Training & Responsive Technical Support

STRATEGY: Develop a sustainable and equitable model for training and responsive technical support to maximize impact in all classrooms.

For a school or district, designing a model for training and responsive technical support has several advantages. Designing a school’s own training can help center learning around unique goals, offer opportunities to share on-site expertise, provide opportunities for staff members to garner experience in training design, and offer staff varied opportunities to learn in the context of the work. Designing and offering responsive technical support to staff is a good way to keep staff learning and interested. Not only will teachers be better trained and more effective, but they will also be more likely to stay in the school and district.

Details

Ideally, schools and districts might wish to train every staff person on every high-leverage issue. The problem with that approach is the overwhelming amount of time and resources needed to undertake and complete the amount of training. Based on these constraints, training should be designed to meet staff members where they are in terms of their practice and offer differentiated and individualized support to maximize the impact in the classroom. Training should focus on the core behaviors of teaching—how students learn, and the best ways to teach concepts—and it is important to design learning experiences that are structured and iterative, to deepen the connection between how teachers teach and how students learn. Systems of support that allow educators to plan, practice, receive feedback, and improve their practice are essential to developing a sustainable and equitable model for training. Lastly, both formative and summative evaluations should be used to guide development and assess outcomes.

First Steps to Consider

  • Determine what is already being done.
  • Review current training and support next to classroom-level data. Does the data show that the current suite of training and support impacts student learning outcomes?
  • Once current trainings and support have been reviewed next to student learning outcomes, school-level teams can begin to make decisions on what training to keep, what training to excise, and what training to develop.
  • Sustain this process and ensure that it does not end. For example, when current school leaders leave—a school-level team must keep track of decisions, memorialize the process, and train others in it.

Complexities & Pitfalls

Not all problems can be solved by training, since a variety of conditions may impact the quality of instruction. Conditions such as funding, time, staffing, and the level of staff expertise can affect the development of a sustainable and equitable training model. Professional learning, however, can be an important vehicle for improving instruction. Activities that support the ongoing learning of practicing teachers in general highlight the value of experiences that focus on building pedagogical content knowledge, that take place in or close to sites of practice, and that offer repeated learning opportunities over time. Developing a sustainable model of training that supports these activities requires doing things differently.

Common pitfalls

  • Underestimating the time needed for teachers to plan, practice, receive feedback, and improve what they do in the classroom.
  • Leaning toward off-site training opportunities when there are opportunities to learn in the context of work.
  • Interpreting training as a static activity versus a dynamic one (one that requires ongoing refinement).
  • Emphasizing summative evaluations over formative measures. Both formative and summative evaluations should be used to guide development and assess outcomes.

Guiding Questions

  • How will the training model be sustained?
  • What resources are needed to develop and implement this model?
  • What problems or opportunities need to be addressed through training?
  • What problems cannot be solved through training?
  • What subject-matter experience and other previous learning opportunities do staff bring to the table?
  • Are there any major misconceptions about the training topic?