Encouraging professional growth - Education Matters Magazine
Professional Development

Encouraging professional growth

Educational leadership expert, John Eller, discusses some effective strategies principals can adopt to develop successful growth plans with their teaching staff and colleagues.

It’s important to help colleagues and peers grow in understanding and implement new teaching strategies. Because of emerging and changing needs of learners, we need to be constantly learning and growing during our careers. Having several techniques in our teaching repertoire can help us proactively deal with situations and student needs that arise in the classroom.

In our book, Achieving Great Impact, we focus on many strategies that can be employed to help teachers learn and implement new teaching strategies. These include coaching, demonstrating new strategies, working on collaboration with peers and observing colleagues in action.
An effective strategy to help teachers improve their teaching is the development and implementation of a written professional growth plan. A professional growth plan acts as a road map, helping teachers assist in identifying their goals (the destination) and their plan to reach their goals (the pathway). A written plan provides visual support and increases the importance of the plan.

A sound professional growth plan includes several key components:

Understanding needs
When developing the plan and helping teachers or colleagues determine the goals, it’s important to understand the needs of the students and the school. If students need more academic support, then a growth plan that helps a colleague learn and implement additional learning interventions would be a direct match between the plan and the needs of the students and the school. Without this match, the teacher will not see an impact on students that provides motivation to reach the goals.

Break the new skills down
Breaking the larger goal into small, learnable parts helps teachers make the gradual progress that keeps them motivated to move forward. It is also easier as a colleague to recognise and reinforce the teacher for progress when it’s divided into small, observable steps.

Build on the teacher’s strengths
Identifying strengths, then building a plan based on these strengths is crucial. For example, if a teacher is skilled in developing clear expectations for student behaviours, they can use the strength of focus to help them learn how to teach students to move about the room during learning activities. The movement process builds on the foundation they have established in setting other expectations in their classroom.

Focus on a small number of observable behaviours
Being specific and focused during plan development and when providing feedback on the plan implementation is crucial for success. Showing the teacher how to divide the students into discussion groups then helping them manage the discussions is more effective than focusing on general student engagement.

Plan and schedule follow-up support opportunities
Without follow-up, the ideas we learn will quickly be forgotten. Including opportunities for you and the teacher to check in periodically stresses the importance of the plan and helps you to provide any mid-course corrections that are needed to keep the teacher moving forward in a productive manner.

Assisting in the development of growth plans enable school leaders and colleagues to increase the chances of success for teachers implementing new strategies in their classrooms. Effective growth planning processes build the collaborative relationship while increasing accountability to improve teaching skills. Professional growth plans can be used for small, minor refinements or to help teachers address major deficits in their performance.

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