Nolan & Hoover Supervision and Evaluation: Collegial Development Groups

Nolan, J., & Hoover, L. A. (2005). Teacher supervision and evaluation: Theory into practice. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Chapter 7: Collegial Development Groups

•    Learning is a social endeavor, and teachers are no exception to that rule. They enjoy discussion and the verbal exchange of thoughts and ideas.

Introduction to Collegial Development Groups (CDG)
•    Professional development has been unable to make a significant impact on school change. Effective professional development capitalizes on teacher knowledge and strengths rather than focuses on their shortcomings. Effective professional development is long-term and sustainable. Typical professional development has focused on weaknesses and intervention strategies.
•    CDGs defined: "...a small (usually 12 or fewer participants), voluntary group of teachers who meet together regularly (at least once a month) over the long term to support one another's personal and professional development through critical analysis of theories and ideas, new and existing practices, and student and teacher work (p. 172)."
•    CDGs are:
    o    Collaborative
    o    Usually rotate roles including that of facilitator
    o    Control their own agenda
    o    If administrators are involved, they act as equal participants.
    o    Informed by resources including video, readings, and experts
    o    Usually formed spontaneously
•    "Teachers are, for the most part, intelligent professionals who are thoughtful about their practice and who have accumulated a great deal of practical wisdom (p. 172)."
•    "...teachers are not the problem, they are part of the solution (p. 172)."

Types of Collegial Development Groups
•    Two types - study groups and critical friends groups (CFG)
•    Study groups defined: "...are designed by participants to explore and study ideas, innovations, theories, and practices that currently are not widely used in the district (p. 172)."
•    CFGs defined: are also composed of a small number of voluntary participants. They control their own agenda and topics of discussion. The distinction lies in the topics. CFGs focus is teacher practice through the examination of student work. Teachers also can examine their thinking and practice.

Benefits of Collegial Development Groups:
•    CDGs not only benefit individuals, but they have the potential to impact the culture of the school.
•    "Articulating one's beliefs for others encourages a reexamination and rethinking of those beliefs, a process that serves as a powerful impetus for teacher growth (p. 173)."
•    "Learning to be better at perspective taking is a powerful step toward developing the capacity for more positive interpersonal relationships with children and adults alike (p. 174)."
•    Other benefits include innovative curricula, teaching strategies, and assessments. Teachers also can be rejuvenated professionally.
•    " 'We know from research on staff development that cooperative, job-embedded learning has the greatest potential for improving teacher performance and, eventually, student learning' (Spillane & Seashore Louis, 2002, p. 93) (p. 174)."
•    CDGs create new or more efficient curricular innovations, teaching strategies, and/or modes of assessment. They also revitalize an individual's sense of professionalism. They have the potential to impact student learning and culture.
•    Benefits include :
    o    Greater sense of community
    o    Collaboration
    o    Support for one another
    o    Creativity
    o    Motivation
    o    Risk-taking
    o    Confidence
    o    Increased self efficacy
•    When engaging in CDGs, expect conflict. An increase in collaboration and conversation inevitably creates conflict as opposing views surface.
•    Fullan 2001 talks about the "implementation dip," which refers to the phenomenon of a decrease in effectiveness and efficiency when a new innovation is initially implemented. Over time, the teacher's skill improves and usually exceeds the previous spot of implementation.
•    "Collegial development groups offer the school a vehicle for helping teachers work through implementation problems together (p. 176)."

Study Groups
•    In the first two meetings, study groups should hammer out the logistical details such as when to meet, where to meet, who will facilitate, when and how the meetings should be formatted, and consensus on expectations in order for the groups to function effectively.
•    Great question to revisit in the SYP project - "How are we doing in living up to the expectations that we developed initially (p. 178)?"
•    Providing a structure helps meetings to flow more smoothly.
•    Roles allow all participants to take a more vested interest and ownership in the group. Rotation of roles opens the door for creativity and diversity.
•    The participants determine the group's structure. Structures may vary from group to group.

Critical Friends Groups
•    Protocols defined: "...are guidelines and prescribed steps that everyone understands and agrees to follow (p. 184)."
•    Protocols are mechanisms for ensuring equal talk time and fostering a safe space for the exchange of ideas. They require participants to be thoughtful listeners without the worry of needing to respond rapidly. The goal is thinking and reflecting.
•    Examining Student Work
    o    CFG protocols are designed for examining two types of settings: student work and teacher thinking and practice. Facilitators play a critical role in helping the group adhere to time limits and fidelity in protocols, protecting members from hurtful comments, and encouraging probing questions over blanket praise.
•    Examining Teacher Practice and Thinking
    o    The goal is " broaden the way that the presenter is thinking, to bring into play additional perspectives that might be helpful, and to more clearly define the issues and questions that need to be addressed (p. 187)."
    o    The facilitator's role is the same as in study groups. The goal is not one of judgment about a person's perspective but rather to broaden the perspective by offering alternative thoughts and ideas.

Facilitating Collegial Development Groups as a Teacher Supervision Process
•    Logistics deal with the when, where, who, and how. An administrator must be cautious with and cognizant of his/her role in CDGs. S/he must be an equal participant.
•    Annual reports are an important data source to analyze impact and effectiveness.