For our DEL classes module five 6106 topic, we are learning about the role of administration in “designing, developing and implementing technology rich professional learning programs.” This focuses on ISTE Standard 4 Performance Indicator B:
“Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.”
As I began to think of my own inquiry question for this module I read over Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State (WA-TPL) in which themes and key findings associated with transformational professional learning are highlighted and explained. One finding according to the WA-TPL evaluation report was that Learning Forward’s standards helped in organizing professional development at school and district levels. The key finding states:
“Learning Forward’s Standards for Professional Learning became an effective organizing tool for school and district teams to use in planning, implementing and assessing effective professional learning experiences.”
This finding took me to the Learning Forward website, where I began exploring the standards. Since our learning for this module focuses about administration’s role in professional development I read the Leadership Standard which states that:
“Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students requires skillful leaders who develop capacity, advocate, and create support systems for professional learning.”
This helped me develop my question for the module: how can school leaders develop capacity for professional learning? To answer my questions I wanted to look through the lense of learning designs, which I took from another key finding in the WA-TPL report. Ultimately, I want to learn what theory, research, and models of human learning have shown to help leaders build capacity for professional development.
Adult Development and DNA:
To answer my question I found a new model for school change that focuses on building capacity for adult development with the understanding that adult development has been strongly linked to improved students achievement and outcomes (Donaldson, 2008; Leithwood & Louis, 2012). The authors call the model The DNA of Development. The model intertwines five elements (theory, culture, pillar practices, feedback, and sustainability) that together build capacity for adult development. The elements are each based on the foundation of recognizing the developmental diversity of adults. Through the duration of this blog post I summarize each of the five elements and highlight their ability to build capacity for growth in adults.
Constructive-development theory helps us understand how to support adults learning by recognizing that adults have different ways of making meaning.
Constructive-development theory emphasizes that adults each construct their understanding in different ways. It highlights five “meaning-making” systems or “ways of knowing”. The ways of knowing typically change as humans grow, and by adulthood typically people fall into four ways of knowing: instrumental knowers, socializing knowers, self-authoring knowers, and self transforming knowers.
Instrumental knowers are concrete thinkers and rule oriented. They work well when norms and guidelines are clear, and tend to do what they see as the right thing.
Socializing knowers better understand others perspectives and feelings. They often think about how others view them and look for the approval of others they trust, authority figures, or society.
Self-authoring knowers are self reflective. They generate a well developed sense of themselves and their values that take into account their judgements and relationship with the world.
Self-transforming knowers are interconnected. They have their own “internally generated beliefs” but also continually work to understand and grow from collaboration, feedback and connection with others.
The ways of knowing are not in competition with each other and there is not an easy way to determine others’ way of knowing stage. Instead acknowledging that every group of adults will have different ways of knowing provide us with information and understanding that school leaders can use to differentiate support for their teachers growth. Additionally, I found it interesting that research suggests that leaders today need at least some degree of self-authorship to succeed in their work (Kegan & Lahey, 2016). This leads us to understand that (and how) school leaders can support their own growth as well.
The table above outlines three stages of knowing and ways that each stage can be supported for growth.
Three important values of a positive school culture.
Again applying constructive-development theory school leaders can better understand conditions that are conducive to positive school culture. The author cites that according to this theory three preconditions of positive school culture are: safety, trust, and respect (Drago-Severson, Blum-DeStefano, & Ashgar, 2013). Using the lense of stages of knowing a school leader can anticipate that their staff will have diverse needs and understandings of what safety, trust, and respect mean to them. This developmental lens reinforces that school culture encompases many factors and that there is not one size fits all. Instead just as schools embrace and work to meet the unique cultural needs of the students and families in their classrooms, school leaders can do the same to cultivate a safe, trusting, and respectful culture.
Research indicates that collaboration among colleagues who feel safe, trust and respect each other is a strong predictive of change (Drago-Severson, 2009, 2012). Building a school’s capacity to collaborate has the powerful ability to transform learning. Four ways to build collaboration and thus the capacity for growth is through what the authors call “pillar practices”. They are: teaming, mentoring, providing adults leadership roles, and collegial inquiry (Drago-Severson, 2009, 2012). Approaching collaboration with these pillar practices provides structure that allows adults to grow and learn from each other and their own self reflection.
Suggestions for successful implementation of pillar practices.
Feedback is the fourth element in the DNA of Development model for building capacity. They define feedback as “all around us- in our words, silences, actions, reactions, and inactions.” Again feedback is supported through the lense of constructive-developmental approach, which recognizes the diversity of a staff and their individualized ways of knowing. The authors call this developmental approach “feedback for growth” and states that it “emphasizes the importance of understanding and honoring all participants’ ways of knowing during feedback conversations so that the feedback can be heard and acted on”. It really goes back up to the image of the four players on the soccer field and reinforces the idea that meeting people where they are helps them be able to hear feedback in a way that they can reflect and act on it to grow.
This “feedback for growth” approach is further explained by Eleanor Drago-Severson on an EdCast.
The last element of the model is sustainability. The authors cite research which indicate high attrition rates for teachers and principals due to struggles with balancing their jobs and well-being (see Ingersoll, Merrill, & Stuckey, 2014; School Leaders Network, 2014). The authors express that to create a sustainable environment leaders must emphasize the importance of renewal, look beyond teachers’ performance to their well-being, and model a commitment to self care. While this may seem common sense it takes leadership that takes the time to understand what their staff are taking on and embrace a healthy environment allowing for growth while also modeling these values themselves.
This video illustrates the impact that educational leadership, specifically principals have on staff and students. Creating sustainability for ALL starts at a national, state, and community level. Nevertheless, it can also start and be strongly impacted by district leaders, principal leadership and teachers. Everyone has a responsibility for their well-being, however that said, great leadership recognizes that in order to build capacity for growth they need to embrace renewal and sustainability practices.
The DNA of Development
The research cited within the DNA of Development model supports how each of the five elements builds leaders AND all other adults capacity to foster growth. What I appreciate about this model is its focus on adult learning. Its foundation is based on constructive-developmental theory which recognizes and embraces the diversity of adults learning and development. What I have found to be challenging in my own experience as an educator is the idea that professional development was for students. I find that this model support ALL: leaders, teachers, and students by supporting adults in schools to grow and bring their best selves to their jobs. This ultimately builds strong school communities that improve student achievement and outcomes (Donaldson, 2008; Leithwood & Louis, 2012).
AWSP. (n.d.). The Power of the Principal. Retrieved March 1, 2020, from https://vimeo.com/296906554
Drago-Severson, E., Blum-DeStefano, J. & Asghar, A. (2013). A close-up on constructive-developmental theory: using theory to guide adult learning in schools, districts, and university preparation programs. In Learning for leadership: Developmental strategies for building capacity in our schools (pp. 51-74). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press doi: 10.4135/9781452278490.n3
Drago-Severson, E. (2016, June 1). How To Give Good Feedback [Harvard Edcast]. Retrieved from https://soundcloud.com/harvardedcast/how-to-give-good-feedback
Drago-Severson, E. & Blum- DeStefano, J. (2016). Tell me so I can hear you: A developmental approach to feedback for educators. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Drago-Severson, E. & Blum- DeStefano, J. (2018). Leading change together: Developing educator capacity within schools and systems. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Drago-Severson, E., Blum- DeStefano, J., & Asghar, A. (2013). Learning for leadership: Developmental strategies for building capacity in our schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Drago-Severson, E., & Blum-Destefano, J. (2018). The DNA of Development. Learning Professional, 39(3), 22–27.
Ingersoll, R., Merrill, L., & Stuckey, D. (2014). Seven trends: e transformation of the teaching force. CPRE Report #RR-80. Philadelphia, PA: Consortium for Policy Research in Education, University of Pennsylvania.
Kegan, R. (2000). What “form” transforms? A constructive- developmental approach to transformative learning. In J. Mezirow & Associates (Eds.), Learning as transformation (pp. 35-70). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Kegan, R. & Lahey, L.L. (2016). An everyone culture: Becoming a deliberately developmental organization. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.
Leithwood, K. & Louis, K.S. (2012). Linking leadership to student learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Meier, D. (2002). The power of their ideas: Lessons for America from a small school in Harlem. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
School Leaders Network. (2014). Churn: The high cost of principal turnover. Hinsdale, MA: Author.
Walsh, B. (2016, June 14). Feedback That Works. Usable Knowledge- Harvard Graduate School of Education. Retrieved March 1, 2020, from https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/16/06/feedback-works