Scott Thielman
MASA President and Superintendent
Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose Schools

Professional development and growth opportunities for members are the primary focus of MASA’s Fall and Spring conferences. The executive development committee and MASA staff have sought to provide thought provoking speakers and breakout sessions to stimulate productive conversations about improving our schools and communities for decades. Additionally, conversations about how best to deliver professional growth opportunities for regional needs occurred at the MASA Board level. Dating back to December 2010, members from Region VI requested support for regional professional development. The support was granted by the Board and each region that requested the $750 grant received it. Flash forward to June of 2015, and again Region VI requested additional support for regional professional development but at a much more robust level. Through the recommendation of the Executive Development Committee and the approval from the MASA Board, grants were established to support regional professional development on a rotating basis.

Last year, Region VI had the opportunity to access the regional training fund established by the MASA Executive Development Committee and approved by the MASA Board. The grant provided $5,000 for the training opportunity and Region VI representatives will present information about the professional development experience at the MASA Spring Conference. The professional development opportunity was targeted for school superintendents and central office administrators, and focused on the use of feedback, rubrics, and coaching to promote continued growth and learning. The professionals who superintendents and central office administrators supervise and evaluate are not usually teachers, rather they are principals, directors, or other direct reports in need of coaching that is not readily provided.

Jim Roussin, education author and Cognitive Coaching trainer, provided the professional development sessions for Region VI and offered this description for the training opportunity; “Adults grow, learn and change through reflective practice opportunities. Reflective practice is understood as the process of learning through and from experience for gaining new insights about ourselves and/or our professional practice (Boud et al 1985; Boyd and Fales, 1983; Mezirow, 1981, Jarvis, 1992). This often involves examining assumptions that inform our everyday work. The point is to recapture professional experiences and mull them over critically in order to gain new understandings that will improve future practice. This is understood as part of the process of life-long learning.”

The training Mr. Roussin provided for Region VI was in three half-day sessions with opportunities to practice learned strategies and skills between meeting times. Participants learned about four support functions regarding Cognitive Coaching and Learning Focused Supervision. Attendees were taught how to discern between coaching, collaborating, consulting and evaluating when working with staff. A main focus of the training was to help participants recognize when to use the support functions as a way of helping staff to be more self-directed.

The Region VI leadership team received feedback from the professional development sessions, and here are a few of the responses. “I have really thought more deeply and intentionally about making my questions more reflective when working with other administrators… The reaction has been very positive. I often get, ‘Wow, that’s a good question. Let me think about that for a minute.'” Another participant offered this comment: “The strategy I have worked on is to reframe evaluation meetings to focus more on coaching conversations. I have been impressed with how much the staff I supervise have grown because they are identifying growth areas and together we find support and growth opportunities. In the old evaluation model, we would see growth but the coaching model has shown more dramatic growth. Additionally, I have found people holding themselves more accountable for their own professional growth.”

The grant made it possible for Region VI to provide a high quality, just-in-time, professional growth and development opportunity for forty-four (44) members in a personalized learning setting. The training focused on strategies and practices that attendees implemented in coaching conversations with administrative staff to aid them in their own self-reflection, which led to new insights and more effective action in the future. Based on the response samples from the feedback the region received, the region leadership team was appreciative of the financial support and felt the training was valuable and provided professional growth opportunities for the members and their staff. I truly appreciate the vision of MASA which allowed Region VI members to have this tremendous experience. I look forward to hearing and seeing what other regions will experience with this professional development opportunity.

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