Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Helping Teachers Learn: Principal Leadership for Adult Growth and Development

Helping teachers learn: principal leadership for adult growth and development. (2004) Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

Drago-Severson, the author of this book, highlights twenty-five principals as they navigate the ups and downs of supporting adult learners, along with the creative strategies they practice, and the practices they employ to promote adult development. Her study answers the question: What would school leadership practices look like if they were designed to support adult development? The schools in her study come from a wide variety of contexts with different levels of financial and human resources, different grades and different types of students. She also looks at the actual practices the school leaders use to support teacher learning and what makes them effective. To accomplish her research, she conducted 75 hours of interviews and analyzed approximately 60 documents. Drago-Severson was looking mostly for school leaders that create environments that can be labeled as "transformational learning" environments. She distinguishes between "transformational learning-- learning that helps adults to develop capacities to better manage the complexities of work and life-- and informational learning-- increases in knowledge and skills that are also important and can support changes in adults' attitudes and possible their competencies." She believes that transformational learning creates learning environments for the adults that results in greater teacher retention, improved teaching and even greater student achievement.

One chapter I found helpful in my research about School Leadership and Professional Development was the chapter on "Principals as Climate Shapers." The author provides strategies for school leaders to build a positive school climate, for promoting the school mission, for rewarding teachers in new ways and for honoring teachers' strengths and contributions. Reading the stories of success from a variety of schools in creating positive learning communities for the teachers is inspiring. The book also delineates other categories of strong leadership from the principals in the study including: encouraging teamwork, providing leadership rules, collegial inquiry, and mentoring. Each of these chapters provides insight, ideas and strategies that could be useful for a school leader in developing an adult learning community at their school.


"Researchers maintain that effective professional development for teachers must be (a) embedded in and derived from practice, (b) continuous and ongoing rather than one-shot experiences, (c) on-site and school based, (d) focused on promoting student achievement, (e) integrated with school reform processes, (f) centered around teacher collaboration, and (g) sensitive to teachers' learning needs. p. xxii

"I think the person who benefits the most [from supporting teacher learning] is the student. If teachers are happy and enthusiastic about what they do and are willing to try new things and are open to criticism, honest criticism, so they can grow, that's what they will model for the children, and that's what learning should be about.-- Sr. Joan Magnetti" p. 37

"More than half of the principals serving in different school contexts reported that leadership roles provide transformational opportunities to teachers and themselves. In their view, people develop from the experience of being responsible for an idea's creation, development or implementation. Most of the principals believe that leadership roles also foster relationship building, help adults to acclimate to change, and ultimately enhance school climate." p. 89

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