ERIC Identifier: ED260874
Publication Date: 1985-03-00
Author: Helge, Doris
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural
Education and Small Schools Las Cruces NM.
Planning Staff Development Programs for Rural Teachers.
Identifying the primary needs of teachers in remote areas is crucial in
planning appropriate staff development programs. A good program recognizes that
teachers need to know how to:
--Obtain specialized teaching resources
--Use "high-tech" innovations such as accessing specialized secondary
curriculum via satellite or using interactive videodisc systems for teacher
--Integrate rural-focused content into their curricula, particularly when
working with culturally disadvantaged students
--Obtain additional funding and equipment
--Involve the community as an instructional resource
--Relate effectively with rural parents, peer professionals, and community
--Incorporate alternate instructional arrangements for special needs
Teachers should play an active role during the planning phase so that other
needs can be identified and included in the program.
WHAT SPECIFIC FEATURES MIGHT A GOOD PROGRAM INCLUDE?
An effective staff development program will incorporate a variety of
alternative resources (including the community, nonprofessional staff, business
and industry, and shared teaching efforts) and should include the following
A Broad Definition of Staff Development
Planners should study the local rural culture and the communication and power
systems to discern currently acceptable staff development methods and to
discover the means for securing community support for new techniques. Typically,
key communicators (in both informal and formal systems) should be involved in
planning unique staff development options. Such approaches as remote "high-tech"
inservice systems and the four-day student attendance week are more successful
when the community is involved during the planning stage.
Ensure That All Relevant Personnel Are Trained
An effective teacher training program may fail if ancillary support personnel
are not aware of program objectives and desired end products. Relevant personnel
such as secretaries, librarians, bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, and
others should receive appropriate inservice training and, when reasonable, be
involved in planning the staff development approach.
Develop Partnerships to Secure Additional Resources
Fiscal resources for staff development within rural school systems are
typically inadequate. One cost-efficient alternative is partnerships between
rural schools, businesses, and agencies. For example, businesses can gain tax
deductions when donating computer time or equipment for inservice use. Many
community agencies are willing to share computer time, make cooperative
purchases to help schools secure reduced prices, and offer similar
contributions. Partnerships also promote long-term support for rural school
Use Low Cost or Free Staff Development Tools
Some simple systems of securing resources are frequently overlooked and
--Assessing individual teacher needs and resources and arranging for teachers
to share or "barter" these with each other
--Using retired or unemployed certified teachers as substitutes so that
regular teachers can be released to observe, plan, or attend an inservice
--Arranging informal brown-bag lunches or after-school sessions for group
sharing and problem solving
WHAT ARE EFFECTIVE RURAL STAFF DEVELOPMENT PRACTICES?
System-Wide Models Afford Numerous Advantages
A data bank of staff development needs and resources can be established. A
basic assessment instrument may ask staff members what they could offer others
and what resources they are seeking. Local citizens, such as retired or
unemployed teachers, are queried about resources they might contribute to
inservice sessions or classroom activities. These resources are linked to
individual teacher development needs. These linkages may mean that teachers
temporarily exchange roles or that community volunteers manage the classroom
while the regular classroom teacher can observe another teacher or attend an
inservice session. Relatively mobile personnel (such as principals or
secretaries) can also assist in this effort. Permanent "floating substitutes" or
teacher consultants can be made available.
The school week can be restructured so that students are present only four
days. The fifth day is devoted to teacher self-education, consultation,
planning, and group inservice activities. Communities involved in the planning
for such a program tend to be supportive and more willing to arrange alternate
activities for their children on the fifth day.
Specific Technological Approaches Meet Special Needs
Computer-managed instruction can be used to teach educators new methods of
administering and evaluating tests, keeping records, and making decisions.
Formal computer-assisted instruction is a particularly valuable learning
technique for teachers in isolated settings. Appropriate software can be mailed,
and a supplemental mobile inservice van equipped with computers can be used.
Amplified telephone systems allow teachers to "attend" lectures or discussion
sessions with remotely located persons. Instructional television, including
transmission via cable or special satellite, can present subjects that might
otherwise be omitted from the small school system inservice program. Educational
satellites, audioconferencing, and videotape exchange systems can be used as
"remote" inservice techniques.
For example, a statewide audio teleconferencing network can link educational
providers at a central school system or university with receivers in isolated
areas. The system can use live interactive audio with occasional computer
networking to provide programming to small, rural, isolated educational
institutions across the state.
Satellite inservice sessions allow participants to benefit from the knowledge
and expertise of consultants or professors in distant locations.
With microcomputers, small schools can access mainframe programs for specific
inservice menus and access such specialized topics as vocational and special
National and state telecommunication resource and information systems provide
databases of media, materials, and other program resources. Such linkage systems
increase knowledge regarding inservice and student service options.
Remote electronic bulletin boards (telecommunication systems that may be
accessed by rural remote schools) allow teachers seeking information to
communicate interactively with experts in a related area. Such boards can be
operated from a district, cooperative, education service district, state
department of education, or university base.
Mobile vans with specialized electronic equipment are used more frequently to
reach educators in remote locations where school systems lack master teachers,
access to essential curricula resources, or extraordinary equipment. Such vans
frequently carry mobile electronic curricula.
Many Practices Focus on Individual Teacher Needs
In recent years, an increasing number of schools have used a "master teacher"
approach, and more state departments of education require school districts to
formulate plans guaranteeing that individual teacher needs are met. Such
programs typically focus on continuing staff development needs of individual
educators. Exemplary practices usually require that each teacher design an
individualized plan for appropriate administrators or master teachers.
If hotlines or crises information networks are established, educators can
call a toll-free number for advice regarding resources and methodologies to use
with severely disabled students.
The "down time" of travel for itinerant specialized personnel, such as
special educators and resource personnel for vocational or gifted education, can
be used creatively for professional development. Cassette tape players in cars
can be used to report, to share, or to listen to inservice cassettes prepared by
other school staff or by commercial enterprises.
Informal professional development sessions can be structured around brown-bag
luncheons, social meetings, and other informal get-togethers.
Regional or building-based teacher consultants can be available "on call" to
conduct structured observations, provide demonstrations of effective
instructional techniques, and help identify resources responsive to teacher
A video or audio cassette tape of the teaching methods of a remotely located
teacher can be made, mailed to a central location, reviewed, and returned with
specific suggestions. A subsequent tape can illustrate progress relevant to the
Short-term teacher exchanges provide participants with insights regarding the
functioning of the total school system, the need for continuity in a student's
education, and an understanding of other educators' role. Longer exchanges
involving an actual temporary shift from one cultural or geographic area to
another are particularly useful for increasing a teacher's perspective and
preventing "burnout." For these reasons, the personnel exchange system was
initiated by the National Rural Jobs Services operated by the American Council
on Rural Special Education (ACRES).
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE FOR RURAL STAFF DEVELOPMENT?
The ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools offers rural
education publications and personalized computer searches. Other publications,
including journals, reports, and reviews that focus on rural educators, are
available through the Rural Education Association (REA), the American Council on
Rural Special Education (ACRES), and the National Rural Development Institute
located at Western Washingon University.
Inservice modules specifically designed for rural schools are available from
ACRES. They are designed to be used by remote teachers isolated from traditional
inservice opportunities or in group settings. The topics include the following:
--The need to increase funding for equipment and materials
--The need to develop support for special education programs
--Difficulties of providing services on a regional (collaborative) basis
--Difficulties of involving rural parents in the educational program
--Inadequate numbers of special education personnel
--Difficulties of delivering services to students with low-incidence
--Difficulties of transporting students to services or service deliverers to
--Effective teacher consultation processes
A growing number of teacher preparation programs are increasing their
accountability to rural schools by attempting to meet their staff development
needs. For example, The Missouri Center for Small Schools, located at Central
Missouri State University in Warrensburg, designs individualized inservice plans
after consulting with rural administrators requesting assistance. Faculty are
integrally involved in delivering inservice; preservice students observe rural
education programs; and relevant summer courses are offered for credit.
National conferences specifically focusing on the needs of rural educators
include those of the REA (Colorado State University), and of ACRES (Western
ACRES also manages a National Task Force on Rural Staff Development which
assists in identifying national needs and planning appropriate intervention
methods. A Rural Electronic Bulletin board administered by ACRES is part of the
national "TeleNet" telecommunications system. It provides information about
conferences on rural education, successful instructional practices in specific
rural subcultures, the ACRES Rural Educator Resource Network, and recent
publications on rural education.
A complete report entitled "Planning Staff Development Programs for Rural
Teachers" can be obtained from the National Rural Development Institute, Western
Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Berman, Paul, and Mikey Wallin McLaughlin. FEDERAL PROGRAMS SUPPORTING
EDUCATIONAL CHANGE, VOLUME VIII: IMPLEMENTING AND SUSTAINING INNOVATIONS. Santa
Monica, CA: Rand Corporation, 1978. ED 159 289.
Helge, Doris. "Staff Development Models To Serve All Children, Including the
Handicapped." THE RURAL EDUCATOR 2 (1981):14-24.
Helge, Doris. "The State of the Art of Rural Special Education." EXCEPTIONAL
CHILDREN 50 (1984):294-305.
Lawrence, Gordon. PATTERNS OF EFFECTIVE INSERVICE EDUCATION: A STATE OF THE
ART SUMMARY OF RESEARCH ON MATERIALS AND PROCEDURES FOR CHANGING TEACHER
BEHAVIORS IN INSERVICE EDUCATION. Tallahassee, FL: Florida State Department of
Education, 1974. ED 176 424.
Lortie, Dan C. SCHOOLTEACHER: A SOCIOLOGICAL STUDY. Chicago, IL: The
University of Chicago Press, 1975.