Teacher Training and Effectiveness: Some thoughts and my role as instructional leader

What constitutes quality or effective teaching (Hoffman & Sims, 2015) and how can we advance student achievement, are today parts of an ongoing national, public and political debate about the current state of education in the United States. To promote student achievement, and improve the overall state of education, we must first support, encourage, help (previously read “target” but word was changed due to the excellent feedback of Dr. Michael Cubbin) teachers, by ensuring effective continuing education that meets teachers where they are on the continuum of effectiveness, and pushes them individually and collectively towards greater competency. Rice (2003, as cited in DeMitchell, DeMitchell, & Gagon, 2012) contend, “Teacher quality matters. In fact, it is the most important school-related factor influencing student achievement (p. 260).”

This topic of continuing teacher coaching and training has multidimensional appeal to me. Many factors affect teacher competency. As Hoffman and Sims (2015) point out, quality teaching depends on understanding the learner and the processes of learning, knowing content, having strong instructional practices, and being ethical and professional. Additionally, teachers’ stress levels are persistently high under changing and increasingly demanding accountability measures. The tenure track is longer; now four years in New York City. School leaders, too, have divergent views of leadership (Döös & Wilhemson, 2015) and are generally affected by negative factors, such as “structural inhibitors, lack of time/heavy workloads, overwhelmingly fast pace of change, and negative attitude (p. 78),” which inhibit the cultivation of learning-committed leadership in the workplace.

Personally and professionally, I know first hand the struggles related to little or ineffective pre-service teacher training, and the lack of continuing education and coaching. As a NYC Teaching Fellow (no fault of the program itself), I was under-equipped and established as “teacher” (as a per diem — My placement school needed a teacher and frankly, I needed the income) two weeks into my formal training. I was also not assigned a DOE mentor/coach until the beginning of year three. Learning though through integrated work is “the process that generates competence (Döös & Wilhelmson, 2015).” As a school leader today, my ethical responsibility is to provide instructional coaching towards competency, in service to teachers and students. In four years of school leadership, have I fulfilled this instructional leadership obligation to staff and students? No. Not nearly well enough. Have I made progress? Yes… Not enough.

Teacher ineffectiveness, though is a critical national issue. It causes serious injury to children from the lack of education and is, in fact, educational malpractice (DeMitchell, DeMitchell, & Gagon, 2012). Nationwide, the problem is compounded by budget cuts, high teacher attrition rates, causing a younger pedagogical mean age of teaching staff, unionization that protects and keeps ineffective teachers in classrooms, and ineffective, untrained, or overworked school leaders, who need to develop greater pedagogical and coaching leadership skills, presence and influence (Brown & Crumpler, 2012; Trach, 2014).

We are far from finding a viable solution to the longstanding, multifaceted and complicated problem of lack in teacher training and effectiveness. Consensus though lies in widely held public and political views that improvement of teaching is the most critical factor in improving the quality of student learning and outcomes and that infrequent classroom visits and supports do not yield change and improvement in the quality of teaching (Brown & Crumpler, 2012; DeMitchell, DeMitchell, & Gagon, 2012). Marzano (2013) and Neilsen (2014) further state that in the complex classroom environment, teachers have to make numerous simultaneous decisions and that the Danielson’s 2013 and Marzano frameworks are targeted towards developing teachers’ proficiency in the classroom. Across the board though, there is insufficient calibration work around rating teacher proficiency. There is also great deficiency in instructional coaching, sporadic feedback for teachers and too little emphasis on these as “everyday leadership practice[s]” (Trach, 2014, p.14).

Postscript
Originally written as part of my current course of educational study (and edited for this post), I was impressed to revisit and reflect upon these thoughts today…as the school year draws to a close and as I look forward to having a greater instructional leadership impact on my school’s staff and students next year.

After all, can I call myself an instructional leader if I do not lead instructionally?

Also, this post was meant to focus on one small idea, not the cumulative issue. We cannot ignore the expectations we place on students. We should never underestimate them, their abilities and their potential and we should hold them accountable for learning. That, however, will be a future post.

Your turn: What are your thoughts on the issue of teacher training and effectiveness? What is your role as instructional leader? How do you balance the demands of management with those of instructional leadership? Is the increasing of teacher effectiveness a priority for you? Why or why not?

References

Brown, I. I., & Crumpler, T. (2012). Assessment of foreign language teachers: a model for shifting evaluation toward growth and learning. High School Journal, (2), 138. Retrieved from EBSCOHost Database.

DeMitchell, T. A., DeMitchell, T. A., & Gagnon, D. (2012). Teacher effectiveness and value-added modeling: Building a pathway to educational malpractice?. Brigham Young University Education & Law Journal, (2), 257–301. Retrieved from EBSCOHost Database.

Döös, M., & Wilhelmson, L. l. (2015). Categories of learning-oriented leadership: a potential contribution to the school context. Nordic Journal Of Studies In Educational Policy, (3), 77–87. doi:10.3402/nstep.v1.30161

Hoffman, P., & Sims, P. (2015). Quality and accountability in Lutheran schools: Employing the Danielson Model for Improvement. Lutheran Education, 1. Retrieved from EBSCOHost Database.

Marzano, R. (2013). Marzano Teacher Evaluation. Learning Sciences International. Retrieved from http://www.marzanoevaluation.com

Nielsen, L. D. (2014). Teacher evaluation: Archiving teaching effectiveness. Music Educators Journal, 101(1), 63. doi:10.1177/0027432114536736

Trach, S. A. (2014). Inspired instructional coaching. Principal, 94(2), 12–16. Retrieved from EBSCOHost Database.

Originally shared on LinkedIn June 12, 2016
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/teacher-training-effectiveness-some-thoughts-my-role-leader?trk=mp-reader-card

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In pursuit of simplicity and meaning. Writing sometimes about my journey. Mom of young adults with Cystic Fibrosis @AbundantBreath https://www.linkedin.com/in

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In pursuit of simplicity and meaning. Writing sometimes about my journey. Mom of young adults with Cystic Fibrosis @AbundantBreath https://www.linkedin.com/in