Focus on Basics Volume 5, Issue D: Staff Development

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Federal and state policies, programmatic flexibility, and peer and collegial support must work together to enable teachers to make changes based on professional development; otherwise, those resources are, in a sense, wasted.

In our cover story, NCSALL’s Cristine Smith and Judy Hofer present the findings from their multiyear study of staff development. Teachers’ “pathways to change” are formed, they report, in part by the programs and systems in which they work. M. Cecil Smith and Amy D. Rose pick up that theme, in the story that begins on page 12, advocating for an approach to professional development that takes into account the organizations in which teachers function.

While not directly addressing the issue of teachers’ working environment, Vermont practitioner Tom Smith and Connecticut’s Shelly Ratelle make a strong case for it in articles on pages 16 and 19. Smith and his co-workers met in study circles to explore topics of interest and concern to them. The collegial setting enhanced their learning and set the stage for the development of program wide guidelines based on their experiences. Ratelle praises the peer support element of the Professional Development Kit (PDK), an online professional development resource for teachers, observing that recognizing peers as resources helps in successfully transferring the content of the workshops to the daily practice of teaching.

Sandra Kestner describes Kentucky’s redesign of its professional development program in an article that begins on page 23. Key stakeholders from all levels of the system were involved in shaping the program. Writing candidly, Kestner points out that a commitment to improve the employment structure and preparation requirements of adult educators now in the field will be necessary to ensure the success of the new system.

The state’s role in professional development for adult basic education is discussed by state leaders from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts in the “Conversation with FOB” on page 29. Resources for staff development are provided on page 31.

A variety of different approaches to professional development are featured in this issue, including study circles (page 16) and workshops coupled with online resources (page 19). Reuel Kurzet writes about using classroom videos taken at NCSALL’s English for speakers of other languages lab site in Oregon as a focal point for professional development. Turn to page 8 for that article and for information on the role of the lab site in ABE research. World Education, 2002.

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