Staff Development and Change Process: Cut from the Same Cloth

Most staff developers would agree that the goal of staff development is change in individuals' knowledge, understanding, behaviors, skills - and in values and beliefs. Too often, it appears this fundamental view of staff development is unheeded or forgotten. However, if change of some understanding, skill, or behavior is the desired outcome of staff development, it seems reasonable to explore the relationship.

In this paper, a well-researched model of staff development is described. Findings of a research study that explored the effectiveness of the model's components are included. Second, a change model derived from longitudinal school improvement studies is examined. Data on this model's categories of interventions are included as well. Finally, implications of a "match of the models" suggests thinking about staff development as the process of change and about strategies that enhance the success of the staff development/change effort.


A large majority of school, district, higher education, and state level practitioners agree that staff development offerings typically focus only on the first component of a staff development model articulated by Joyce and Showers (1980), omitting the remaining four. These five components are described below.

Joyce and Showers Model

The first of five components of this model is the presentation of theory or the description of a new skill or behavior deemed useful or desirable to the audience. This description is typically thirty minutes to one or two hours in length, and is provided in a one-way delivery mode to a passive audience. Imparting knowledge, as an outcome, can be accomplished in this single session.

The second component of the Joyce and Showers model is demonstration or modeling of the new strategy or skill. Like the first component, delivery is one-way and no audience action is required. The third component is initial practice in a protected or simulated setting - most often in the workshop session. The audience now participates, trying out the new skill. Promptly providing structured and open-ended feedback about performance of the practice is the fourth component.

The fifth component is coaching. As the new idea or skill is being applied and tried in classrooms (or wherever the workplace), follow up attention to help with the at-home implementation is given to the staff development participant.

Assessment of the Components

One of the studies that tested the efficacy of the five components of the Joyce and Showers model was conducted by Bush (1984). Bush examined the effect that the components contributed toward transfer of skills or new behaviors into classroom practice. He found that when participants were given only the first component, a description of the new skill, 10% of the persons could transfer or use the skill in the workplace. When the second component, modeling or demonstration of the skill, was included, 2-3% more persons could perform the skill in the classroom. When practice, the third component, was added, 2-3% more transfer occurred; similarly, when the fourth component, feedback, was included, another 2-3% transfer occurred. Thus, four components resulted in 16-19 persons out of one hundred able to perform the new skill in the classroom.

However, when coaching, the fifth component, was part of the staff development process, up to 95% of the participants transferred the skill into classroom practice. In a word, the coaching component was a critical one in effecting a change in the skills of an exceedingly large number of persons.


Studies of school change undertaken at the University of Texas Research & Development Center for Teacher Education (Hall & Hord, 1987; Hord, Rutherford, Huling-Austin, & Hall, 1987; Rutherford, 1985) resulted in the identification of functional interventions necessary for successful change. In studying the change process interventions provided to teachers and others for implementing new programs and processes, eight categories of functional interventions were articulated with four receiving the most frequent actions (Hord & Huling-Austin, 1986). A significant additional category of interventions that focused on the aspect of vision, not part of the original set, was also defined (Rutherford, 1985). This paper examines the role of the four "frequent" categories, in addition to that of vision, constituting five deemed important to school and classroom change.

Functions For Change

The five functional categories of interventions for change were first, articulating a vision of the change and its attendant goals and expectations. The vision was sharpened through development of an innovation configuration instrument (Hall & Hord, 1987; Hord, Rutherford, Huling-Austin, & Hall, 1987) that reflected the vision clearly in operational terms. Second, planning, providing resources, and making organizational arrangements were accepted as a requirement and were aligned to promote a supportive environment for the change effort.

Training and development of skills necessary to the envisioned change was the third category. The fourth category, monitoring and evaluation, reflected actions taken to assess the progress of the change process. The fifth category included consultation, reinforcement, and other data-based interventions, provided as a result of monitoring. The interventions and their categorization came from studies focused particularly on the actions of principals and other change facilitators who were working to support the implementation of new programs and practices for school improvement including, in one district, a new science curriculum.

A Study of the Categories

In a yearlong combination qualitative and quantitative study of principals and their campus- and central office-based colleagues (Hord & Huling-Austin, 1986), the subjects' interactions (interventions) with faculty in implementing new curriculum were followed. The four most frequent categories of interventions noted above (organizational arrangements, training and development, monitoring and evaluation, consultation and reinforcement) accounted for 84%-96% of the interventions collected in each of three districts that provided the study sites across the nation. A substantial number of these four types of interventions occurred in each of the three years of the implementation study.

A variable that correlated strongly but not significantly with implementation success was the number of interventions provided to the faculty by the principal and the principal's facilitator colleague. The more interventions that these two provided, the more fully the teachers implemented a program. A second high but not significant correlation was the number of interventions in the consultation and reinforcement category, such as providing teachers with personalized information (written or oral) about their concerns or problems in implementation, as well as other assistance that increased their use or implementation of new curriculum and instructional strategies.

The number of interventions occurring in the monitoring function significantly correlated with a higher degree of teacher implementation. Such an action might be informally asking teachers how "it's going" or observing their use of the new program. However, the variable that correlated most significantly with implementation success was the qualitatively-derived principal's change-facilitating style. Translated this meant that the more the principal held and communicated a vision of what the school could become and pushed staff to implement the vision thereby improving their practice so that students would gain, and, the more the principal supported teachers and worked with them in their change efforts, the higher the implementation success of the teachers. In these data the vision category is judged to be significantly important. Also of interest was the significant correlation between principal style and the total number of interventions, a reiteration of the importance of providing abundant action in the categories.


The effectiveness of the staff development model discussed above is indicated by the cumulative percentage of transfer of skills into classrooms by teachers who received all five of the model's components. Similarly, in research on change, implementation success of teachers increased correlationally with the increased number of interventions in the categories that were supplied to the teachers. Figure 1 is an exhibit of the components of effective staff development and categories of interventions in successful change. It is easy to see the strong fit of the parts of the two models.

Science curriculum and instruction have been the focus of much local, state, and national attention, with abundant funding, in some cases, to support the interest. While the purpose of this paper is not to enter the debate on what the classroom science program should look like, there is widespread support for hands-on, student-centered, inquiry-oriented programs, and constructivist classrooms (Brooks & Brooks, 1993). Constructivist approaches to teaching and learning emphasize students' critical thinking and problem solving skills, as well as student-generated knowledge, wherein students plan for, direct, and create their own learning. Such classrooms demand a very different role and practice of teachers.

The "new" teaching of science and the focus on student-directed learning are not actually so new. Science curricula developed in the 1960s were highly similar to those being recommended today. However, despite major program funding by the National Science Foundation, studies by Stake and Easley (1978) and Weiss (1978) indicated very little continued use of the programs developed in the '60s. And while Bredderman's (1983) study reconfirmed that students in these kinds of programs exceeded the learning of their peers in traditional programs, the programs were decreasing in frequency and disappearing.

From these studies of program effectiveness for students and use of the programs by teachers, it appears that the "real failure of the early programs was failure to be implemented . . . This suggests the importance of attending more carefully to the issue of implementation in any effort to improve science instruction" (James & Hord, 1988, p., 317). The goal is to prevent the failure of the '60s and '70s in the '90s.

Before students can benefit from new and more effective science programs, or other curriculum and instruction, it will be necessary for teachers to adopt the new classroom practices that are required. Changing into the new science teacher role and implementing its attendant practices are very demanding for teachers. In that an effective staff development model and a successful change effort contain highly similar components, it may not matter greatly whether those designing and encouraging "new" science classrooms support their goals through employing an effective staff development approach or a change effort approach. It just may be, however, that the title or label of change, and what it implies may put a different spin on the process of changing teachers practices and thus their implementation of new programs.


Recent work at the Leadership for Change Project of the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory in Austin, Texas has focused on the implementors of new programs and practices and their needs for change. Wide-ranging literature reviews of the research and practice of successful school change efforts identified the strategies used by leaders of change (Hord, 1992), the context factors that support change (Boyd, 1992), and the characteristics of change leaders (Mendez-Morse, 1992). The leaders' research-based strategies gleaned from the literature have been verified in the accounts of change in multiple school and district stories. These "tried and true" strategies were found in both large-scale and small-in-scope change efforts. They will sound familiar, as those interventions for change reported earlier in this paper supply most of the strategies. A recommendation is to employ the "Six Success Strategies" that follow, as a way of articulating a comprehensive approach to changing science classrooms, vis-a-vis changing teachers' practices in science.

Develop and Articulate a Vision

Many science programs fail to be implemented because of the lack of a clear vision, or mental image, of what it would look like when fully implemented in a high quality way. If teachers do not know their change destination, the journey may take them anywhere. Developing a shared vision among all involved, including students and parents, ensures a common set of goals and expectations. Continuing to remind people of the vision through its regular articulation and communication are important actions to be taken. Comparing the status of the implementation effort to the vision is a means for assessing progress and helping people to understand the progress made and what is yet to be done. This suggests, of course, an interaction with another strategy below.

Plan and Provide Resources

This strategy would seem obvious, but many potentially effective science teachers are working with inadequate plans and woefully insufficient science materials and equipment. Asking teachers to spend precious time in scavenging for what is needed cuts painfully into more productive tasks for teaching. Those responsible for assisting teachers have a responsibility to supply the resources and allocate the time needed. Louis and Miles (1990) recommend garage sales and any other creative means for economically accessing what is needed. Keeping resources available is an important strategy, especially for science.

Invest in Training and Development

Despite the well recorded and reported research about effective staff development, there is a popular belief in the "Three Step Fable" which suggests:

  1. give teachers the box of science equipment and printed materials,
  2. provide a half-day orientation, and
  3. bid them God speed and good luck! (James, Hord, & Pratt, 1988, p. 63).

Fullan (1991) notes that we over assume the capacity of teachers to move actively into implementation without a substantial amount of help and assistance, provided particularly by staff development. The data on the Joyce and Showers model cited above indicate the inadequacy of the Three Step Fable type of staff development. However, this approach to teacher development continues to be widely used, although it has been notably unsuccessful in the past. Training and development should be long-term and continuing over time in order to respond to teachers' needs as they are changing from novices to experts in the "new" science.

Assess or Monitor Progress

It is at this point that change efforts typically fall apart. Regular checking with implementors to assess their progress and needs while implementing the new behaviors required is not well understood. Leaders and leadership teams are frequently uncomfortable in executing this strategy. However, the intervention study results, presented above, reported that the frequency of the monitoring interventions correlated significantly with a higher degree of implementation. As a monitoring example, assessing by "walking around" communicates to teachers the importance of the new program and increases their feeling of being supported in the effort.

Provide Continuous Assistance

This strategy by any other name - coaching, consultation, follow up - is the same. It is the provision of help and assistance based on information gleaned through assessing. In the intervention study, a high correlation was found between continuous assistance interventions and implementation quality. Teachers are more comfortable with the leader's assessing progress strategy when they observe that it is coupled/followed by assistance.

Create a Context Conducive to Change

The significance of the physical environment and the personal, psychological, and sociological factors that contribute to a school or other organization's culture has been widely documented and reported in recent years. When the members of a school community widely share a vision of what their school should be, broadly participate in decision making, operate within the norms of critical inquiry and continuous improvement, they are functioning in a culture conducive to change. In such a culture, relationships of all members are caring and supportive. It is easy to imagine how such a context encourages risk taking and change of behaviors. Understanding more about how to invent such a culture is the focus of current research at the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (Boyd & Hord, 1994; Hord, 1992, 1993). Creating such a culture is a long-term endeavor, but once well established, it endures for a long time.

In Conclusion

While the order of these six strategies may seem linear, and some of necessity follow the other, they are more cyclical in operation. The context/culture strategy is akin to a fine net spread over an entire change effort and influences all the other strategies. And all strategies, of course, are highly interactive. In addition to the six strategies identified above, there is a remaining, and highly important factor to be considered: who will plan, manage, coordinate - in short - direct and deliver the six strategies?

The answer is the facilitative leader. This person (preferably a team of persons) takes on the responsibility to provide the six strategies that will "translate intentions into reality" (Block, 1987). This means, the leadership team will work to move the vision of science teaching and learning into operation in the classroom. Block's definition spells out the leader's role; the six strategies identify the six nonnegotiable functions of the role. At every campus, some persons must be in this role. The literature is unremittingly clear about the imperative of the facilitative leadership function for change. We know a great deal about how to conduct effective staff development and successful change. The research on both processes attest to this fact. Employing what we know will determine whether we have the highest quality teaching and learning in our classrooms and subsequently whether our students benefit.


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Credits and Disclaimer

Issues . . . about Change is published and produced quarterly Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL). This publication is based on work sponsored by the Office of Educational Research & Improvement, U.S. Department of Education under grant number RP91002003. The content herein does not necessarily reflect the views of the department or any other agency of the U.S. government or any other source. Available in alternative formats.

The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) is located at 4700 Mueller Blvd., Austin, Texas 78723; (512)476-6861/(800)476-6861. SEDL is an Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer and is committed to affording equal employment opportunities to all individuals in all employment matters.

This issue was written by Shirley M. Hord, Senior Research Associate, Services for School Improvement, SEDL.

Published in Issues ...about Change Volume 4, Number 2, Staff Development and Change Process: Cut from the Same Cloth (1994)