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Positive Classroom Management Series

Positive Classroom Instruction

Chapter 12 - The Leadership Role (page 2)


Systematic teacher training is a slow, gradual process that focuses on the careful development of professional skills of teachers and administrators alike. It uses proper teaching methods, and it creates a supportive interpersonal network in which growth and change are nurtured over time. It focuses consistently on process and method and is preoccupied with quality control, productivity, and morale both during training and at the school site thereafter.


Fast Results

Administrators and school boards who do not understand the process by which lasting change is created within an institution often see the investment of the time and resources required for lasting change to be exorbitant and unjustifiable. If the objectives of the training program are not appreciated, then the expense provides the reason for not proceeding. But if the objectives of the program are partially appreciated, an even more alarming prospect rears its head-the strong desire for fast results. The first type of administrator or school board may ignore a program to death; the second type may implement it to death.


With wide-eyed enthusiasm, a high-level administrator newly converted to a staff development program may say, "Let's train all our high school teachers this year" or "Let's go countywide! " Although closure has been reached as to the content of change desired, we still have a long way to go with process.


How can you go countywide with a quality trainer-of-trainers program this year? How can such large numbers be reached so fast if we are carefully training people rather than simply "exposing" them? We are still confronted with the viral theory of learning. "We'll really turn this district around!" can be the battle cry to oblivion.


Once a program is embraced at the content level, the next problem is to make sure it is embraced at the process level. Although the first objective of dissemination requires getting teachers and administrators to want specific instructional methods in their schools, the second objective of dissemination is to get administrators to take the process of change seriously. When administrators experience a rush of enthusiasm over the improvement promised by a quality staff development program, it is necessary to repeat the following advice over and over:


  • Slow down.

  • Think small.

  • Build gradually.


Quality does not come with a rush. It is built incrementally with a large investment in training quality people as trainers before dissemination to other staff is even possible. Quick quality on a large scale is an illusion.


The importance of implementing a worthwhile program properly is put into focus by one simple fact regarding program dissemination: You get only one chance. Once teachers have been through a program, as far as they are concerned, they have "done it." You will rarely get them back again to do it right if you did it sloppily the first time.


Shifting Focus

A concomitant of our tendency to embrace innovation as fad and to approach change as a quick fix is our tendency to shift focus frequently so that change efforts are robbed of adequate follow through. Educators are not used to making 5-year plans for staff development. A 2-year commitment is usually about all that the imagination will allow. A long-term, systematic approach to staff development is still a novelty in most districts, and a long-term commitment to a specific program and a specific consultant can be downright frightening. In addition to fears that the consultant may be a turkey, questions also arise as to whether the district wants to focus on any particular method to such a great extent.


Indeed, when change is carried out properly, you must choose your change objectives carefully because you will be living with them for a long time. And when energy is invested in real change, there will not be enough energy for many change programs. In general a school site can invest in only one major change effort at a time in addition to the normal change of curriculum and class assignments. If training is to be carried out properly, we can no longer employ a scattergun approach to staff development. We must choose our programs and our objectives carefully and maintain a coherent vector over time.


Actually the reduction of choices inherent in careful training is more a helpful antidote to fragmentation than a real limitation. There are really only about five major dimensions of staff development in education: (1) classroom management skills and the development of school standards, (2) instructional methodology, (3) communication, problem-solving, and counseling skills, (4) curriculum, and (5) leadership and quality control. There is no end point for professional development in any one of these areas (add a sixth if you like). Rather, it is more useful to think of staff development as a continuous process in which teachers and administrators cycle through one of the five areas each year always reentering an area at a higher level than before. Thus a district with a strong staff development apparatus would constantly be operating programs in all five areas at several levels on an ongoing basis. Obviously, some high level, in-house expertise is required to operate such a focused and multidimensional staff development enterprise. For most districts, it requires considerable growth and maximum effort to do just one program well.


Business As Usual

Some of the strongest built-in forces which can undermine quality staff development at the school district, county, state or national levels are the forces of political necessity. Politically oriented leaders typically need to show splashy results in order to enhance their leadership positions. In politics the best results tend to be the quickest results.


The best way to illustrate the workings of political expedience at cross-purposes with staff development may be to give some concrete examples. Each of the following vignettes is not only true but rather frequently true.


An Election Coming Up I received a call from a university professor colleague familiar with my program; he said he had been approached by the State Department of Education to develop a staff development program for school discipline that would be disseminated throughout the state. My colleague was told that there would be a lot of support for training in school discipline coming from the State Department of Education and that the State Superintendent of Education was going to earmark special funds for the training.


Although such a message might sound like a staff development specialist's dream come true, I have learned to be cautious. I told my colleague to get as many specifics as possible on (1) the time frame for training, (2) the dissemination network, and (3) political pressures which might be operating at the state level.


In a week my colleague called back and, speaking with far less enthusiasm than the week before, described the picture. It seems that the State Superintendent of Education was an elected position in this state, and elections were one year away. A recent poll financed by the State Department of Education pinpointed school discipline as the number one concern of the citizens regarding education. The state superintendent had decided to run for reelection and had decided to make school discipline one of his major platform issues. He therefore wanted to put together a "very visible program" on school discipline that would have statewide impact the year before the election.


The State Department of Education had already put out a fair amount of publicity to the press regarding their discipline program, but the specifics were hard to find. The reason, of course, was that people in the state department did not know a great deal about school discipline, had not had time to paste together a curriculum, and had no dissemination network for skill development on a statewide basis. Preliminary plans, however, targeted ten large school districts (those with the most voters) to receive state funds to carry out a trainer-of-trainers program to help local districts deal with problems of school discipline.


When pressed further by my colleague the head of professional development at the state level said that they hoped to put together a curriculum in the next few months and to use State Department of Education employees to travel out to the school districts to put on the workshops. The workshops were to be of 1 or 2 days duration aimed at administrators and department heads. These people were then to take the information (no mention of skills) from the workshop back to their local school sites.


After nearly two decades of staff development, my reaction to the preceding scenario is that it's the instant replay of a bad dream. "Quick and visible" are the real objectives of yet another ill-conceived in-service program designed not so much to produce actual staff development as to show a constituency that "we are doing something"' As usual, a curriculum was to be slapped together in a short time, and the notion of mass dissemination through a "trainer-of-trainers program" overlooked the necessity of carefully training the trainers, using the skills in real classrooms, supervising the process of training, supervising the trainees after training, and setting up a support or continuation program at each school site. It was viral teaching on a statewide basis - another glorified, warmed-over, one-day wonder.


No Backing from the Top The most common dilemma of a staff development specialist attempting to implement a quality training program is the lack of support from the top until the program is a demonstrated success. At that point the support is typically verbal with a showy display in front of the school board as business in the district proceeds in its typical fashion.


I have developed over the years a criterion for estimating the depth, breadth, and longevity of a staff development effort within a school district. When I first visit the school district, if I get on the plane to leave without having spoken at length with the superintendent about long-term staff development goals and methods, we are in trouble. Surprisingly often, superintendents are thoroughly unavailable for such discussions.


I will provide a composite case history of a "limited success" to give you the flavor. I'm contacted by a director of staff development (whose title includes a half-dozen other responsibilities) who has heard about my work at a conference. I am to speak on a district " in-service day." The head of staff development is the only woman assistant superintendent in the district-newly appointed and having very little clout-or a teacher on special assignment having no clout. She is, however, extremely competent and savvy about instruction and staff development, having been in the classroom for many years. During my visit to the district there is very little conversation about staff development initiated by any of the other administrators, but the director of staff development and I swap ideas like crazy over lunch.


After the presentation there are teachers pounding down the doors of their respective principals wanting training. A dozen principals are then on the phone to the director of staff development wanting to know what happened. Of those twelve principals, four are happy that there is a good staff development program available whereas the other eight are annoyed at having their lives disrupted.


The assistant superintendent in charge of staff development goes to the superintendent for money to carry out a trainer-of-trainers program at the school sites of the four interested principals. She is immediately turned down, but the superintendent and board agree to reconsider when they are deluged with requests from teachers and after several fired-up teachers give a testimonial and a brief demonstration in front of the school board. Who can say no to a roomful of teachers who want a professional development opportunity - particularly when they won't leave until they get it?


The trainer-of-trainers program proceeds over the following months until the coaches and the first round of trainees are trained. Word reaches the top that the new trainees are highly enthusiastic, as are the trainers, and plans are made for an additional round of training at the participating school sites. So far, so good.


The missing element in this scenario is involvement from the top. The superintendent does not come to the training, the other assistant superintendents do not come to the training, nor do principals from school sites not involved. The teachers at four school sites and their administrators are not connected to a district network in which innovation and enthusiasm spread, because there is no network. Nor is staff development a district priority. After all the rave reviews are in, I finally get the meeting with the superintendent that I have been lobbying for, and I do my best to explain what I know about making staff development work.


On the way to the airport I am told that the superintendent will probably not ask for any money because, of course, there isn't any money and he does not want to upset the board. The superintendent, in fact, was very clear about there not being any money during our earlier conversation. On the way to the airport I am also told, however, that the district has decided to build a new field house for the high school, which was passed unanimously at the last board meeting on a voice vote without discussion.


Implementing the Program to Death After having given a workshop for stall' development specialists in an eastern state, I was contacted by the staff development people from a particular county who were lobbying to get the county interested in the Classroom Management Training Program. They also demonstrated some of the classroom management skills at a school board meeting in order to rally support. The superintendent liked what he saw, but in order to get the money from the school board for the training program, he promised the board rashly that everyone in the county would be trained during the following year.


It seems as though each district must learn about quality staff development while experiencing it for the first time regardless of what is said in advance. Only when we had trained the first round of trainers and the first round of trainees and only after I had had several long conferences with the various levels of administrators did it finally dawn on people that the process was slow and methodical and could not possibly reach every teacher in the county during the next year. Various compromises in the program were suggested by the top administrators and rejected by me since I knew and explained why each such compromise would eventually produce failure.


Nevertheless, attempts were made during the following year to have coaches train teachers from different school sites only to have many of the continuation groups falter due to lack of leadership within the building. A year later we regrouped and the county decided that the program was worth doing and they would do it right because they could now see that tampering with the structure of the program was causing it to produce results that were noticeably inferior to the school sites in which the program had been properly implemented.


We have now been working together for over three years and we are now back on track, but there is still a problem of speed. We have trained the junior high teachers and have started with the senior high teachers. The senior high principals who were not initially included in the program are impatient, and the elementary school principals feel left out. The county wants to speed up the process, but they hate to spend any more money. Is there any way we can change the program to train more teachers quicker? Sounds familiar.


The Money's Gone I was asked by a school district to give an introductory talk on their staff development day. The enthusiasm was high among the teachers, but at dinner afterward the administrators told me that they had already spent this year's staff development funds, and the state would probably cut all such funds for next year.


"What did you do in staff development this year?" I inquired.


"We conducted a needs assessment," they said.


"How was it done?" I asked, ever curious about such things.


"We hired a consulting firm to come in and conduct a formal survey, tabulate the results, and prepare a formal report."


"What did they find?"


"Well, the main concerns according to the teachers were classroom discipline, time on task, and the noise and mess in the halls, cafeteria, and playground with several teachers mentioning burn-out."


"No kidding." I responded, trying to stifle my amazement. "How much did you spend for the needs assessment?"


"Twelve thousand."


"What do you plan to do with it?"


"Nothing. We're out of money."


"Why did you do it? Every needs assessment in the country in the last 10 years has said almost the same thing."


"We know. But you can't get state or federal money without first showing thorough documentation of a needs assessment. We did that part, but we didn't get the grant. So now we're high and dry."


"How about using your own money?"


"Are you kidding?"


I was at another district which had recently spent $30,000 to hire a consulting firm to do it "trouble-shooting report" on problems at the administrative level. The report, which took 6 months to prepare and included in-depth interviews with key personnel at all levels of management, focused on deep-seated problems of communication and morale. It seems that administrators and program coordinators at all levels felt powerless and disenfranchised from policy development, and they felt that many policies were not practical and did not meet their needs.


"What is the district going to do about it?" I asked.


"The superintendent is going to announce his policy next week."


"What about all the people who feel powerless?"


"I understand the new policy will address that."


"Were they involved in the development of the new policy?"


"Not to my knowledge."


"Any money for staff development?"


"Are you kidding?"


Look Out for the Counties I gave a workshop for the personnel of a nearby county office of education in which their staff development people were in attendance and taking notes. We talked enthusiastically afterward about working together with several of the districts in the county that were looking for help with discipline.


Within the year, however, the county's funds were cut by the state. As usual, staff development was regarded as a particularly expendable area. So much for our plans.


Several months ago I heard that the county office was offering its school districts a discipline program patterned after the work of Fred Jones. I inquired among some friends in the county and found out that indeed the few county staff development people who were left on the payroll were offering such a workshop; it covered "the eyeball technique" (limit-setting, I suppose) and "the stopwatch technique" (which can get rather weird out of context). I asked what form the dissemination was taking, and I was told that it was a half-day workshop at various school sites held usually during the afternoon of a minimum day.


A friend, who is a lawyer, said on hearing about it, "You ought to sue!" I felt that that was a rather self-serving remark for a lawyer to make.


I replied, "Sue for what, using my name indirectly? Listen, my book will be out soon, and all kinds of people will be doing the same thing. You can't sue people for being naive and foolish. There's no law against it."


County offices of education, as well as states and large cities, are particularly vulnerable to pressures from above to water down a trendy innovation and parade it around the territory. It shows how "with it" the county office is and how eager they are to serve. As for proper training and lasting change - well . . .


Parading Innovation

Short-Term Gain The pressures to go quickly and cut costs are built into the implementation of any staff development program. The tendency to water down programs is particularly strong among educators because of their general inexperience concerning the implementation of a successful professional development effort. These pressures are compounded by the short-term political gain to administrators for parading innovation.


Converting innovation into deep and lasting change may turn heads slowly, but it does not cause necks to snap. It takes a lot of time and effort, with the major investment up front. Parading innovation, in contrast, is flashy and creates publicity. Yet parading innovation, and the watering down of training that inevitably accompanies it, is the prime killer of innovation since innovation poorly implemented never works.


Is It Over Yet? One of the strange and final ironies of implementing a quality staff development program within a district is the tendency for administrators and board members to think of all staff development programs as time-limited rather than as continuing. They keep asking, "When will it be over?" or "How much longer do we have to fund this program?"


I attempt to explain to the district that staff development must be a permanent part of professional life. It is the job of the consultant to train people within the district to the point where they can be relatively self-sufficient: able to continue the staff development effortwithout a constant dependence on, and need to pay, an outside consultant. Good consultants should, therefore, systematically work themselves out of a job.


But, though there may not be a continuing need to pay the consultant, there is a continuing need to pay. There is no such thing as free staff development because time is money. The objective is to eventually pay your own people and own the program.


In my naivete I keep expecting someone to say, "Let's set up a timetable for achieving autonomous functioning so that our present level of support for the program can be directed toward enhancing the salaries of our own people instead of your salary. " I keep explaining this objective to people, but it always comes as unsettling news. And after I think I've gotten my point across, someone again says, "You know, the board is wondering how much longer we are going to have to support this thing." It reminds me of the middle-of-the-roaders in the typical classroom who keep asking, "Am I done yet?"


Until staff development is understood as a process, I suppose it will just be regarded as a transitory expense. As long as it is regarded as an expense, frugal board members will constantly be attempting to terminate the process. As long as the public and their representatives on the school boards regard teaching as a "job slot" rather than as a profession, professional development will always be an uphill battle.



Educators often imagine that things are different in the world of business where there is a bottom line and where people are forced to do things efficiently and effectively in order to survive. Such fantasies ignore the highly publicized realities of the bottom line-that productivity in American industry is sagging right along with profits, a decline which is followed closely by loss of morale. It is of no small interest to me, therefore, to observe the process by which American industry attempts to change, grow, and incorporate innovation in this time of stress. One innovation which is generating the most enthusiasm throughout all sectors of industry and which is entirely process-oriented is the "quality control circle" (QC circle) - the so-called secret ingredient of Japanese productivity and product quality.


Quality control circles are working groups of two to ten people within an organization with a common job who share a vested interest in solving problems in production, quality control, and morale. Most QC circles on the shop floor meet 1 or 2 hours per week and are led by a foreman, but the process has now spread through all levels of management. The QC circle membership considers various problems needing attention which are proposed by group members, and the group then selects a limited number of problems to be the object of systematic study by the group over a 3- to 6-month period. Problem solution then leads to suggestions for change in any relevant aspect of production. The average QC circle in Japan produces fifty to sixty implemented suggestions per worker per year.


QC circles have particular relevance to me because (1) they closely resemble the continuation groups developed by CMTP as a vehicle for ongoing growth and quality control, and (2) like continuation groups quality control circles require extensive training on the part of members for the group to function effectively in solving problems. In particular, QC circles represent the process side of business-the investment in increasing the relatively intangible value of the human resources of the corporation. The implementation of QC circles, therefore, serves as a clear test of the methodological sophistication of American industrial management in staff development.


I spoke recently with a former student and colleague of mine who works for a Chicago-based industrial consulting firm, and I asked him what his clients were currently doing with quality control circles. He replied, "Oh. I think that has already peaked and is on the way down. People wanted results, and executives are already beginning to complain that they have not realized the benefits that they had projected for the program. They seem to think that any group of workers called together by management is a quality control circle."


My friend's observation of QC circles as an American industrial fad viewed by management as the latest wonder cure is reinforced by a recent statement by W. Edwards Deming, the widely recognized "father of the quality control circle." Dr. Deming stated, "Quality circles only work if management does its job. There are thousands of them in the United States, many because management can't do its job and hopes someone else can!"


The investment in staff development that management must make to produce successful quality control circles is outlined by Dr. William Ouchi in his best-selling book Theory Z. Dr. Ouchi stressed that the average Japanese employee receives approximately 500 days of training during his or her first 10 years of employment - a monumental investment in staff development. This training focuses on all aspects of job performance as well as statistical techniques for analyzing data collected by the group and interpersonal skills and values which make one a productive member of a problem solving team. The real difference between American and Japanese management, according to Dr. Ouchi, is the determination of the Japanese to invest in teaching these techniques to production-line employees and then to delegate to them the power and authority to influence the way things are done. The real focus of managerial leadership in Japan is the development of the human side of the organization.


In particular, stressed Dr. Ouchi, QC circles cannot be implemented by fiat. Rather, management must create positive conditions and then have the patience to allow effort and morale to grow naturally. QC circles work only if middle and upper management understand the conditions for success and actively support them over time.


It would seem that American management, whether in the public or private sector, is afflicted by an orientation toward the human side of the organization which is shortsighted and simplistic. Our culture for some reason transmits a set of values, expectations, and skills that favor quick cures based on policy rather than people. We have an intolerance for the kind of change which must be bought at the price of slow, process-oriented, long-term professional development. We tend to believe in the spread of change mandated from the top down by management and implemented from the bottom up by people who have been disenfranchised from policy development; change supported somehow magically by morale that has never been fostered and effected by expertise that has never been built. Whether in the private sector, the public sector, or in politics, it is fad upon fad, quick cure upon quick cure, and disillusionment upon disillusionment. Trapped in our "mandate mentality," we chronically fall victim to our own naivete and impatience.



Having presented classroom management as a coherent and humane system which bridges both discipline (Positive Classroom Discipline) and instruction (Positive Classroom Instruction), I am left with one haunting fear. I worry that the whole effort may die from "exposure." "Positive classroom discipline" and "positive classroom instruction" have grown and matured in the field as a by-product not only of systematic research and observation but also of experience with the Classroom Management Training Program. This is a program of staff development in which skills are imparted to teachers carefully using the teaching methods described in Positive Classroom Instruction. Having trained teachers to use these techniques in all kinds of regular and special educational settings, I know how powerful they are in the hands of well-trained teachers. And, since the Classroom Management Training Program is a trainer-of-trainers program, I have seen many teachers other than myself consistently produce mastery and self-confidence in their colleagues. Success, therefore, must be regarded as a by-product of method rather than personality. But I have also seen untrained teachers try to use these methods, and I know how botched and pathetic these techniques can be in the hands of an untrained teacher.


When learned poorly, any technique can fail - even in the hands of an otherwise competent individual. When a technique fails for a teacher in front of a classroom full of students, it is quickly relegated to the trash can with the lame but customary assessment that the method "just doesn't work for me." Indeed, skills have a nasty habit of not working for anybody who has not mastered them.


Unless skills are taught well in the first place with careful coaching and practice, followed by retraining, sharing, problem-solving, and support from a healthy support network, the only outcome of any teacher training program will be transitory success at best and failure at worst. Failure then produces disillusionment and cynicism toward the skills, the methods of dissemination, and staff development in general. Innovation of all kinds is killed by improper dissemination, and teachers are left the poorer for their cynicism than they would have been without training.


Within education, teacher training has traditionally exemplified the worst possible teaching methods. At college, students typically receive methods courses via lecture with little modeling and no structured or guided practice. Once on the job, teachers are typically introduced to innovations through either one-shot in-service workshops or quickie seminars. Such exposure is a setup for failure and disillusionment because skill mastery does not come from exposure.


In teacher training and staff development, therefore, method or process is to an extent more important than content. A dated or less than optimal method well taught and well implemented will produce more good than the state of the art poorly taught. At the most concrete level, teachers learn more about teaching from the methods used to teach them than from the content of the presentation. There is no reason to expect better methods from teachers in the field than those which were used to train them. Success, therefore, is ultimately governed by the sophistication of the delivery system. The sophistication of the delivery system must match the sophistication of the methods being disseminated or all is for nothing.


Yet experience has taught me to be optimistic. The technology exists for dramatic improvement in classroom instruction and student achievement. And the technology exists for training teachers and for bringing even a cynical faculty into a process of growth and renewal. Sophistication within the education community concerning the need for, and the methods of, successful teacher training is growing rapidly. I have seen the future, and it looks much better than the past. In my work I see most of the "insolvable" problems of education routinely overcome by well-trained teachers and administrators working together.



  • Mirga, T., and White, E. Poll finds rising concern about school finance. Education Week, September 1, 1982, 12-13.

  • Rutter, M.. Maughan, B., Mortimore, P., Ouston, J., and Smith, A. Fifteen thousand hours, secondary schools and their effects on children. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979.\

  • Deming, Edward D. In Car and Driver, October 1981, 29.

  • Ouchi, William G. Theory Z. New York: Addison-Wesley, 1981.




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