Professional Development as an Instructional Leader

Professional Development as an Instructional Leader: All for One and One for All! 

As a presenter, there have been a number of times where the principal introduces me, and stays for 15 minutes before heading back to the office. He or she might show up to check in before lunch or may never come back because their office paperwork calls.

I have also presented in situations in which all the administrators, principals and assistants, worked side by side with their staff members as they created performance tasks for their students to complete.

There are also the administrators who fall in the middle. They attend the professional development but are seated with other administrators and engage with their technology rather than their teachers.

What do you do as an educational leader?

This post digs deeper into instructional leadership

In a previous Blog post, Be an instructional leader, focus on student learning, the battle was won by instructional leadership regarding its impact on student learning (.42) over transformational leadership (.11).

There are five actions of instructional leaders, supported by the research, that are powerful practices

The most powerful action is when educational leaders promote and participate in teacher learning and professional development. This action has an effect size of .84, well over the .40 hinge point that equates to a year of student learning and growth for a year of input.

No matter if you are a building or district leader, see yourself as a learning leader and promote learning and be a learner alongside your instructional staff.

This action can take a variety of forms from participating in the same professional development as teachers to engaging in the analysis of student work during a 5th-grade team meeting.

The most powerful action is when educational leaders promote and participate in teacher learning and professional development.

Here is a closer look at promoting and participating in teacher learning and professional development. This is a powerful practice. Embrace the learning as an instructional leader.

Professional development that is selected should be researched based and aimed at improving professional practice that is needed by the instructional staff to enhance student learning.

The professional development closes the learning gap of teachers that impacts student learning. The selection of professional development topics or focus should always connect back to student learning.

Participation not Just Attendance

If you want to have a deep implementation of a particular professional practice such as creating and using learning intentions and success criteria, administrators need to attend the same professional development as the staff so everyone has the same understanding of the professional practice.

This does not mean to just sit and listen, it means to participate just as all your teachers are doing. If they are creating learning intentions and success criteria, you should also be doing the same. Teachers will not only appreciate this but when feedback is provided they will see you as knowledgeable on creating learning intentions and success criteria.

If you are expecting deep implementation of learning intentions and success criteria across the school or district, rest assured you need to have the same understanding as your teachers.

As a result of you attending the professional development with your teachers, you can support the teachers with feedback after a walkthrough or arrange collaborative time for teams to plan learning intentions and success criteria for an upcoming lesson which is promoting the deep understanding of the professional learning.

This does not mean to just sit and listen, it means to participate just as all your teachers are doing.

Other Means to Participate in Learning with Your Teachers

Attending professional development sessions is not the only means to be a learner with your teachers. A great example of being a learner, side by side with her teachers, is an action taken by a principal I am presently coaching.

Her elementary school conducts lesson studies at least twice if not three times a year. Each grade level team plans a lesson together and one teacher presents the lesson to a class, not her class, as the other teachers observe.

They then debrief focusing on the student learning, not the teaching and make revisions to the lesson that would enhance student learning before the remaining teachers present the lesson to their classrooms.

administrators need to attend the same professional development as the staff so everyone has the same understanding of the professional practice.

The principal is involved in all aspects of the planning, observing, debriefing, and revising. The best action though that she took was when she agreed to be the teacher to present the lesson. After the first time, she presented at a grade level, other grade levels wanted her to present during their lesson study. She rose to the occasion and presented the lesson and was reflective during the debriefing.

You will always be a teacher and a learner, even as a leader, so opt to be an instructional leader and promote and participate in professional learning.

What can you do in your school or district to promote and participate professional development and become an instructional leader who focuses on student learning?

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Tracey Shiel

Tracey Shiel is author and consultant with over 20 years in the field of education. Through Thought Partners, she provides research-based educational services including balanced leadership coaching, professional development, implementation planning and execution support, and special educational projects of the highest quality. Her passion is with coaching educational leaders to achieve school and district improvement goals while enhancing leadership capabilities.