professional development

The battle for the need of teacher professional development continues to polarize educators, activist, and community members. The pivotal emphasis surrounds the effectiveness in transforming education to a higher level. The value of professional development is enhanced by success when the appropriate transformational leadership strategies are included.

According to the article, A teacher’s anti-solution to a big problem, the 2016 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, surmises that professional development becomes more valued when teachers take on an entrepreneurial role to solve the challenges associated with school improvement. In particular, this teacher of the year believes that teachers need an opportunity to “learn from business leaders and entrepreneurs, … to meet the needs of a changing student population, in addition to learning craft and pedagogy.” Furthermore, this teacher believes that “so many educators, who are tasked with the actual implementation of policy, standards, and curriculum, work in isolation in schools and classrooms without ever being tasked as problem-solvers in education reform and innovation.” In part, this teacher has touched the surface of why professional development fails but has blundered in the process that will lead to success.

This teacher has eluded to one of the major contributors to professional development failures is associated with the leadership style used to improve schools. The process for the need of professional development begins with goals developed by the school governance entity. The development of goals is exclusive of teacher input or participation. This is paramount to Theory X leadership style.

Theory X leadership style is based on pessimistic assumptions of the average worker. This management style supposes that the average employee has little to no ambition, shies away from work or responsibilities, and is individual-goal oriented. Generally, Theory X style managers believe their employees are less intelligent than the managers are, lazier than the managers are, or work solely for a sustainable income. Due to these assumptions, Theory X concludes the average workforce is more efficient under “hands-on” approach to management. The ‘Theory X’ manager believes that all actions should be traced and the responsible individual given a direct reward or a reprimand according to the action’s outcomes. This managerial style is more effective when used in a workforce that is not intrinsically motivated to perform. It is usually exercised in professions where promotion is infrequent, unlikely or even impossible and where workers perform repetitive tasks.

Theory X leadership is prominent in education because the actions of the teachers are repetitive. Many administrators take the “hands on” perspective that devalues the teachers ability to contribute. The levels of promotion in education are limited to the organizational span of control. In order to limit professional development failures, professional developers must incorporate a transformative process that enables students to benefit from second order change rather than first order change.

School systems have implemented numerous first order changes. Examples of these include changes in school and administrative structures, schedules and class sizes. First order changes have extended to the classroom level as well. Teachers have been trained in an abundance of specific instructional strategies such as writing lesson objectives on the board, managing cooperative learning groups, and asking higher-order thinking questions. These efforts are usually accompanied by teacher skepticism, subversion, and questions such as, “Why are we doing this?”. Teachers who walk away with this type of question are more likely to contribute to the professional development failures.

Second order change requires professional developers to implement transformational leadership into their programming. Transformational leadership is a style of leadership where a leader works with subordinates to identify needed change, creating a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executing the change in tandem with committed members of a group. Transformational leadership serves to enhance the motivation, morale, and job performance of followers through a variety of mechanisms; these include connecting the follower’s sense of identity and self to a project and to the collective identity of the organization; being a role model for followers in order to inspire them and to raise their interest in the project; challenging followers to take greater ownership for their work, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of followers, allowing the leader to align followers with tasks that enhance their performance.

The major factor that contributes to the failure of professional development is the process used to impact the intended audience. A teacher entrepreneurial initiative will not impact students without this necessary leadership component. Only embedded transformational leadership strategies will limit professional development failures.


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