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A Timely Epiphany

Posted by: | October 28, 2010 | 3 Comments |

If I was ever a proponent of reading books a second or third time I am now.  I think there are times when you read a book or an article and nothing sticks. I will confess I sometimes have such a hard time relating to a book, I will abandon it after the first chapter or two.  I never reflected about this idea until today when I started reading From Staff Room to Classroom by Robin Fogarty and Brian Pete for the second time. I read this book about 2 or 3 years ago and at that time, I was still figuring out my job. I was new to a district that approached professional development unlike anything I had experienced. I read the book religiously. It just didn’t stick with me.

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It is amazing what a difference a few years makes on your perspective.

I am currently knee deep in a professional development initiative for principals and instructional coaches that is already invoking a wide range of emotion in just a few short months of implementation.  What is the focus, you might wonder?  We are walking our instructional leaders through professional development that immerses them into digital learning and culture. In planning for PD, I think it is an easy assumption to start an initiative thinking that if you deliver good PD, everyone will become believers and start making changes to what they do. In Chapter 1 of Fogarty and Pete’s book, they point to Thomas Guskey’s research that states there is a dichotomy of sorts with regards to how change takes place. One sequence he calls a “myth” and the other one he calls “reality.”

The process he argues is mythical:

  1. Introduce professional development.
  2. Teacher changes beliefs as a result of the professional development.
  3. Teacher changes practice.
  4. Teacher sees changes in achievement as a result of changing practice.

The process he argues is reality:

  1. Introduce professional development.
  2. Teacher changes practice.
  3. Teacher sees changes in student achievement.
  4. Teacher changes beliefs.

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Even though I live in “The Show Me State,” I don’t think this kind of behavior is just isolated to this region. Neither do Fogarty and Pete. They state,

“…it is important to understand at this point that change occurs first through changing practices, then eventually through changing beliefs. In other words, practices come first and beliefs follow.” (p. 4)

I can’t tell you how many times throughout the few months we’ve been implementing this professional development where I’ve sat and wondered if we were pushing too hard to ask folks to change practices before some of them were believers. It’s funny how timing means everything. As I read this chapter again, I did so with a fresh set of eyes and a fresh set of baggage.  I get what Guskey was saying. Our leaders are going to have to change their practices and see some achievements before they become believers. Consider me slapped in the face a few times. I’m back on the wagon…and this is only Chapter 1.

Images:

Tome Reader by Ozyman on Flickr

Parole Perdute by Valentina_A on Flickr

under: Education, Leadership
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3 Comments

  1. By: Larry Fliegelman on October 29, 2010 at 11:00 am      

    Doc,

    I heard this a couple of years ago (maybe from Michael Fullan). Then, I saw it in practice during the training and implementation of standards based report cards.

    The best was when some of the previously reluctant teachers told me during year three that they needed to work together to create better benchmark assessments in order to improve the report card. They had been trained, changed their practice (not always willingly), saw the benefits, and now believed.

    Thank you for reminding me of the reality of change in education.

  2. By: drdial on November 1, 2010 at 2:54 pm      

    Fogarty and Pete actually refer to Fullan’s work in this same chapter. You are right on target. It is easy to forget when folks take time to change that it is going to take a little nudging forward and results to happen before beliefs will change.

    I hope you take time to visit my future posts. Thanks for commenting!

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