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Friday, 18 November 2011

Fundamentals of Staff Development

Fundamentals of Staff Development


Introduction


The challenges associated with the dynamic changes of the nature of work and the workplace environment is what makes or breaks employees and employers themselves. Rapid and fast paced change brought about by the changing times requires a skilled, knowledgeable workforce with employees who are adoptive, flexible and focused on the future. It is on this paradigm which human resource managers acknowledges that a staff development program is critical to an institution. 


Staff Development Program (Academic Sector)


            Staff and educational development is a relatively new field of activity in higher education ( 2003). This is still an emerging concept to the widely accepted and systematic activity in higher education. In fact staff development is not yet strongly and not consensually theorized. Few human resource specialist “practice” this new domain in a sense that there are few common activities and processes as compared to the widely accepted “activities” such as workshops, training program for new teaching staffs and the provision of written and multi media material, that would be recognized widely as characterizing a staff development program.


            As a professional function, staff and educational development borders with various degrees of closeness and comfort to programs such as teaching and training, human resource development and management, organizational development, management, and the production and implementation of policy and strategy on teaching and learning. Its academic neighbors include the academic counterparts of these professional areas, together with theories and models of learning, teaching and assessment, concerns over academic roles and responsibilities, and action and other forms of research ( 2003).


            Staff and educational development have a substantive and complex history. At the local level of institutions, there is considerable variation in detail, like for example remit, staffing, location, resourcing, management and priorities. Such variety would imply that local policies, strategies and issues are dominant, determining arrangements and dictating outcomes ( 2004). Within the academic institutions, staff and educational development are generally required to assist the demands and priorities of three constituencies, namely: the academic institution itself, the individual disciplines/subjects, and most importantly the individuals. The latter will always and presume to include staff, more particularly the academic staff, or depending upon the focus of a particular provision.


The Impact of a Staff Development Program


             (2003) suggests three main sets of reasons to evaluate any staff or educational development undertaking. These are to account for monies and effort and expended, deliverables delivered, goals achieved; to improve the project as it proceeds; and to understand the undertaking, the reasons for its effects, successes and failures. The ultimate merit of professional development for teachers is the crucial role it plays in the improvement of student learning. The education system has evolved so much, mostly because of the advent of technologies that is slowly being integrated to the teaching curriculum. Whether technology should be used in schools is no longer the issue in education. Instead, the current emphasis is ensuring that technology is used effectively to create new opportunities for learning and to promote student achievement. The challenge of a staff development program is to develop a flexible and knowledgeable workforce in relation to current technologies and paradigm of teaching. Teachers not only have to develop new skills and roles with technology but also have to learn how to integrate it into the curriculum. Technology use in the schools can be the basis for positive changes in teaching and learning. Evidence indicates that when “used well, technology applications can support higher-order thinking by engaging students in authentic, complex tasks within collaborative learning contexts” (1993). As with all change, all the same, the success of technology resides on the ability of the individual teacher to use technology in the classroom to raise and reinforce student learning ( 1999).


                Professional development therefore is a crucial and important part of effective technology use, and only high-quality professional development can ascertain the maximum benefits from the time and money spent. Educational technology necessitates educators not only to become familiar with the technology available in their schools but also to totally revolutionize the teacher role. Professional development aids teachers acquire new roles and teaching strategies that will eventually improve their students’ achievement.


The J.D. Spencer Staff Development Program


            The J. D. Spencer’s fundamentals of a staff development program is divided into a series of steps that would ensure a successful development of the staffs and efficiency of the academic institution to deliver quality teaching and learning to the students. The following steps are (1) recruitment and selection, (2) induction, (3) supervision, (4) evaluation, (5) planned individual development, (6) further professional development, (7) career path planning, (8) heterogeneity, (9) altruistic vision and lastly (10) accountability and responsibility.


Recruitment and selection


            Good people management is about having the right people in the right place with the right skills. That’s why it is so important to get it right at the beginning. Recruitment and selection are fundamentally concerned with finding, assessing and engaging new employees or promoting existing ones. Intrinsically, its focus is on matching the capabilities and interests of potential candidates with the demands and rewards of a given job. Recruitment and selection decisions are amongst the most important of all decisions that managers have to make because they are a prerequisite to the development of an effective workforce ( 1991). It should be noted that recruitment is only one aspect of human resource management. It needs to be corroborated by a clear linking of the objectives and strategy of the organization to the jobs people are asked to do.


            Induction


            Staff induction activities are designed to provide new-starters with the information they need, as well as getting them up to speed on how the organization works. Induction processes are vital to ensuring that new staff are productive as quickly as possible, and should play a key role in knowledge management initiatives (2003). Staff induction often and fundamentally focuses on the corporate policies such as safety, security, anti-discrimination, etc. This is useful information, if not the most interesting to participants.


            Supervision


            Supervision is an allocated time held regularly between the worker and supervisor, which may be a line manager or an experienced staff member who has been trained in giving supervision (2004).  It is an opportunity to discuss, in confidence and in a one-to-one situation, how the worker is getting on with their work and what issues are arising for them. Supervision should identify the worker’s needs and support and develop the skills and abilities they require to carry out their functions effectively.


            Evaluation


                Evaluation pertains to a periodic process of gathering data and then analyzing or ordering it in such a way that the resulting information can be used to ascertain whether an organization or program is effectively accomplishing planned activities, and the degree to which it is achieving its stated objectives and its predicted results. Managers can and should lead internal evaluations to acquire information about their programs so that they can make intelligent decisions about the implementation of those programs. Internal evaluation should be conducted on an ongoing basis and implemented religiously by managers at every level of an organization in all program areas. In addition, all of the program’s participants (managers, staff, and beneficiaries) should be regarded in the evaluation process in appropriate ways. These coactions helps ensure that the evaluation is fully participatory and builds dedication on the part of all involved to use the results to make critical program improvements ( 2005).


            Planned and Further Individual Development


            The role of the classroom teacher is the crucial factor in the full development and use of technology in the schools (1999). Yet, many teachers do not have the technical knowledge or skills to recognize the potential for technology in teaching and learning. Just knowing how to use a computer is not enough. Instead, teachers must become knowledgeable about technology and self-confident enough to integrate it effectively in the classroom. Teachers, in other words, must become “fearless in their use of technology” and empowered by the many opportunities it offers (1999). To reach the goal of preparing teachers for effective technology use, a well-designed professional development program is essential. Professional development in a technological age involves new definitions and new resources. It cannot take the conventional forms of individual workshops or one-time training sessions. Rather, it must be viewed as an continuing and integral part of teachers’ professional lives.


Career Path Planning


            Well-established, successful companies oftentimes have well-defined career paths, especially if they rely on drawing effective people and keeping them working hard. As organizations mature, they require more and more people at all levels. This means that if people work hard and have the right skills, energy and aptitude, they can be promoted promptly as new roles open up.


            Heterogeneity


            Organizational heterogeneity pose a big challenge to an organization. Every organization or institution aspire organizational “inclusion” where staffs collaborate with each other actively in sharing new knowledge, ideas or technology. But because of stiff competition in the industry, we also expect a high turn-over rate within the organization, therefore a constant change of staffs making it hard to realize inclusion. On the other hand, heterogeneity can be advantageous to an organization, there exists in the organization a diversity of human capital and talents and the creativity and innovativeness which is directly available for the organization. But without proper staff development program, the positive impact of diversity of cultural and skill assets could be mitigated by the fact that diversity and polarization may pose a threat to the cohesiveness and preservation of existing organizational and corporate structures.


            Altruistic Vision


Business ethics is a polemical issue, although it is seen as a vital part of everyday business life. The importance of ethics has commonly been justified by suggesting that most people want to live in a society in which justice and charity triumph. Concern for business ethics is also a matter of practical life when the economic system is considered. The economic systems can endure only if they operate in such a way that the majority of the people believe that at least some degree of justice prevails there. If the system lacks legitimacy, it is likely to fail (2005). As further analyzed by  (1996), charismatic leadership in its positive form is altruistic, influences in empowering ways, emphasizes vision by changing followers’ core attitudes, beliefs and values, and manifests needs that are self-developmental.


Accountability and Responsibility


What is accountability and why is it important? Accountability is the willingness to assume responsibility for the outcomes produced, whether those outcomes meet expectations or are disappointing. In every sector of society the subject of organizational accountability is being taken seriously. While individuals are held accountable for their actions by personal mores and judicial parameters, organizations do not have an innate sense delineating right or wrong. It is, therefore, up to the individuals who own, manage, and direct organizations to put in place policies, procedures, and a code of ethics that work to ensure the organization is answerable for its actions. In the academic institutions, students are expected to meet higher standards, teachers are held accountable for student results, and professional developers are asked to show that what they do really matters. Efforts to create a quality teaching force include new approaches to accountability, designed and implemented through teacher leadership and the participation of large numbers of teachers. Among teachers, parents, and business leaders there is a growing recognition that teachers who are not performing adequately must receive training, mentoring and all other forms of effective assistance as needed and quickly. Teachers who fail to improve, no matter what the reason–poor preparation, burn out, or lack of interest in professionalism–and who are judged incompetent must be counseled out of the profession or dismissed in order to ensure students’ success in school. The new approaches to accountability emphasize early intervention, peer review, and recognition of exemplary teachers who serve as mentors or lead teachers.


The Importance of “Supervision” in J.D. Spencer Model


            Most staff developers would agree that the goal of staff development is change in individuals’ knowledge, understanding, behaviors, skills – and in values and beliefs ( 1994). Instructional supervision should be an important component of a successful staff development program. Professional development is a vital component of ongoing teacher education and is central to the role of principals and teachers. This development is concerned with improving teachers’ instructional methods, their ability to adapt instruction to meet students’ needs, and their classroom management skills; and with establishing a professional culture that relies on shared beliefs about the importance of teaching and learning and that emphasizes teacher collegiality. Instructional supervision, with its emphasis on partnership and professional improvement, may be an important tool in building an effective staff development program (2000). Teacher professional development is one of the primary domains of instructional supervision ( 1999; 1997; 1993). According to  (1993), the staff development frame of supervision of instruction “views teaching as a profession within which the development of professional expertise through problem solving and inquiry are considered to be the main focus of supervision”.


            A survey of the literature reveals many definitions of supervision-each one unique in its focus and purpose-ranging from a custodial orientation to a humanistic orientation. For example, at the custodial end of the continuum, supervision can mean general overseeing and controlling, managing, administering, evaluating, or any activity in which the principal is involved in the process of running the school (  1999). A more humanistic definition suggests that supervision of instruction is a multifaceted, interpersonal process that deals with teaching behavior, curriculum, learning environments, grouping of students, teacher utilization, and professional development ( 1982).  (1989) regard instructional supervision as a multifaceted process that focuses on instruction and provides teachers with information about their teaching so as to develop instructional skills to improve performance. The focus of this improvement, according to  (1993), may be on a teacher’s knowledge, skills, and ability to make more informal professional decisions or to solve problems better, or may be to inquire into his or her teaching. Such a goal permits instructional supervisors to focus on teachers’ instructional improvement which, in turn, improves the quality of learning.


Purposes of Supervision


            Supervision caters to many different purposes which were evidenced by the outcome of different studies on the subject of importance of supervision with in the teaching profession.


            The purposes include the following:


1. Improving instruction (1989; 1997;  1997; 1997;  1993;  1997).


2. Promoting effective teacher staff development (1997; 1989;  1984; 1997; 1996).


3. Helping teachers to become aware of their teaching and its consequences for learners (1997;  1997).


4. Enabling teachers to try out new instructional techniques in a safe, supportive environment ( 1997).


5. Fostering curriculum development ( 1997; 1997;  1996).


6. Encouraging human relations (1996).


7. Fostering teacher motivation (1997).


8. Monitoring the teaching-learning process to obtain the best results with students (1988).


9. Providing a mechanism for teachers and supervisors to increase their understanding of the teaching-learning process through collective inquiry with other professionals ( 1992).


Supervision as a Professional Growth Model


            The fundamental purpose of supervision is for teachers and the supervisors to engage in focused study groups, teacher collaboration, and other long-term professional partnerships to generate knowledge and increase their understanding of the teaching-learning process. By this way, they learn from each others experiences where such knowledge they can use when facing same situation. Supervision is an underlying part of the total service provided by school systems. It must have an identity within the organizational hierarchy and it must be administratively supported if its purposes are to be achieved. Supervision cannot take place in isolation if it is expected to be effective and to occur over time (1989). The development of trust is very critical in the supervisory relationship ( 1997). Shared authority, expertise, and expectations as a consequence of supervision opportunities are preferable to conventional “top-down” strategies designed to realize “top-down” expectations (1997). Supervisors and teachers must be involved in and committed to rigorous educational and training programs to improve the validity, reliability, and acceptability of data collected and the inferences made during the supervisory process (1993). Supervision is about learning, reflecting, and teaching (1995).  Supervision requires the active use of linguistic skills (1995). Supervision is heavily dependent on the exchange of ideas among individuals working in conjunction with each other. Participants in the supervisory process must be able to communicate their intended meanings clearly and coherently. Finally, the self-governance of professional development by educators ensures bureaucratic restraint and a balance between individual and institutional interests (1995).


Conclusion


            Supervision plays a vital role in many models of staff development program. This claim is evidenced by the numerous studies conducted to prove the significance of supervision to a successful staff development program. Supervisions main objective is to meet a long term goal wherein a teachers’ development through supervision and facilitation of supervisors can fully assume responsibility which is also focused with the individual teachers’ instructional improvement.  In fact, teacher development is a vital function of supervision. Teachers performing at higher developmental levels incline to use a broader variety of instructional behaviors associated with successful teaching; teachers who have themselves reached higher stages of cognitive, conceptual, moral, and ego development are more likely to foster their students’ growth in those areas.



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