Positive Classroom Management Series

Positive Classroom Instruction

Chapter 11 - Teacher Training

Positive discipline and positive instruction dovetail to form an integrated methodology for managing both discipline and academic productivity. The effectiveness of any innovation, however, is limited by the accuracy with which it is reproduced during dissemination. When proper teaching methods are used to train teachers, learning occurs and a solid foundation is laid for professional growth and change. However, any technique, no matter how effective in the hands of a well trained teacher, can fail in the hands of a novice who only "knows about" it. To the extent that good teaching practices are abridged during teacher training, the success of any teacher training program is undermined and change is thwarted.

 

CHEAP CURES AND COSTLY ILLUSIONS

With each passing year, more administrators, no matter what their perspective on staff development, are becoming increasingly aware that they have not been getting much for their staff-development dollar. Money spent on one-shot, in-service presentations and money spent in compensating teachers for accumulating additional college credits rarely translate into improved classroom performance. Whereas the expenditure for inservice presentations may be regarded by some as a one-time loss, college credits usually advance teachers on the pay scale so that the compensation for a single summer course may amount to thousands of dollars by the time of retirement. School boards, administrators, teachers, and even parents are increasingly asking themselves, "Is this getting us anywhere?"

 

Yet over the years the successful dissemination of innovation within education has been blocked by a combination of naivete and an unwillingness to allocate resources for teacher training on the part of colleges, school boards, administrators, teachers, and especially the general public. Educators and the people they serve have all been partners in accepting a set of beliefs about the way in which teachers are trained that is both cheap and easy.

 

Two Types of Learning

The teaching profession acts as if there were two fundamentally different processes of instrumental learning and skill development: child and adult. We can accept that young people need to be held by the hand as they go through the steps of a structured lesson. Kids, of course, need careful explanation, modeling, and performance practice one step at a time as well as extensive repetition and drill. Such care is needed because they have not yet grown up and become smart.

We treat teachers, in contrast, as though they were all one-trial auditory learners who can take a simple explanation from a one-shot, in-service presentation and translate it into effective classroom practice. Do not worry about learning skills one step at a time with lots of practice and precise corrective feedback. If you are an adult, you only need to be exposed to new ideas.

 

This widely held belief in the efficacy of "exposure" might be labeled "The Viral Theory of Learning." The viral theory of learning assumes that the process of acquiring knowledge is akin to the process by which we acquire chicken pox. A virus can be acquired through mere exposure to it, and so too can teaching skills if one were to judge from the prevailing methods of teacher training and staff development. Viral teaching, the concomitant of viral learning, is extremely common within the education profession. It's the preferred mode of instruction for higher education, social studies, and teacher in-service.

 

Viral learning is distinct from the processes of instrumental learning or operant conditioning, which are appropriate for children, in that viral learning does not require practice. This attribute has been a great asset to adult education in cutting the cost of skill building in favor of the far quicker and easier teaching formats of lecture (talking to fifty or more) and seminar (talking to fifty or less). In terms of "bang for the buck," you just cannot beat the efficiency of describing some new teaching method to the faculty of an entire district packed into the high school auditorium.

 

If we are unable to teach ourselves well as professionals, how can we expect to do much better when teaching our classes? If exposure passes for professional development, then it is only a matter of time until exposure passes for teaching in the classroom. Indeed "assigning" rather than teaching is rapidly becoming the norm, especially at the secondary level, with work going home for independent practice that has never been mastered in class. Foolishness on such a broad scale cannot have small consequences.

 

BASICS OF SUCCESS

Complex skills are not easily learned - especially the skills of managing an entire classroom full of young people so that they all simultaneously forsake the joys of goofing off in favor of the rigors of learning. Unless we know how to consistently produce time on task and independent learning across the many settings and needy personalities of a typical classroom at low stress to ourselves, the odds are perpetually stacked against both our well-being and our students' success. We have few satisfying options apart from the careful and systematic mastery of these complex teaching and management skills.

 

Skill training is at its core a series of carefully taught structured lessons. Positive Classroom Instruction, therefore, provides a manual for successful skill building during teacher training as well as during instruction within the classroom. Good teacher training is good teaching-no more, no less. There are neither magic formulas, quick cures, easy answers, nor panaceas. "Knowing about" is quite different from "knowing how to," and "knowing how to" requires the thorough mastery of correct skill performance that has been properly taught. With teachers, just as with their students, the mastery of skills is learned one step at a time through clear explanation, careful modeling, and practice, practice, practice.

 

Consequently, the success of the implementation of any innovation within education will be primarily a function of the delivery system through which change and innovation are disseminated. Without a quality delivery system, all innovation within education will die the same death. Procedures poorly implemented tend to fail regardless of their intrinsic merit or quality. Careful training by highly skilled trainers and plenty of follow through are required to implement procedures properly. Both cost money. For teacher training to succeed there is no shortcut.

 

The Trainer-of-Trainers Imperative

In the beginning of the first volume of this work, Positive Classroom Discipline, I briefly recounted my rather rude awakening to the necessity of using proper teaching methods the first time I tried to train a group of teachers to use limit-setting. Success in teacher training occurred only when kinetic, performance-oriented methods of training were employed. During the years since that first learning experience in 1969, the methods of Positive Classroom Discipline have evolved steadily, and during that same period our methods of teacher training have grown apace. The experiences of teacher training, in fact, have served as the laboratory for the refinement of many of the instructional methods described in the present volume. Thus two separate technologies have been continuously growing side by side: (1) skills of classroom instruction and discipline management and (2) skills of teacher training and staff development in the field.

 

Yet as early as 1970, it became apparent that teacher training with proper instructional methods would always be prohibitively expensive. As one might predict, the bottleneck occurred at guided practice. Taking limit-setting as a prototypical skill. (Positive Classroom Discipline, Chapters 5, 6, and 7), I had to coach each trainee individually through several management dilemmas of increasing difficulty before performance became fluid and before the trainee got a sense of mastery and self-confidence. Structured practice could not produce the self-assurance and poise that came from performing "on your own" during guided practice. With each practice trial during guided practice, the simple motoric performance of a portion of the skill sequence became automatic and receded from foreground to background in the eyes of the trainees. Finally they could focus on the behavior and feelings of the student rather than on their own anxiety about what to do next. Only with the self-confidence born of adequate guided practice did teachers consistently risk using the new skills of limit setting in their classrooms. Only with adequate guided practice did they perform both confidently and correctly.

 

Research and development took two directions as a result of our being confronted with the amount of time which was required to properly coach a trainee through the guided practice of limit-setting and, subsequently, of other skills as well. First, I attempted to increase my efficiency during training, and second, I began exploring the feasibility of training teachers to be trainers without loss of quality. The first line of work led to the understanding of a structured lesson as a trimodal exercise and an appreciation of the central role of structured practice during the initial phase of skill acquisition. The second line of work produced the first hard research to explore issues of quality control with a trainer-of-trainers methodology in the field.

 

During these years it became apparent that a first-rate job of training could be done by teachers in the field if (1) they were properly taught to teach the lessons of the staff development program and if (2) implementation occurred within a framework of continuing review, collegial sharing and support, and systematic problem solving. It also became clear, in fact, that such training would have to be done by professionals in the field or it would never be done at all. Districts could afford to have me train some of their personnel as trainers, but they could not afford to have me train all their teachers directly.

 

The scope of our teacher-training program has expanded over the years as dilemmas of classroom management and teacher-training have been addressed by us one by one. As our classroom management and staff development methods have matured, a fairly comprehensive program for training teachers to perform the basic skills of their profession has come into being. That program is known as the Classroom Management Training Program (CMTP), and a portion of the skills and procedures contained in that program form the content of this book.

 

A thorough description of the procedures of the Classroom Management Training Program would take a separate volume, but a synopsis will be presented in this section as a model for creating growth and lasting change in schools and school districts. In program implementation, however, it is the proper execution of the specifics, the nuts and bolts, which ultimately spells success or failure. Fifteen years in the school of hard knocks has taught us a lot about the specifics of creating lasting change. For our present purposes, however, a few chapters highlighting major emphasis will have to do. I hope this brief treatment will alert those interested in implementing the procedures of Positive Classroom Discipline and Positive Classroom Instruction to some of the rigors which are the price of success.

 

Creating a Network of Support

During the 1970s it became apparent from experience in the field that more advantages could be gained from a trainer-of-trainers program than simply cost effectiveness through the multiplication of my efforts. Trainers at a school site or within a school district form an "expertise hierarchy" which greatly aids the continuing dissemination, quality control, and longevity of the training program. The trainers would lead continuation groups that met regularly to review and reteach skills, share ideas, and solve problems of implementation. In-house trainers could also retrain their colleagues periodically, conduct "back to school" brush-up workshops in the fall, and train new staff members so that a trained faculty would not be diluted by staff turnover. Just as important, the trainers became resident advocates of quality staff development and often prevented the watering down of the program by administrators less familiar than they with the conditions necessary for successful dissemination.

 

The positive influence of the coaches is greatly enhanced, of course, if they work in collaboration with administrators knowledgeable about the program and committed to both active participation in, and continuing support for, quality staff development. For this reason we never train faculty at a school site unless the administrators not only go through training but also become members of a training team along with key faculty members. Dissemination is further aided by adequate district support and coordination, which is the subject of the next chapter. Administrative support and teacher training expertise must grow together so that gradually a staff development network is constructed within the district.

 

The Classroom Management Training Program (CMTP) deals with the entire context of change within the district and school site in addition to teacher training in order to maximize the likelihood of successful program implementation. The skills and procedures of CMTP have two objectives: (1) optimal training to ensure initial mastery of basic skills and (2) the creation of a network of teachers, administrators, and even parents and school board members to provide support for an ongoing process of professional growth, change, and renewal within each school site. The objective of CMTP in the simplest terms is lasting growth and change-the hallmark of any successful staff development effort.

 

Mechanisms of Success

The three criteria of success for any systematic staff development program at a school site are: mastery, penetration, and longevity. "Mastery" refers to the precision with which new skills are reproduced during initial dissemination of the program. "Penetration" refers to the percentage of the faculty and administration who choose to be trained and who remain actively involved at a given school site. "Longevity" refers to the duration of active faculty participation in program implementation and related areas of professional development at the school site.

 

Mastery and Methods

Guided Practice with Individuals versus Structured Practice with Groups

Guided practice is the methodological watershed of quality skill training, for it creates both precision through practice with corrective feedback and the confidence that can only come from being able to perform correctly on your own. Guided practice also irons out idiosyncratic errors of application and understanding on the part of individual teachers. But guided practice is also the watershed as regards cost. Guided practice requires expert coaching of one trainee at a time by the experts produced by a quality trainer-of-trainers program.

 

Training the highly skilled experts of a successful trainer-of-trainers program is a slow and careful process. Although structured practice can produce tentative mastery with a large group of trainees, guided practice requires individualized feedback on the fine points of performance. Structured practice can be carried out in a relatively brief period of time by someone newly familiar with the program, whereas guided practice requires a much greater understanding of the skill being taught, the errors typical of the new learner, the fears and defensiveness typical of colleagues, and especially, advanced skills of giving corrective feedback.

 

No "Quick and Dirty" Guided Practice Amateurish attempts at providing guided practice within the context of a trainer-of-trainers program can easily backfire, producing defensiveness, resentment, and "bad-mouthing" of the program among colleagues. There is no quicker way for a trainer to raise the ire of a colleague than to use the universal helping interaction during the guided practice of a teaching skill. Implied criticism produces instant defensiveness and revenge aimed at both the trainer and the program.

 

Trainers in a trainer-of-trainers program must, therefore, be taught to teach every major skill in the program perfectly in order to maximize efficiency (time is precious) and in order to minimize defensiveness from strong and weak colleagues alike. For this reason alone it is cost-effective to combine discipline skills (Positive Classroom Discipline) and instructional skills (Positive Classroom Instruction) into a single training program since the trainers must be taught to use correct instructional methods with discipline skills anyway. In addition, trainers must be given many advanced and specialized instructional skills unique to CMTP which have not been dealt with in this volume but which are critical to specific training exercises.

 

Beyond Guided Practice Having placed the importance of guided practice into proper perspective, I must qualify this emphasis somewhat lest the whole notion of implementing a quality trainer-of-trainers program appear financially exorbitant. When guided practice is needed it is crucial, but it is only needed for key skills which have a major performance component. Much of CMTP has to do with awareness, raising the level of concern, concept explanation, and generalization-parts of a structured lesson that resemble any other quality workshop. We do not spend all our time in guided practice.

 

Yet the key skills of classroom management are new skills and typically involve not only new learning but also the breaking of old habits. The two most prominent and most difficult such skills are "limit-setting" in Positive Classroom Discipline and the "positive helping interaction" in Positive Classroom Instruction. Teachers will spend the rest of their careers mastering component skills of these two procedures because they have such a strong affective component and because they have such strong negative transfer from old teaching habits. Although such key skills live or die on the basis of adequate guided practice during acquisition and periodic retraining in the months following initial training, other parts of CMTP can be much more readily grasped and implemented. Mastery of the parts of CMTP that do not rely so heavily on guided practice can be greatly enhanced by well-developed software and video. The integration of skill practice with media to produce maximum learning at minimum cost will constitute a continuing area of growth and development for CMTP.

 

The Trainer-of-Trainers Fad

"Trainer of trainers" has become a buzz word in education. It has been linked through research to effective staff development. Everyone, it seems, is suddenly doing trainer-of-trainers programs.

 

Trainer-of-trainer programs in the field range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Few programs train trainers carefully, and many are simply dressed-up traditional workshops and seminars which are designed to familiarize large numbers of teachers with new methods rapidly. Explanation and demonstration typically dominate with some "walk through" and no guided practice.

 

Yet training trainers slowly and carefully, in contrast, creates specialists who will pay back the initial investment in their training many times over as they serve their schools and school districts by training large numbers of colleagues and by maintaining their colleagues' effectiveness over time. A trainer-of-trainers program, therefore, is a long-term investment which implies a systematic, programmatic approach to staff development on the part of the sponsoring agency.

 

Penetration and Volunteerism

Skimming

If a staff-development program trains those teachers and administrators who first volunteer for the experience, it will repeatedly reach those who are most eager to learn, to grow, and to change. It skims the most active, involved, and competent teachers and administrators in the district and leaves the rest behind. Contrary to the needs of the district, it always helps most those who need help least. How do you get the rest of the teachers and administrators to want to grow and change?

 

"Penetration" refers to the capacity of a staff development program to reach beyond the top teachers and administrators and pull the rest of the staff into an active involvement in mastering new skills. If a training program can draw nearly all administrators and faculty into full participation in a training program, it has succeeded to a far greater extent than a program which only skims the top 20 to 30 percent of district personnel.

 

Success Based on Volunteerism Achieving penetration is tricky because of the necessity of building a quality staff development program on "volunteerism." The desire to change and grow must come from within because change requires effort and risk and constant attention to proper skill application both during training and later while on the job. All this required effort can be withheld at will.

 

When administrators mandate attendance at a training program, they create the resistance to wholehearted participation which will all but guarantee half-hearted and short-lived implementation on the part of the coerced participant. They get exactly what was required and no more-attendance.

 

If volunteerism is so important, where does it come from? Since volunteerism is so rarely present in the teachers who need training most, a successful program must produce much of its own volunteerism. The methods of producing this volunteerism are part of a successful trainer-of-trainers program. Without such mechanisms, training may take place on a broad scale, but change will be spotty at best.

 

Volunteerism among the bulk of the faculty grows gradually and informally over the long run, largely through word of mouth. Trained teachers will talk enthusiastically to each other about their experiences and success with "the program." Teachers who are experiencing stress or frustration ask their friends who have been trained about the program. Has it really helped? Do you really have fewer problems and less stress? Trained teachers in sharing their feelings and experiences sell the program. We refer to this predictable phenomenon as "the teachers' lounge effect."

 

But the teachers' lounge effect rests squarely on the consistent efficacy of the training program. If the training program were not making a big difference in the lives of the trained teachers that more than justified the time and effort that went into training, the program would die in the teachers' lounge. Thus a successful training program must indirectly sell itself to teachers who are reticent to volunteer. Selling rests on Success, which rests on proper training and implementation. If the program could not sell itself, the administration could not implement it if their lives depended on it. There is no cheap way.

 

Yet no program sells itself entirely. Selling is first done by an impressive introductory presentation, typically by CMTP personnel, which produces the volunteerism needed to recruit the trainers and the first few rounds of trainees. Selling is subsequently done by administrators in addition to the spontaneous enthusiasm of trained teachers. Administrators, therefore, must carry out a carefully designed support role in order to establish professional growth as a prominent, permanent, and highly valued objective at each participating school site.

 

The principal's role in producing volunteerism ranges all the way from being part of a training team along with teachers to selling the program in faculty meetings to sharing his enthusiasm with individual teachers. By observing the principal investing time in the staff development program, teachers are able to see concrete evidence of school site and district commitment. Although teachers' skepticism about staff development is strong, that skepticism is based on reality-the farcical and time-wasting in-service programs of the past-rather than an indifference to receiving help in doing their job. If a respected principal is steadfast in his or her commitment and if a "critical mass" of respected colleagues is actively involved in, and enthusiastic about, a new program, most teachers will be drawn toward volunteerism out of enlightened self-interest.

 

Yet the negativistic and burned-out teachers often remain recalcitrant. How can you get the teachers who need it most to buy it? There is no final answer to this dilemma, but experience indicates that the best hope of success lies along any or all of the following three paths: (1) a personal and sincere appeal by the principal, (2) a personal and sincere appeal by respected colleagues, and (3) a requirement that the faculty make an all-or-nothing commitment to the program. Even if the negative few are outvoted, at least their participation, however half-hearted, will be the result of a peer process rather than an administrative mandate! Though less than perfect, whole faculty participation based on a peer-group decision-making process has the advantage of producing an entire faculty that at least speaks the same language. If, however, this strategy seems unworkable, the principal can use supervision procedures for individual teachers described in the following chapters.

 

Building on Strength It should be noted that the requirement for total volunteerism runs counter to the instincts of many administrators-even the most involved and well-intentioned. Their vested interest, out of the best of motives, often is to train the weakest teachers first since they are doing the most damage in the classroom. Though well-intentioned, this instinct is ultimately self-defeating.

 

In order to spread, a training program must produce a critical mass of success. It must be seen by the majority of the faculty as highly successful in the hands of their most esteemed and trusted colleagues. Only on the basis of demonstrated efficacy will most teachers ultimately volunteer for an extensive training program that calls for lasting commitment. To produce this critical mass of success, the very best and most respected teachers who volunteer should be recruited as trainers or coaches, and the next strongest teachers should be trained in the initial rounds of training.

Trainers should be:

 

  • Excellent teachers

  • Liked and respected by peers

  • Eager to coach

  • Good communicators

 

Longevity and Follow Through Even if a program succeeds in involving an entire staff in training and even if it produces immediate success and enthusiasm, it is a questionable investment if 2 years later it is out of sight and out of mind: Are you still doing any of the what's-its-name program in your classroom? To be truly successful, change must be lasting. Lasting change, however, is far more difficult to produce than initial change.

 

Some rather depressing realities concerning teacher training need to be appreciated if the barriers to long-term change are to be fully understood. First, any skill that is mastered during training but is not implemented in the classroom within 48 hours will probably never be implemented. Second, there is no way to implement all the skills of a sophisticated methodology for doing anything within 48 hours. And third, even if you could implement all the skills within 48 hours, they would probably be gone or half forgotten by next fall. Please keep in mind that the only predictable result of learning is the immediate onset of forgetting. Atrophy is the eternal enemy of a good training program.

 

All the above-mentioned problems are predictable consequences of a good training program unless an additional follow-through program is implemented to systematically combat atrophy. Such a program must create a process of continuing skill practice, problem solving, support, and the sharing of professional expertise that becomes a valued part of the fabric of professional life at any participating school site.

 

Central to the process of continuing mastery in CMTP is the formation immediately following training of continuation groups in which retraining, problem solving, and sharing systematically occur. Continuation groups should have roughly six to ten participants - a team of trainers and the colleagues they worked with during the previous round of training. Small training groups permit adequate guided practice during the initial training, and small continuation groups preserve the intimacy, camaraderie, and safety of the training group while ensuring that problems and personal concerns can be addressed quickly as they arise in daily classroom experience.

 

Since continuation groups are small and intimate, a given school site may have several ongoing continuation groups after the entire staff has been trained. These continuation groups have four basic functions: (1) review, (2) problem solving, (3) sharing, and (4) support and enjoyment.

 

Review During the 3 months following initial training, the entire program must be systematically retaught. Thus a minimum commitment to CMTP training includes not only participation in the initial training but also 3 months of follow-up participation in a continuation group.

 

Integration of new skills into a teacher's skill repertoire and classroom routine is a gradual process. An analogy might be the folding of recipe ingredients into a cake batter. You need to work one ingredient into the batter at a time so the batter will remain smooth. If you throw all the ingredients in at once and stir, you get lumps. Teachers need time to gradually mix the ingredients of the training program into their classroom routines, or they will take a lot of lumps. They need careful review of each major skill just before classroom application to ensure success.

 

Continuation groups also provide a thread of continuity from year to year. Skills decay greatly over the summer, and without some practice before the students show up in the fall, teachers may get off to a wobbly start with their classroom management. Commonly, continuation groups spend at least a day in the fall in formal retraining, which can be provided by the CMTP coaches.

 

Problem Solving To imagine that every skill of a training program will work perfectly the first time it is used by all trainees is to live in fantasyland. Techniques will bomb on occasion because of sheer inexperience. In the first 3 months following training, when new ingredients are being added to their classroom routine, teachers make mistakes typical of inexperience and take some lumps in spite of careful review. During this shakedown period, problems are either solved quickly in a continuation group or else valuable techniques are unceremoniously dropped by a disillusioned teacher.

 

In order to ensure that a valuable classroom technology is not aborted following training, there must not only be a peer support group from which to get help, but there must also be (1) an expectation that glitches are perfectly normal and (2) a process of problem solving within the group that is both effective and supportive. If teachers feel that failing is a sign of personal inadequacy, they will probably not seek help. And if seeking help causes them to feel embarrassed or humiliated, they will do it only once. Members of the continuation group must be trained to use sophisticated group problem-solving skills so that they can help each other without generating the defensiveness which is typical of advice giving.

 

Sharing A group of twenty teachers has among themselves enough experience and professional wisdom to solve a great many classroom management dilemmas even without training. Yet professional wisdom rarely passes from one classroom to another. One of the prices we pay for practicing our profession behind closed doors is that we deprive ourselves of each other's insights and creativity. In continuation groups the collective wisdom of the group is systematically shared. In so doing we exploit what may be education's largest untapped resource.

 

Two common forms of sharing during continuation meetings are (1) peer teaching of PATs and (2) shared lesson design. Typically members of the continuation group will take turns opening the meeting by teaching the group a favorite PAT. Over time teachers at a school site or within a district will collect a "PAT bank" for common use. Joint lesson planning becomes a major activity of continuation group meetings after the first 6 weeks post training since discipline management will have largely become old business by then. Teachers from the same department or grade level typically share in the design of good performance models at this time.

 

As joint lesson planning becomes a major activity of the continuation group during the second month after training, the continuation group begins a formal "peer observation program." Teachers typically pair up to design a lesson with the understanding that one will teach while the other observes. The role of the principal in the peer observation program is to provide coverage for the observer's classroom. Peer observation is followed by a conference of the two participating teachers later in the same day to discuss the lesson. Such observation is nonevaluative and provides a wealth of professional sharing, incidental learning, and enrichment for everyone as well as providing help for teachers who are reticent to ask for it in the continuation group meetings.

 

Enjoyment and Support Continuation groups often continue for years after training, becoming a permanent part of school life. To be so highly valued, however, groups must be a source of fellowship, friendship, and support in addition to their professional development function. For longevity's sake the group must plan to have fun together. And for longevity's sake the group must rally to the support of a member in need, be it anything from problems with a difficult student or a difficult administrator to personal tragedy.

 

The mix of personalities within any group is highly variable, of course, but in some form the group members must be the source of their own nurturance and their own PATs. In our work lives we often forget to plan for enjoyment. Better to meet at someone's house with food or to have a party every fourth meeting than to let the group become grim.

 

METHODS OF DISSEMINATION

In staff development long-term success or failure ultimately rests not so much with the cleverness of the innovation as with the quality of the delivery system. Within an organization, lasting and meaningful change based on shared expertise, high morale, and cooperation will always be limited, therefore, by the sophistication of the methods used to instigate change. Consequently, it is important to understand the basic types of delivery systems and to be able to predict the type of change produced by each.

 

Dissemination Formats to School Districts

Consultants are at best teachers who travel and at worst nonteachers who travel. As one might well conclude from the preceding section, the quality of a delivery system can be judged by the thoroughness of the teaching which it employs. Since a great many consultants have employed viral teaching to expose tens of thousands of teachers to tens of effective techniques during recent decades, consultants have produced teacher disillusionment at a record rate since techniques that are poorly taught rarely work.

 

Of course such consultants have only been doing what was asked of them by administrators who wanted a brief presentation to expose their faculties to new ideas. According to Fredric J. McDonald, a researcher in teacher training, 2 as a result of this collaboration between naive consultants and naive administrators, teachers have learned little from staff development over the years except to be skeptical of anyone bearing new programs. Thus consultants have been vilified as someone who "blows in, blows off, and blows out" or as almost any turkey with a briefcase and a plane ticket. Observing consultants at work, therefore, reveals a great deal about what they regard to be teaching while providing a user's guide to staff development formats.

 

Introductory Presentations In past decades almost all professional staff development has followed the "blow in, blow off, and blow out" format. In the business such presentations are sometimes referred to as "dog and pony shows" or "hot bath treatments" (invigorating while they last, but as soon as they are over you cool off rapidly). Some consultants or presenters, of course, can give a masterful show, which keeps the audience in stitches. It had better keep the audience in stitches or the presenter will receive a high percentage of negative evaluations because "the seats were too hard." The seats being too hard is educational jargon for the fact that most teachers have lost their patience with shows. They know from experience that the content of the presentation does not magically translate into skills which help them in the classroom. So, to be tolerable, the presentation had damn well better be entertaining. As a result, many presenters, not being dummies, go heavy on the jokes and cute anecdotes while going light on substance.

 

If it sounds as though I hold introductory presentations in contempt, I have failed to make myself clear. What I hold in contempt is the overselling of one-shot presentations. No institution is going to hire an outside person to conduct a quality staff development program until they have become familiar with the program and feel comfortable with the person. Almost all quality training programs begin with a good show. Introductory presentations, however, are good for only two things: awareness and marketing.

 

The importance of a good show should not be minimized. Owing to the intense skepticism regarding in-service programs that has been generated among teachers by one-shot presentations over the past several decades, overcoming skepticism is the first order of business. Thus overcoming the built-in resistance of a faculty to a new program and replacing that skepticism with enthusiasm and volunteerism is the beginning of any successful long-term staff development effort. The antipathy to in-service programs is particularly strong at the high school level, and unless the faculty can be sold during a 1 to 2-hour presentation, dissemination will probably go no further. Thus, ironically, a dynamite dog and pony show is a prerequisite for the dissemination of any quality trainer-of-trainers program.

 

The critical question about an introductory presentation is not so much how good is it but, rather, what comes next. Is there a first-rate training program to come that can translate newly introduced concepts and initial enthusiasm into a process of change within the institution! If not, is awareness all you are after? If so, then you are probably indulging yourself in the magical expectations characteristic of viral teaching.

 

Workshops, Seminars, and Institutes Staff development programs which fall short of systematic teacher training but which go beyond introductory presentations arc typically referred to as "workshops," "seminars," or "institutes." By their titles these formats promise more than awareness and marketing. If there is more, it should take the form of more parts of the structured lesson rather than more time. An institute in which you simply sit, observe, and take notes for an extended period of time is just a long dog and pony show (or a short college course). In order to provide more in the way of teaching, a workshop, seminar, or institute should at least add structured practice to modeling. You should get on your feet or get your hands on materials and actually perform the skills as part of a group.

 

Seminars, institutes, and workshops can provide an effective learning experience if there is an ample number of practice exercises which are close analogs of everyday classroom situations and if structured practice is well done. Such training experiences, however, are for the individual rather than for the school site. That is to say, seminars, institutes, and workshops typically represent skimming with limited administrative involvement and no systematic support-team building. Naturally, such training experiences help the highly competent teachers most since the lack of guided practice puts a premium on preexisting motivation, strong readiness skills, and quick learning. Weak teachers, in contrast, desperately need the retraining and support of the continuation group to minimize the misapplication of basic techniques.

 

Workshops, seminars, and institutes have an important function in the overall picture of staff development, of course, as do introductory shows. Districts need to know about a program in considerable detail before they can become sold on the idea of systematic teacher training. Workshops, seminars, and institutes, which are usually of 1 to 3 days duration, give administrators, staff development specialists, and key teachers a chance to see up close the program and the people representing it.

 

Like dog and pony shows, however, workshops, seminars, and institutes suffer from frequent oversell. Even highly competent teachers are quickly overloaded. It is the extremely rare individual who can internalize even a single complex skill with the help of rapid note taking and frequent review after they get home.

 

Perhaps more damaging, workshops, seminars, and institutes often profess to make trainers out of their participants. Fliers frequently announce that participants will be able to "take these ideas and procedures back to your home school districts." Such oversell is heavily influenced by the viral theory of learning, to say the least. Such pronouncements assume that once you have seen or walked through a skill once or twice, you can magically translate that experience into a successful training program. Such a quick and dirty approach to dissemination usually produces little more than the highly imperfect reproduction of only a portion of the workshop for all the folks back home.

 

Systematic Teacher Training The dividing line between workshops, seminars, and institutes on the one hand and systematic teacher training on the other hand is (1) the development of trainers at each school site, (2) guided practice of skills, (3) the development of a supportive network of actively participating teachers, administrators, and school board members, and (4) continuation groups and peer coaching to provide follow through in the form of an ongoing growth process at each school site. Sowing seeds is cheap, but bringing in a crop to harvest is careful, hard work over the entire life cycle of the crop. Change comes at the price of good teaching, but lasting change requires ongoing support from all levels of the profession.

 

Principals as administrators have an explicit role to play in both preparation for training and follow through after training. They go through the full coaches' training so that they may thoroughly understand the program while clearly demonstrating its importance by serving as a member of the training team. Following training the administrators keep the program continually on the "front burner" at the school site by (1) talking the program up and arranging for the sharing of success stories at faculty meetings, (2) arranging for class coverage so that peer observation and peer coaching can take place, (3) supporting the continuation group process by setting aside school time for teachers to get together and by never cross-scheduling that time, (4) visiting classrooms and dropping by continuation group meetings to gain a sense of the health of the program and the needs of participating teachers, and (5) helping to organize new rounds of training and ensuring that coaches have adequate time to prepare for them.

 

The existence of the continuation group also gives principals an important mechanism for quality control as they attempt to help a weak teacher. If, for example, the principal's observations indicate that a particular teacher is having difficulty with some aspect of teaching or program implementation, the teacher and principal can simply pinpoint that area as an important growth objective for the teacher at the present time. The principal then recycles the teacher back through the continuation group where the teacher's peer group can do the retraining. The teacher who is experiencing difficulty merely makes a contract with the principal to request a particular type of training at the next continuation group meeting. Since the coaches arc available at the school site, retraining can be carried out when needed and as often as needed with no special fanfare.

 

As more school sites become involved, more coaches need to be trained within the district. It is not uncommon, for example, to train elementary, junior high, and high school coaches within a district during three successive years. As district personnel watch the growth of their coaches, teachers, and administrators, the investment in the training of coaches usually makes increasing sense to the school board. Over a period of years an expertise hierarchy is constructed which includes not only a clearly defined cadre of master teachers but also a significant percentage of the teaching staff within each participating school site in addition to administrators, all capable of carrying out their respective roles properly.

 

Ideally a third level of the expertise hierarchy will be built over a period of years if the district is large enough and has adequate resources. The amount of coordination, quality control, and retraining of coaches is easily underestimated by a district entering into a long-term staff development program for the first time. Ultimately a full-time coordinator will be needed if training is being carried out at many school sites. In addition, CMTP coaches forget just as their trainees forget, and there needs to be a higher level of expertise available to give them periodic review, updating, and practice. In most cases CMTP trainers of trainers do that job, but that is more by default than by plan. It is best in a large district for there to be a staff development institute that is staffed by several full-time people who are highly sophisticated in staff development. Such people typically have had experience as trainers in several quality staff development training programs and can serve as coordinators and master trainers for the coaches.

 

Classroom Management - A Course of Study At this time many districts simply cannot or will not afford systematic teacher training. There must be staff development options for districts with limited funds which are less expensive than systematic teacher training but are more helpful than the typical workshops, seminars, and institutes. How can much of the explanation, modeling, guided practice, and continuing growth which is built into the systematic teacher training and continuation groups occur in many districts at a reduced cost?

 

One obvious answer is videotape. But, if we simply show video, we are back to the old dog and pony show with a TV screen substituted for a live performer. Rather, it is critical to have trained trainers accompany the videotape and use the videotape as a vehicle for real training. A trainer-of-trainers program, therefore, is still needed although the number of trainers might be reduced.

 

The greatest economy of video, however, would be the packaging of training into segments that could be done after school or in the evening, thus eliminating the greatest cost of training-substitutes. Videotape is also an excellent vehicle for quality control within the context of a systematic teacher-training program since even coaches and members of a staff development institute can review skills periodically from videotape.

 

Product versus Process and the Pipeline

It is difficult for districts without experience with systematic teacher training to justify the expense of training trainers to work at each of their many school sites just as it is difficult to appreciate the importance of continuation meetings. Perhaps the clearest way to contrast the benefits of systematic teacher training with more typical staff development formats is to think in terms of process versus product.

 

Creating a Process The objective of CMTP is not simply to produce a productive group of trained teachers-but, rather, to produce a process of continuing professional growth and renewal that can become a permanent part of the social fabric of each school site. Creating a process, however, is relatively difficult and expensive compared to merely training a group of teachers since it requires:

 

  • long-term planning administrative

  • involvement at all levels

  • training principals

  • training selected teachers to such an extent that they can be trainers, leaders of continuation groups, and peer coaches

  • follow through after training with adequate coordination, administrative involvement, and continuous retraining

  • organizing calendars around training and continuation group meetings

 

Obviously, creating a viable process is labor-intensive and therefore costly in training days, substitute costs, and consulting fees. But, perhaps more important, creating a process ultimately changes the organizational structure of the district so that professional growth and change becomes institutionalized. New roles are created and old accustomed ways of "running the shop" are altered.

 

Yet the investment has profound long-term implications that far outweigh the initial costs if excellence is the goal of the district. A process of professional development that is decentralized to each school site creates more than a support structure for continuing growth, renewal, and change. It creates a pipeline for the dissemination of innovation for as long as the pipeline is kept in repair. Thus, although coaches may be trained at each school site by CMTP, those coaches have the training skills to disseminate other programs as well.

 

For example, a CMTP coach might attend a conference in Chicago in which he or she hears a talk about some valuable innovation in instruction or classroom management. If no training program is available to disseminate the innovation, the coaches could collaborate to construct a training program consisting of well-designed, performance-oriented structured lessons. This core group could then train the rest of the coaches, and the coaches could train the members of their continuation groups as part of the group's normal sharing and retraining process. Thus innovation might spread from a convention in a faraway city to classrooms throughout the district in a matter of weeks.

 

Without a pipeline there is no way to disseminate innovation in the form of well practiced skills. Rather, innovation remains forever at arm's length or passes through town in the form of another dog and pony show.

 

Creating a Product The product of a teacher-training program is, to put it most simply, a teacher who has been through a teacher-training program. There is certainly nothing wrong with a good product as long as one's expectations are realistic. Training programs tend to profit the most gifted teachers most and the least gifted teachers least. Whatever gains are made begin to atrophy as soon as the training program is over except for the gifted few who have the capacity to rapidly internalize, generalize, and innovate with a new skill.

 

Staff development as a product rather than as a process is not only far cheaper but also requires less involvement and change on the part of board members, administrators, and teachers alike. It is easier to mandate, and it requires very little active and ongoing leadership. It typically has a district focus rather than a school site focus, and follow through is typically nonexistent. Yet a product is all that most school districts will receive in the foreseeable future. It is all that they are prepared to accept, and it is all that they are prepared to afford.

 

Problems with Staff Development Specialists

Ironically, one of the most consistent blocks to quality program dissemination is local staff development specialists. At best a specialist in staff development within a state department of education, county office of education, teacher center, or local school district will want to become a partner in the process of change and collaborate in carrying out a quality program. Typically such individuals appreciate that the training process of a quality program is its greatest asset-a methodology developed and tested during years of use in the field. Such individuals are willing to collaborate because (1) they have a primary concern for the process of the training program and want to see it carried out properly, (2) they are personally open to collaboration and look forward to learning from the training methods of the program as well as contributing to them, and (3) they have the freedom to carry out the program correctly because they have the backing of local administrators.

 

At worst a staff development specialist or local consultant is a cut-and-paste artist, a gleaner of the content from many programs intent on designing a curriculum of her or his own but with little appreciation for the rigors of quality training. Such individuals, since they often tend to focus on content rather than process, characteristically bypass the careful training needed for successful program dissemination. Thus they often dissect a quality program by focusing primarily on concepts while cutting corners in training in order to reach a large number of teachers quickly.

 

The propensity for disseminating concepts rapidly rather than carefully developing skills comes from many directions including naivete, defense of one's territory, budget constraints, or administrative pressure. A combination of all these factors is most characteristic of state departments of education, county offices of education, and large city school districts in which in-house experts have a defined territory to defend and in which the pressures to reach everyone with new ideas quickly on a low budget is great. These pressures can all but preclude quality staff development. This pattern of methodological mediocrity is averted only when there is a semiautonomous staff development institute or teacher center with a clearly defined mission of excellence in staff development and political checks against pressures to reach everyone rapidly.

 

Staff development specialists either actively protect the integrity of a quality training program or they are instrumental in destroying it. They either actively educate those around them concerning the importance of using proper teaching methods and of building a support network to achieve lasting change or they end up doing the opposite. Unless they model excellent teaching they will probably model viral teaching.

 

OVERVIEW

I wish that systematic teacher training were easier and cheaper. I have tried to economize in almost every imaginable way over the past 15 years to help districts with inadequate funds learn about positive classroom discipline and positive classroom instruction. As a result, I have made almost every mistake imaginable and watched my program achieve only partial success or fail altogether more times than I would like to remember.

 

The description of systematic teacher training contained in this chapter is not pie in the sky but, rather, simple necessity. Though it may seem elaborate to someone unfamiliar with staff development, the descriptions contained in this chapter represent, in fact, bare minimums. I would love to have more time to work with the coaches and more time for the coaches to train the teachers, and I would love to come back to the district to retrain more often than I typically do. I want to include skills that I do not even touch on in training. A colleague of mine who has served as a coach in the Classroom Management Training Program put it simply a year ago when he made the following statement:

 

"You know, Jones, when I first went through this program, I was a little overwhelmed by all of the new concepts and teaching skills that I was being given. I sorted it out over the next year or two thanks to being a coach and to the continuation groups, but it still seemed like "high-tech" teaching. But now that I have coached it several times and used it for two years it has gotten to be second nature. Nov, I've been able to go beyond it, look back, and see what the Classroom Management Training Program really was. It was boot camp! It was the basics - nothing but the basics - the bare necessities of surviving and succeeding in the classroom. If you don't have that stuff, you'll work yourself to death and never understand why you're so tired and why so many of the kids still are not learning."

 

REFERENCES

  • Jones, F.H., Fremouw, W., and Carples, S., Pyramid training of elementary school teachers to use a classroom management" skill package." Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1977, 10, 239-253.

  • Toch, T., Inservice efforts fail a system in need, critics say. Education Week, September 29, 1982. 10-11.

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