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Building Professional Development Systems in Adult Basic Education: Lessons from the Field

Volume 2: Chapter Five
Alisa Belzer, Cassandra Drennon, and Cristine Smith

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In Chapter Five, Alisa Belzer, Cassandra Drennon and Cristine Smith provide an overview of the challenges facing state-level professional development systems. The authors begin the chapter with a brief history of professional development in adult basic education, noting shifts in the funding and priority of professional development in the field. To demonstrate the types of efforts being made to develop professional development systems at the state level, the authors focused on five states:  Idaho, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia which represent different contexts in terms of local need, size, political context, ABE services available, and federal support. Through their research, Belzer, Drennon and Smith developed profiles of each state, which included student and teacher demographics, an overview of the professional development system, significant features of each system, and common issues and challenges faced by the systems. 

From their analysis, the authors derived a useful framework for analyzing professional development systems. The framework covers four features of systems:  scope (the range of practitioners served by the system), cooperative leadership (state-level management working with practitioners to guide and develop the system), coherence (a logical relationship among the system's activities and alignment across individual and program needs, as well as state and federal reforms), and accessibility (the availability of training at a variety of times and locations to facilitate greater practitioner participation). The authors review these features across the five states in their study and note common challenges, as well as lessons learned. The authors conclude with suggestions for practice, including greater involvement of practitioners in shaping the mission of professional development systems and increased sharing of information and concerns across states. For future research, the authors recommend work that focuses on assessing professional development structures and outcomes in addition to models for reconciling divergent needs of funders and systems committed to shared decision-making. Finally, the authors note a need for policymakers to integrate professional development into policy implementation plans and to provide more full-time positions for practitioners in general, as well as those who focus on professional development.

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Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL