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Building Capacity through Teacher-Led Professional Development: A Protocol

Updated: Feb 22

High expectations, clear standards, and assessment measures are, undoubtedly, essential in driving teacher effectiveness forward. However, I often see school leaders enforcing accountability through externally conducted performance assessments, formal and informal teacher observations with consequences, school inspections and reviews. And, the hope from these leaders is that these external accountability measures will ultimately build internal accountability, the conditions where the group becomes accountable within itself.

As discussed by seminal researcher Michael Fullan in his book, The New Meaning of Educational Change, effective schools and school systems create the conditions where leaders and participants are provided ongoing opportunities to engage in continuous improvement within a focused and collaborative learning culture. And a collaborative learning culture is where collective efficacy exists; when the group gets better at improving and attracting talent, the group and individuals become more effective in tandem, and ultimately, internal accountability develops.

So, how do we build collective efficacy through a collaborative culture? Well, for one, build capacity. Sally Zepeda discusses the importance of capacity building in her book, Professional Development: What Works. She lists seven characteristics that learning communities that support teacher leadership embrace.

  1. Developmental focus. Teachers are supported in learning new skills. They are encouraged to help each other learn. Assistance and guidance are provided for them.

  2. Recognition. Teachers are respected and recognized for professional roles that they take and the contributions they make. There is mutual respect among teachers.

  3. Autonomy. Teachers are encouraged to take initiative in improvement efforts. Barriers are removed and resources provided.

  4. Collegiality. Teachers collaborate on instructional strategies, share materials, and observe each other.

  5. Participation. Teachers are actively involved inm making decisions and give input on important matters. Department/team leaders are selected with the participation of teachers.

  6. Open communication. Teachers feel that they are informed and easily share opinions and ideas. There is honest communication.

  7. Positive environment. There is a high level of job satisfaction. And environment of mutual respect with parents, students, administrators, and teachers. The school has effective administrative leaders.

Taking into consideration Zepeda’s seven markers, a colleague and I, Christina McNamee, Assistant Principal at The Young Women’s Leadership School of the Bronx, developed this teacher-led professional development protocol that embraces the talent we knew already existed in our school building. See below:

In-House Showcasing Event Protocol

  1. Identify best practices within the school building.

  2. Identify the teachers who employ these best practices in their classrooms and ask those teachers if they are interested in developing a workshop for an in-house PD Day.

  3. Once these teachers are identified, teachers develop the workshop and share with colleagues or administration for feedback.

  4. Administrator collects a workshop summary from each teacher, and distributes these options to the rest of the staff via google form.

  5. Staff selects which workshop they want to attend.

  6. Administrator groups teachers for each workshop based on their selection.

  7. Prior to the event, the staff is provided workshop details with room number and teacher, as seen below.

  8. Following the event, ask teachers to fill out an anonymous feedback and reflection form for the sessions. This information should be shared individually with teachers.

Leaders developing other leaders is at the heart of sustainability of continuous improvement. In an effort to build capacity and create sustainability in learning outcomes, this approach gives teachers the opportunity to share their best practices to colleagues who are on the ground doing the same work as them. They feel respected and recognized for the work they are doing and are given autonomy in how they structure their session, all of which help build a positive environment.


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