5 Keys to Effective Staff Development

If we fail to plan, the ole’ sayin’ goes, we are planning to fail.  That may not be a polished way of saying it, but it is an undeniable truth.  Planning does not insure success, but failing to plan makes failure a near certainty.

This photo (click photo for link), “Traditional Professional Development” is copyright (c) 2012 Jen Hegna and made available under a Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode).

© 2012 Jen Hegna.  Creative Commons.  Click here for full citation (#13).

So, you thought that February was for lovers, focused on Valentines’ Day.  That’s fine, but February should also be for planners.  Administrators find that planning is a continuous activity.  So let’s think about one aspect of planning that should be on your radar right now.

That’s right–Staff Development.

Some years ago in preparation for an AACS Congress on Christian School Education, I embarked upon a research project.  You know – the survey went out to 350 schools.  Surprisingly I received 135 responses to the seventeen-item questionnaire.

But don’t turn me off just yet.  I will not bore you with a list of detailed statistics.  I will, however, share with you five things that the research made obvious.

*  Size of school had no correlation to the quality of staff development.  The survey was sent to an equal number of schools in five size brackets; there was no detectable difference in the quality of staff development programs based on the size of the school.  From schools as small as 1 to 75 students all the way to schools above a 1000 students, the data was clear.  Any size school could have an effective staff development program.

*  Topics basic to quality staff development are ignored in many Christian schools.  Knowing that the average turnover rate in Christian schools is near 25% annually, I presented a list of eleven important topics to any Christian school (e.g. Bloodborne pathogens, questioning skills, biblical integration, biblical worldview, test construction, teaching higher-level thinking skills, etc.).

Remarkably, even though bloodborne pathogens is required annually by federal law, nearly as many schools (43) had not provided this training at all in the past four years as the number that had provided it annually (54).  About 2/3 of the schools had not met the requirement for annual training.

Of the topics mentioned earlier, more than 35% of the schools had not covered any one of these topics in the previous four years.  Some topics had not been addressed in the previous four years in more 2/3 of the schools.

*  Staff development in Christian schools is failing due to lack of planning.  Very little time was planned for staff development; 70% of the schools responding indicated that 3 days or less annually were devoted to staff development.  More than 80% of the schools budget little if any money for staff development.  There was not an indication that plans were made and that limited resources caused failure; these programs failed due to lack of planning.

*  Principals must learn to involve staff in professional development program.  Over 95% of the respondents indicated that the staff had little, if any, input in choosing the topics for staff development.  Further questioning indicated that principals had overlooked their most valuable resource for staff development–the staff members themselves.  The data showed that very little staff development was staff led.

*  Principals must learn to develop and utilize more effective assessment strategies.  Once staff development programs have been developed and provided, it is important to assess the effectiveness of the program.  Specifically, the principal should seek to determine how much of the staff development ideas are reaching the children at their level.  Clear, concise evaluations will help with future planning.

Research all says the same thing – the principal is the key to staff development.  “Why,” you ask?  It is really simple – because, the strength of staff development is the planning and the planning is primarily focused on planning.

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!

What are some areas that you include in staff development that might help us round out a list of our own?  

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Edward is the founder and managing editor of Focus on Christian Education. He also serves as the Executive Director of the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools.