Professional learning is both an art and a science that requires those who deliver it to commit to continuous learning and improvement. The staff at Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA) provide training and support to all 58 school districts in Maricopa County, Arizona, indirectly affecting the experiences of thousands of students each year – so it is critical that they have the expertise to make every session with educators count.

Administrator for Teacher Leaders and Aspiring Principals Candace Diehl and her team are responsible for developing meaningful professional learning for teacher leaders. Last year, she and her colleagues travelled to New York City to participate in Leading Effective Professional Development, a two-and-a-half-day workshop that teaches professional learning facilitators to shift from a stand-and-deliver approach to one that engages participants in interactive sessions that push their thinking.

“Our goals for the training were twofold,” said Candace. “First, we wanted to refine the way we work with adult learners by developing simulations and experiences that they would connect with. Second, we wanted support in facilitating conversations about the equity challenges in Maricopa. Our county spans a large, diverse population and we are seeing discrepancies in performance between our suburban and high-poverty urban centers. With large numbers of primarily Hispanic students who are struggling, it is important to be able to have equity-focused conversations with our leaders.”

During the training, Candace and her colleagues were introduced to the Leadership Academy’s framework and quickly applied theory to practice by moving between the roles of curriculum designer, facilitator, and participant. “This training was unique in that there was ample time to practice facilitation moves and we received on-the-spot coaching,” she said.  “NYCLA facilitators are very intentional about building a conceptual understanding and not just providing the right answer. It is as much about the learning process as the ultimate outcome.”

Leading Effective Professional Development aims to give participants the skills to tailor teaching strategies like mini-lessons, simulations, role plays, and coaching to their diagnosis of individual and group learning needs; design strategic, focused interventions to push thinking; and provoke and contain discomfort in the service of learning. “The kind of facilitation that NYCLA teaches is more honest and authentic,” Candace said. “It gets past the facades we hold up as professionals and gets to the core of who we are and where we need to grow. In turnkeying this at MCESA, I am able to build stronger relationships with the people I am supporting and foster professional growth that I believe will last.”

Our next session of Leading Effective Professional Development will be held on May 7 – 9.