Revised by: Cristine Smith
Based on Original Design by: Cristine Smith and Barbara Garner
System for Adult Basic Education Support (SABES)
Funded by the Massachusetts Department of Education
Start Here! Introduction
Section 1. Background (page 1)
Section 2. Using the Individual Tools in the P/SD Process (p. 11)
Section 3. Using the P/SD Process as a Whole (p. 61)
Section 4. Related Articles and Materials (p. 87)
The Program/Staff Development Process is a set of tools for planning and implementing program and staff development that can be used separately or in combination. It is not intended as a model or prescription for every program, precisely because we know that programs are so varied. Programs are encouraged to use individual tools, to adapt the tools, or to use the Process as a whole. This Guidebook is arranged to facilitate the use of tools separately or in combination by programs.
If you are an ABE program director or Program/Staff Development Facilitator, answering the following questions will give you an idea of where to start with this Guidebook:
1. What "process" for program and staff development do you already use in your ABE program?
A "process" for program and staff development consists of the following components, all of which are done by the program as a whole and by individual staff:
- assessing needs and strengths,
- prioritizing goals,
- making action plans (to meet goals),
- implementing plans (by engaging in program and staff development activities),
- documenting activities, and
- evaluating efforts.
Ask yourself the following questions: Does your program as a whole now assess its needs for program development? For example, do you have a retreat once a year to discuss what aspects of your program need improvement? Do individual staff members assess their needs for professional development? For example, do staff members have an opportunity during staff meetings to discuss with each other what is puzzling them about how to approach their work and what they need to know as a consequence? Do you prioritize goals for the program to work on? Do staff prioritize individual goals for what they will focus on during each year's staff development release time? Does your program, and do staff as individuals, make action plans for meeting goals? Do you ensure that program and staff development activities relate to goals? Do you now document program development activities? Do individual staff members keep track of their staff development activities? Do you engage in evaluation of these efforts?
In order to say that you have a "systematic, thorough, and comprehensive process for program and staff development" (which the Department of Education/Adult and Community Learning Services now requires each ABE program to have), you should be able to answer each of these questions with a "yes". If you answered "yes" to all questions, proceed to question #2 below.
If you answered "no" to only a few of these questions, you might find some of the Program/Staff Development Process tools useful. Refer to the table "Learning About the Tools" at the beginning of Section 2 to see which of the tools might be appropriate for your program.
If you answered "no" to all of the questions, think about using the SABES Program/Staff Development Process as a whole. This Process provides facilitation steps, checklists and forms for conducting all of the six components listed above. If you think you need to really start from the beginning, or yo don't feel you have the time to develop a whole process on your own, proceed to Section 3. If 6 staff in your program number ten or more, look at the "Components and Sequence of Activities: Large Program". If your staff number less than ten, look at "Components and Sequence of Activities Small Program". You can also contact the SABES Regional Coordinator in your area to ask about getting training or technical assistance in how to initiate the Process in your program. SABES has designed trainings for a Program/Staff Development Facilitator and/or Director in how to design and conduct a "thoughtful, systematic and comprehensive" process for program and staff development. For larger programs (10+ staff) SABES has designed four 3-hour training sessions in the SABES Process tools, how to decide which are appropriate for your program, and how to use and adapt tools for us in your program. For smaller programs, there is a 3-hour training or TA session about the SABES Process tools.
2. If your program and its individual staff already engage in a process with all of the above components (i.e., you answered "yes" to all of the questions), how satisfied are you with the way you conduct each component?
Perhaps you have an established and systematic process for planning and implementing program and staff development, but certain aspects of it are not working as well as you might like. Think about the problems you are facing: which component is weak? If you would like some ideas for different ways to conduct your process, go to Section 2 and look for specific tools (checklists, facilitation steps, forms) which might be appropriate or adaptable for your program.
If you find tools which look interesting but which are not quite right for your program, you can also contact the SABES Regional Coordinator in your area to ask for technical assistance from the Program/Staff Development Process Trainer. She may be able to help you adapt the tools so that they better fit your program's needs.
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Section One: Background
SABES Program and Staff Development Process Introduction
What does SABES mean by "program development" and "staff development"?
SABES uses working definitions of program and staff development. Program development is a systematic approach to assessing programmatic needs, defining and prioritizing goals for program improvement, developing a plan to meet those goals, and engaging in activities to meet these goals. The overall goal of program development is to improve program effectiveness in a way that enables programs to more effectively support learners in attaining literacy skills. Staff development focuses on the learning needs of individual practitioners; it is a systematic approach to assessing individual needs for professional development, defining and prioritizing goals, developing a plan to meet those learning goals, and engaging in learning activities to meet those goals. Program and staff development also include ongoing evaluation of the achievement of goals.
Why are program and staff development important?
SABES believes that every adult literacy program needs to continually evaluate and refine its efforts to provide good service so that adult learners can attain literacy skills. SABES also believes that every adult educator, no matter how experienced, needs opportunities for continued study and professional development. The Department of Education now enables programs to devote certain resources towards these ends by providing funds for program development and staff development release time.
How is program development different from staff development?
As mentioned above, staff development focuses on the needs of individual practitioners, while program development focuses on the systems that create a program. For example, a teacher may participate in many staff development activities, improve her skills, and provide a very good education to her students. However, the program in which she works may have many problems: an intake process that places students in inappropriate classes, financial systems that result in late paychecks, a building with inadequate heating, no coordinated curricula, etc. If the program doesn't attend to these weaknesses, despite the quality of instruction, the teachers and students will be frustrated.
This is an extreme example. A program that has sound systems and infrastructure might decide that it's time to review its curriculum. Is it really meeting the needs of the students? Since curriculum involves all teachers and counselors, has relevance to recruitment and intake, and is a program-wide issue, curriculum development or revision becomes a program development goal.
Which comes first, staff or program development?
This is a "chicken or the egg" question. Sometimes, what starts out as a staff development interest sheds light on wider program development needs. For example, in one program all ESL teachers expressed an interest in learning more about ESL literacy. More discussion led them to realize that the reading and writing skills of their incoming students were lower tha those for whom the curriculum was originally designed. Not only did the teachers need to learn more about teaching ESL literacy, the curriculum needed to be revised to be more appropriate for incoming students and to emphasize the development of literacy skills. What had started out as a staff development issue become a joint staff/program development effort.
On the other hand, a program that identifies an interest in improving the way it maintail and uses student information might discover that staff need computer training in order to reach this goal. In this instance, a program development goal leads to a staff development project.
What is a "developed" program?
A developed program is one that effectively supports its learners in attaining literacy skills. What characteristics do developed programs have? Starting from the DOE Indicators of Program Quality. We reviewed other research and literature on effective literacy programs and asked practitioners in Massachusetts to answer this question for us. Each time, we came up with generally the same set of characteristics. These characteristics are included in the "Indicators of Program Quality" checklist which SABES uses as part of the Integrated Program/Staff Development Process.
If a program possesses all the qualities; elements and systems on the checklist, it's more likely that its students are achieving their goals. A program that is "developed" in this way also realizes that reflection and revision are constant processes, and that most programs (and individuals) need to see themselves as constantly "developing" in response to changing community needs, new developments in instructional approaches, and new staff.
What is a "process" for program and staff development?
A "process" is a set of tools or mechanisms which programs and practitioners can use to systematically assess their needs, define and prioritize their goals for program improvement professional development, and develop action plans to meet these goals. Basically, a "process" is a way to make plans for program and staff development, to implement those plans, and to document and evaluate the work done to complete the plans.
A "process" for program and staff development usually includes the following six steps, all of which should happen at both the program and individual staff level:
- assessing needs and strengths,
- prioritizing goals,
- making action plans (to meet goals),
- implementing plans (by engaging in program and staff development activities),
- documenting activities,
- evaluating efforts.
Why should an adult basic education program have a "process" for program and staff development?
Since every program and every individual practitioner benefits from efforts to develop systems or skills, a "process" helps programs and practitioners to conduct these efforts systematically. Random or haphazard efforts at program or staff development often result in frustration among the staff and wasted resources. Staff may not get the staff development they need; without appropriate planning, they may end up attending staff development activities based on convenience rather than need. Without appropriate planning or documentation, programs may end up focusing their improvement efforts on low-priority needs or on the same problems over and over.
SABES also strongly believes that a good "process" allows staff members, students, community members, advisory group/board members, and directors to have input into the way program and staff development are conducted. Many programs have found that increasing staff's participation in assessing needs and in planning program and staff development increases staff ownership in program improvement efforts, improves communication within the program, and supports more effective change and growth.
What "process" should a program use?
Many adult basic education programs already have some mechanism for planning and conducting program and staff development. The way programs plan depends on many factors: the size of the program, the demands of funders, organizational structure and decision-making processes, the part-time or full-time status of staff, program philosophy, or. the annual cycle of program activities.
The Massachusetts Department of Education does not mandate any one particular "process" for program and staff development, but it does require every funded program to have a "thoughtful, systematic, and comprehensive process" for program and staff development.
Does SABES provide any assistance to programs who want help in using or adapting a "process" for program and staff development?
SABES has created the "Program/Staff Development Process" (P/SD Process), a set of tools that programs can use or adapt. The tools include steps for staff meetings to discuss needs and priorities, forms for documenting program and staff development efforts, and a format for developing action plans. One version of the P/SD Process is more appropriate for larger programs, and another version is more appropriate for smaller programs. SABES recognizes that no one process can fit all adult basic education programs, since each program is unique. Therefore, while the SABES P/SD Process has been designed as a comprehensive process for those programs who do not have time to design their own process, SABES also encourages programs to use bits and pieces from the P/SD Process. For example, a program might use the forms but not the action planning format, or it might adapt the forms to suit the needs of its practitioners.
How can my program learn to use the SABES Program/Staff Development Process?
A program that wants to learn to use (or to adapt) the P/SD Process chooses a staff member to be trained to facilitate the Process with the program. This person, who we call "Program/Staff Development Facilitator", can either be the program director, a teacher, a counselor, or other staff member. Some larger programs, or programs with different day a night staffs, choose two Facilitators. To learn the P/SD Process for larger programs, the Facilitator (and hopefully the director as well, if the Facilitator is a teacher or counselor) attends a series of four three-hour workshops in which she is trained in how to facilitate the process. To learn the P/SD Process for smaller programs, the Facilitator and as many staff members as possible attend a three-hour training that can be held jointly with other programs or at the program site.
SABES will also provide technical assistance to programs who want to use or adapt pieces of the SABES Process to fit the process they already have in place in their program but do not want to adopt the Process as a whole.
What else does SABES offer to support program and staff development?
SABES Regional Coordinators work with practitioners in their regions to develop a menu of workshops and other activities that are offered throughout the year. This menu is based, in part, on the needs identified by programs and staff during program and staff development planning. Workshops and other training activities are paid for and made available in response to the expressed needs of practitioners. SABES also sponsors teacher and counselor sharing groups, mini-courses, and mini-grants. In keeping with its philosophy of developing leadership within the field, SABES hires practicing teachers, counselors, administrators and other staff with relevant expertise to lead staff development activities. SABES supports practitioner leadership by providing train ing-of-trai ners and ongoing support to potential workshop leaders.
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SABES' Philosophy of Program Development, Staff Development and Leadershp Development
- Every practitioner needs and deserves opportunities for professional development, which are appropriate for her level of experience and development.
- Every program needs opportunities for planned program development.
- There should be support (paid hours) for practitioners to get professional development.
- There should be support (paid hours) for programs to use to engage in program development.
- Practitioners and programs are never done developing.
- Any staff and program development system has to meet the needs of a variety of programs and practitioners.
- Staff and program development must begin with and be based on individual and program-based needs and strengths assessment.
- The field itself has more than enough expertise now to improve the quality of adult basic education.
- The goal is to link resources (expertise) with needs, both within a program and between programs.
- Practitioners can be trusted to identify their needs and strengths and those of their programs. They have the most knowledge.
- The input of all staff during the planning process is important to the success of program and staff development efforts, even more so if planning includes students, advisory board and/or community input.
- To really acquire new skills and knowledge, practitioners must study, practice and reflect. Therefore, many different kinds of activities "count" as staff development (not just workshops): peer coaching, study circles, teacher inquiry/research, mini-courses and institutes, systematic and individualized self-study, mentoring, etc.
- Every adult basic education program should have the capacity to plan appropriately for continuous improvement.
- Any program-based process for program and staff development must meet the following criteria: re uire limited resources -be based on the actual funding cycle, be flexible and adal able to different program types and structures,'be done honestly without jeopardizing funding or jobs, maximize staff participation in program decision making, recognize and mal, use of practitioners' existing expertise.
Insights from Organizational Development Theory
The following principles from organizational development theory are relevant to SABES' promotion of a process for continuous improvement.
- Organizations have cultures.
- Organizations are organisms that have interrelated parts and systems.
- Organizations need to pay attention to the human needs of those who they employ as well as to organizational needs.
- People within an organization need to feel that they are a part of the organization.
- People within organizations have different work styles.
- Organizations need to balance stability and change.
- People within organizations need to have a shared understanding of the organization's goals.
- Change begins with an agreed-upon goal or need.
- Organizations have to consider both process and product to accomplish organizational change.
- Organizations don't exist in a vacuum. They interact with individuals, communities, other organizations, socio-cultural systems, and political events.
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The Role of the Facilitator
The role of the Program/Staff Development Facilitator ranges from handing out forms mentoring individual staff. Each Facilitator's role will be determined by the time the Facilitator has to devote to the role, by the role the Director plays in the Process, and by the progran philosophy and structure. The amount and type of work a Facilitator does depends on a combination of time, resources, and personnel factors.
Facilitators' tasks can include: informing staff about the Process, setting up meetings, distributing and collecting checklists, facilitating meetings, helping individual staff members I document their activities in portfolios, helping, program development action plan groups to make progress, and keeping files. However, some of these tasks can be apportioned out to other staff, including the Director, if the designated Facilitator only has limited time. Conversely, Facilitators who have more time can also meet one-to-one with staff to help them develop their individual professional development goals, in a sort of "mentoring" process.
The difference between the Director's role and the Facilitator's role in any process should be clear to everyone. Generally, monitoring who is in compliance with requirements for program or staff development participation is the Director's job, not the Facilitator's. The separation of "facilitating" from "monitoring" allows the staff to view the Facilitator as a h and colleague rather than a policeman, a crucial difference when a program's process is bL honest appraisal of the program's and staff's needs.
The Role of SABES' Program/Staff Development Process Training
The training is designed to do the following:
- Introduce the program's Facilitator and/or Director to the tools and concepts of a process for program and staff development in general, and the SABES P/SD Process in particular.
- Help the Facilitator and/or Director to reflect on what the program already does for planning and implementing program and staff development.
- Walk Facilitators and/or Directors through the main tools in the Process for assessing needs, prioritizing goals, creating action plans, documenting program/staff development activities, and evaluating program/staff development efforts.
- Help each Facilitator and/or Director to choose tools from the Process to "custom fit" what the program already does for program and staff development, and to develop a unique calendar for their program to implement the process they have created.
- Help Facilitators and/or Directors to strategize solutions for barriers which may occur as they try to implement their process.
- Assist Facilitators and/or Directors to be clear about their own roles, and the roles of the staff members, in implementing their process.
- Create a network for cross-program support among participants that the Facilitators and/or Directors can call upon after the training is completed.
- Establish a forum for sharing of ideas, strategies, experience, and expertise.
We hope that this Guidebook will serve as a useful adjunct to the training. It is intended as an ongoing reference for Facilitators.
The excerpt above constitutes the Introduction and Section 1 of the full 125-page SABES Program and Staff Development Process Guidebook. Each SABES Regional Support Center has copies of the Guidebook which you may borrow and photocopy or, if you'd like to purchase your own copy ($20.00, postage included), please contact:
44 Farnsworth St.
Boston, MA 02210-1211