA focuses on improving schools as a whole for the sake of giving all children an education that works for them. This effort has continually challenged us to bring structure and form to the components of our valuing professional development model that demonstrate our commitment to quality education for all.
Core values are the fundamental beliefs of an organization. They are a set of shared guiding principles by which they operate. They are embodied in our work and demonstrate our commitment to quality. Since the beginning of its history, IDRA has worked to develop its own particular language about how to speak of quality in terms of teachers and education. This requires valuing all learners no matter the color of their skin, wealth, religion, sex, national origin, language characteristics, or orientation. IDRA believes that valuing teachers promotes excellence in teaching.
VALUE = Voice • Asset-Based Approach • Leadership • Unique • Evaluation
García (2012) challenges professional development providers to engage teachers in a more collaborative system of support in order to create sustainable campus instructional programs. Our model increases effective teaching and learning by capturing the voice of all stakeholders to design an asset-based approach to professional development in educational leadership that combines our unique instructional components with ongoing evaluation.
Many excellent teachers share this belief: All students deserve success, failure is never an option. IDRA’s work toward assuring educational opportunity for every child through this valuing model is demonstrated through two fundamental programs: high quality professional development, and on-site coaching and mentoring.
For example, over the last year we have successfully engaged teachers in long-term, in-depth training through an innovative hybrid approach through our federally-funded Transition to Teaching program, Teachers for Today & Tomorrow (T3). IDRA mentors participating teaching candidates through coordinated onsite and online professional development. As members of our Community of Educators private social network, hundreds of teachers participate in online discussions and professional development activities throughout the school year to develop their instructional practice. Additionally, they are able to access and share teaching resources posted by IDRA, as well as connect and interact with members across the state.
Teachers play a vital role in students’ academic success education. IDRA enhances its high quality professional development with on-site, job-embedded professional development coupled with coaching and mentoring. Our approach demonstrates a valuing attitude in which trainers-mentors:
- Respect the knowledge and skills of all teachers;
- Treat teachers as partners and adult learners; and
- Identify teachers’ assets and build on their strengths.
On-site coaching and mentoring is practiced throughout the year and is designed to reinforce what is presented in the professional development modules through modeling and co-teaching support in the classroom. Student achievement and teacher competency goals are integrated during cooperative planning activities with IDRA consultants.
Our campus-based collaboration with teachers enables us to develop instructional strategies based on issues identified by individual teachers in order to enhance their instructional practice and success with students. IDRA provides opportunities for teachers to observe and discuss model lesson demonstrations. Each teacher then re-creates the lesson with another group of students using the lesson’s strategies.
At times, we recommend that teachers be provided additional support or opportunities to visit other teachers or to team teach with others in a particular class. Coaching sessions are followed by reflective debriefing to maximize learning and implementation and next actions planning between the consultant and teacher.
Our evaluation measures include ongoing assessment that speaks to the overall effectiveness of our professional development efforts. This investigation enables us to review and revise our goals and actions as we progress through the coaching and mentoring process. For example, after each coaching and mentoring session, IDRA conducts a debriefing to capture each teacher’s self-assessment of the lesson as well as reflect on their own performance (Johnson & Betancourt, 2013). This coaching conversation provides us input that may lead adjustments in individual support plans.
Included as a secondary evaluative method, we also gauge the level of growth of our participating teachers resulting from their experiences in the professional development offerings: Are teachers effectively transferring what they’ve learned into their classroom? Is there a need to redirect areas of support? Have others surfaced?
IDRA is a well-known provider of high quality professional development. We are continually striving to strengthen our professional development practices in order to provide research-informed, high quality learning experiences for teachers. Our mission is dedicated to strengthening public schools to ensure equitable educational opportunity for every child. Through our valuing professional development approach, we are empowering a 21st century generation of educational leaders to institute a valuing instructional model that will lead to the academic success of all students.
Borko, H. “Professional Development and Teacher Learning: Mapping the Terrain,” Educational Researcher (2004) 33(8), 3-15.
García, J.C. “Professional Development in the 21st Century – Nine Structures for Coaching and Mentoring,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Intercultural Development Research Association, February 2012).
Green, L.C., & López, R. “Making a Difference through Effective Professional Development,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Intercultural Development Research Association, November-December 1994).
Hill, H.C. “Fixing Teacher Professional Development,” Phi Delta Kappan (March 2009). 90(7), 470-476.
Johnson, P., & Montemayor, A.M. “A Valuing Professional Development Model,” Classnotes Podcast 143 (San Antonio, Intercultural Development Research Association, July 2014).
Johnson, P., & V. Betancourt. Strategies for Instructional Coaching – A Pocket Guide (San Antonio, Intercultural Development Research Association, 2013).
Villarreal, A. “Quality Teaching: A School Reform Dilemma,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Intercultural Development Research Association, April 2003).
Paula Johnson, M.A., is an education associate in IDRA’s Education Transformation and Innovation Department. Comments and questions may be directed to her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2015, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the March 2015 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]