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5 Ways Education Leaders Can Support Teachers

A recently published playbook gives teachers ways to create higher performing, happier classrooms. But education leaders can play a role in helping them. Here's how.

by Tanya Roscorla / February 10, 2017

The Christensen Institute recently came out with a playbook for teachers designed to create happier, high-performing classrooms. But in an interview with Converge, author Heather Staker shared her thoughts on how education leaders can support teachers as they implement the plays. 

Based on research that former K-12 teachers conducted, the playbook takes successful actions that managers used in the business world and translated them into the classroom for teachers to adopt. The plays include the following:

  1. Teach mindsets — ways of thinking about creativity, passion for learning, growing and taking ownership of learning
  2. Release control so that students can access learning resources on their own with teachers acting as a guide
  3. Encourage teamwork so that students start learning together in groups
  4. Give feedback on how students are doing
  5. Build relationships so that teachers can trust students to take charge of their own learning 
  6. Help students hold themselves accountable by using tools to set goals and track progress
  7. Hold yourself accountable to make sure you're doing what's helpful for students

Principals and superintendents can play a big role in modeling what these types of plays look like and helping teachers grow in these areas, Staker said. 

"Although the world is complex, and students have daunting problems, there are some amazing new opportunities just recently emerging to allow students to drive their own learning and to free up teachers to do powerful things," Staker said. "So I hope that both teachers and administrators will work together to make those things happen."

Here's how education leaders can leverage the playbook and help teachers:

1. Incorporate the seven moves into teachers' professional development plans

First off, it's important for teachers to actually learn what these moves look like, said Staker. When school administrators add it into their professional development plans that means teachers have time and resources to learn together.  

2. Provide access to content and technology that students can use

In order for students to access learning resources on their own, teachers need to get those resources from school leaders. By providing laptops, bandwidth and software subscriptions, education leaders are enabling teachers to carry out this step in the playbook, Staker said. With access to these resources, teachers have more time to work with students one-on-one or in small groups as needed while the other students take online classes and collaborate on projects.

3. Model good coaching behavior

Teaching looked a lot different when many current teachers were students themselves, and it included a lot of direct instruction and lectures from the front of the room. That's why it's so important to have an example from a school leader that they can follow as they try to help students hold themselves accountable and act as a guide in the learning process. When principals coach their own teachers, they not only build them up, but also give them ideas of how they can build their students up.

4. Separate evaluative from developmental feedback for teachers

"It's a lot harder to want to try something new if teachers know they'll get a bad evaluation because of it," Staker said. But if school leaders separate feedback into two distinct processes, that will encourage teachers to take risks. In the teacher evaluation system, they're rewarded and recognized for their performance, while they can be corrected or fired for not doing well. In the developmental feedback system, coaches give teachers feedback to help them improve, but it doesn't come with any negative repercussions.

"To make the innovation more successful, these teachers need to feel like they have the ability to fail fast and take small risks, and then adjust and move forward," Staker said. "They need a running partner who will coach them and be at their side and help them problem-solve, and not in any way make them feel at risk for trying something new or feeling outside of their comfort zone."

5. Encourage and celebrate a new culture

When education leaders get excited, it's contagious. If changing the way students learn is really a priority, school leaders will set the tone by celebrating successes and promoting that culture.


Change comes from both the bottom up and the top down. If teachers don't have leaders who support them, they can still do a lot of these moves, Staker said. But it will be a lot easier for them if they have support.

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