As I have started doing preliminary research for my dissertation I have discovered that high quality, relevant and sustainable Professional Development (PD) opportunities for principals (and building leaders in general) are limited. How is that possible? Principals are supposed to be visionaries! Principals are supposed to be transformational in their leadership! Principals are supposed to be responsible for the learning and growth for all those around them! How can all that be accomplished without proper support through high quality PD? I'm not 100% certain but what I do know is that upon reflecting on the various workshops and conferences I have attended in my eight years as a building leader, not many of them have given me knowledge or information or resources to best support my role as an instructional leader (except for Twitter, which has led me to this potential dissertation study)! It's no wonder finding effective principals who are good at their job and are willing to stay in the position for an extended period of time to support growth, change and learning is more the exception and not the rule. Is this because they lack support? Is it because they lack the "necessary" skills? Or is it because they lack high quality PD??
I am not sure what the reason is for the lack of effective instructional leaders but here is the bottom line- principals (and all building leaders), possibly more than all others in the organization, need high quality professional development so they can meet with success in their efforts to be effective instructional leaders (Research shows that teachers have access to better PD at a ratio of at least 3 to 1)! The expectation of principals today is very different than it was twenty years ago, ten years ago and even a year ago! Being a school leader today is hard and it doesn't seem to be getting any easier. A fellow NYS Principal and friend (thanks to my Twitter PLN), Peter DeWitt recently wrote a post about this very issue - check it out - Why Would Anyone Want to Be A School Leader? Principals are expected to be active and knowledgeable instructional leaders who are agents of change in their roles as transformational visionaries (what the heck does that even mean?!? Aren't we supposed to be home by 3pm and have the summers off? Think again!).
To help principals meet these lofty goals (some would say unrealistic and unattainable), we need to provide our principals with useful, relevant and accessible PD! Research shows that principals learn best when they function as part of a cohort/group and when they can personalize the learning to their specific school, staff and students. Unfortunately, one day workshops, conferences and even courses at the graduate level usually don't accomplish this goal- this sort of "shot in the arm" PD has not been proven to work so we must change it now! Although I am sure there are many opportunities to create this type of PD experience (book clubs, action research teams, etc.), in my mind Twitter is the best way to go! It is free, timely, relevant, current, it can be personalized and it allows you the chance to develop your own PLN - Professional/Personal Learning Network (cohort or group if you will) to learn in the way that makes sense to you!
So- this is a call to all principals and building leaders - the time to cease control of our PD has come - join Twitter and let's start changing our schools and doing what's in the best interest of our children one tweet at a time!