Professional development and capacity: three different perspectives

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Greer, Margarita Y.

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The purpose of this study was to examine how central office and campus leadership build capacity to enhance teaching and learning within a school system through staff development. Three research questions guided this study: How does central office instructional staff provide professional development to build district capacity? How do principals build capacity through professional development in their respective schools? How does a select group of teachers perceive professional development in building capacity for classroom instruction? This study used both qualitative and quantitative data (Patton, 2002). This was a single case study (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000) of a high-performing, high-poverty, and predominantly Hispanic population district. The study focused on a feeder pattern of campuses: an elementary school, middle school, and high school. Data were collected through a series of face-to-face interviews, focus group sessions, staff development observation, and a review of pertinent documents. Data were analyzed using open coding and axial coding to describe responses from the participants. Key categories emerged from the analysis. These study findings suggest that through the district leadership’s focus on students, teachers, and principals, the district has a professional development and capacity-building process in place. Central office instructional staff provides professional development to build district capacity around a student-centered philosophy through the following strategies: commitment, professional development process, alignment of curriculum and instruction, resource allocation, and external partnerships. The principals build capacity through professional development utilizing the following strategies: additional planning time, instructional support, teaming, data analysis, teacher-selected professional development, follow-up support of professional development, and a strong communication process. In general, teachers’ perceptions were positive. They acknowledged that the professional development at the campus level is highly student centered and aligned with curriculum and instruction and with instructional programs. Further, allocation of resources is campus needs based. The study also presents implications for practice and future research.