Friday, January 04, 2008

Steps for applying ABCD to staff development

JP asked me how the PDC applies strengths and assets based development to staff development. I referred to work in an earlier entry about Skyview Academy . I took the following steps as my attempt to incorporate strengths and assets applied to what the school wanted to get better at.

1. Identify what the school wants and agree to a model they aspire to. (They showed me a model for block instruction that they liked).

2. I study the model to make sure I understand it.

3. I conduct a series of low-inference observations and produce an observation report for that teacher. It presents the low-inference data and then I add at the end what I think they did well in terms of the model they aspire to.

4. After observing every teacher (not necessary to do everyone), I produce an Assets Based report of the school with a matrix of their strengths.

5. Design a full day (or some session) of PD that is focused on folks sharing their strengths and promising practices. Near the end of the session design next steps....usually a focus on a narrower aspect of the larger topic. Repeat steps 1 to 5.



Al Sylvia said...


It's great to read how you're developing the Asset Based material into a structure for PD. You know I've always been a fan.

A thing that I see as a bit of a catch in your model is a time or space for the teachers of Skyview to develop a vision for what "they aspire to" as it will actualize in their school. It seems like you're spending a bit of effort so that YOU have the vision of the block instruction as it could be implemented vis-a-vis the teachers' strengths. But what might the PD look like that helps them develop their next steps to get closer to their goal?

We are having something of a similar problem right now at the Guild. Members of the 10th grade team are having trouble developing LTI projects. The problem, as I see it, is that they do not have a good vision of how the process for developing a good internship project can go. So they bumble through their mentor meetings without really figuring out, or understanding, the things that "need doing" to get a good project going.

Your writing makes me think of something that Charlie Mojkowski shared with me when we were working on the Sweat Equity program together last year. He called his system the ETS design (Education, Training and Support). I've included his outline below. I think you might have to spend some time in step 5 of your process helping the teachers "see" how the block instruction might/should look like. You can then tie in all of the stuff that they do well (as made visible through the Asset Based material) and show them how what they already do well can contribute/inform the new thing they are trying.

What do you think?

Here's Charlie's writing:

Professional Development: The Learning System


The learning system has three components: education, training, and support. The components are based on an understanding that simple conceptualizations of training are inadequate to support ongoing learning and its application to significant work. Often training (i.e., skills development) is provided before participants have had an adequate opportunity to form clear images of what specific changes the new behaviors require in their current practice. These images help participants to determine what competencies they need to develop.

Once these images and a clear understanding of the gap between their vision and reality are established, attention can be given to developing new competencies and building new knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Moreover, research and experience indicate that transfer of the learning to actual work practices does not take place unless there are structured, guided opportunities for practice and feedback.

The education component is devoted to building a shared foundation of knowledge and understanding about the use of the competencies in authentic work contexts. The education component helps learners form individual and collective images of the ways that the competencies can enhance effectiveness and productivity. It helps learners get ready for more formal skills development (i.e., training) and includes such activities as readings, discussions, visits to exemplary organizations, and viewing and discussing videotapes and presentations by experts and expert practitioners.

The training component is devoted to developing skills in using the competencies in a wide variety of work contexts. Special attention is given to modeling the effective use of the skills. The training component includes such activities as workshops, seminars, hands-on practice addressing specific competencies, and self-study.

The support component includes a variety of assistance activities to provide ongoing help to learners as they apply their new knowledge and skills. This component includes such activities as demonstrations and modeling, coaching, peer feedback, action research, peer tutoring, and informal exchanges.

The learning support system will provide a variety of learning opportunities within each component to accommodate differing learning styles and interests. Figure 1 provides an illustration of these opportunities. During the “education” phase, each staff member will prepare a personal learning plan.

Figure 1
Examples of Learning Opportunities

Visits to organizations with exemplary programs and practices

Forums for staff discussion and presentation of staff projects and action research

Access to electronic networks to learn about successful approaches

Viewing and discussing videos of exemplary practice

Demonstration and critique of new approaches and applications

Introduction to and practice of specific skills in workshops

Derivation of quality performance criteria

Modeling and demonstration of skills

Opportunities for guided practice of new skills and behaviors in simulated settings

Opportunities for reflective writing about new learning

Job shadowing

Opportunities for networking and sharing with others working on similar programs or practices

Structured and open-ended feedback about performance in practice

Coaching for application of specific skills, using “critical friends” as well as experts

Peer teaching and assistance

Informal discussions and brainstorming with colleagues


The education, training, and support sequence is cyclical rather than linear. Staff should have time to develop a preliminary understanding of how the new or enhanced competencies will “look” in practice before participating in formal skill development. Moreover, support should be provided as new skills are being used in day-to-day work.

Michael said...


I think all that you describe is compatible with the approach I am piloting. And, Charlie's ETS approach can only enrich it. It looks useful.

There might be a misunderstanding in my having shared a description of the steps only. In Skyview's case, they had had previous meetings exploring and tweaking the block instruction model they wanted. They called me in afterwards to help them implement what they developed in terms of their vision of block instruction. So, I had to play a little catch up and understand it myself. So, my steps emphasize the fact that I have to get the vision of what they want. Does this address your concern that they don't have a vision of what they aspire to? I didn't bring in the model. They shared it with me and I had to learn it.

However, there's always room to revisit the aspirational vision and I think many of the ETS suggestions help do that.


Anonymous said...

Hi, as you may already noticed I am fresh here.
Hope to get any help from you if I will have any quesitons.
Thanks in advance and good luck! :)