Introduction & Overview: Module 7

General Comments

This three part, four week, module can be used in multiple delivery modes—face-to-face, online, or blended. Some notes for instructors are included in italics to suggest how the module might work . An issue that almost all curriculum developers face, especially those developing modules meant to fit within core leadership courses, is how to help the user adapt the curriculum to their particular course. While the parts of this module are interrelated, each part could be used separately. For example, in an existing course dealing with professional development, the instructor may wish to emphasize the research on effective professional development. Thus, an alternative version of Week Three might be offered that could be modified to be a stand alone Powerful Learning Experience (PLE) with its own instructional guide. Week One and Two, which deal with culturally responsive teaching, could be used in courses that address equity more generally or examine alternative strategies for narrowing the achievement gap.


This module is meant for aspiring and current school principals but other school leaders, including district leaders and staff development professionals should also know this content. Except for a few instructional notes, the rest of this document is what students would see.


Introduction & Overview

The most powerful school-based influence on student learning is the quality of teaching students experience. This is particularly true for students from diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds and students with disabilities who depend on schools for a greater share of their learning opportunities than other students. In recent surveys of teachers, a consistent finding is that teachers feel they need more help in how best to meet the needs of diverse students. School leaders can influence the quality of teaching in their schools in many ways, including by providing relevant and timely professional development for teachers. Too often, however, professional development is poorly targeted, designed and delivered. This module will help you, as a school leader, design and implement school-based professional learning experiences for your staff that focus particularly on enhancing teacher capabilities to teach diverse students. While the focus here is on racially, ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse students, the lessons you will learn in this module are generally applicable to the teaching of all students.

Learning Objectives

a. Understand the essential characteristics of “Culturally Relevant Pedagogy” that should be the content of initial professional development for teachers of diverse students (weeks one and two).

b.  Learn how to design professional learning experiences for teachers of diverse students (week three).

c.  Understand what some of the issues are in successfully implementing culturally relevant professional development (week four).

Summative Assessment

You will be introduced to a challenge that represents a core leadership task—the development and implementation of professional learning experiences for school staff that focus on “culturally responsive pedagogy.”.To accomplish this task, you will be provided with a set of resources that include research articles, reports, expert commentary, and examples of effective practice. Your learning will be assessed by an evaluation of a brief memorandum to your leadership team proposing the design and content of the professional learning experiences to enhance the teaching of students of diverse racial, ethnic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds. In addition, your memo should identify some of the difficulties that might be anticipated in implementing your proposal, especially issues related to the diversity of students, staff, and families.  This memo will not deal directly with professional learning related to the achievement of students with disabilities, though that challenge is important to address.

The Challenge

You have just been appointed as principal of Catonsville School. The school has a history of above-average student performance. However, student test scores have been declining in recent years while at the same time, proportions of African American, Latino and Asian descent students have increased.  Your teacher corps is relatively experienced and certified to teach in their current subjects.

You meet with the School Leadership Team. They tell you that while teachers are concerned about the declining test scores, they have considerable confidence in their own expertise. You are advised that some teachers say that they have taught in ways that have always been successful but are not sure how to meet the needs of many of their students of color, most of whom are from low or moderate income families. The faculty as a whole does not feel that professional development is likely to make much of a difference in student learning outcomes.

After learning more about the school and looking in-depth at disaggregated student outcomes disaggregated by race and free and reduced lunch eligibility (including test scores and attendance and retention rates) for the last few years, you decide to write a memo that you will submit to the leadership team to enhance the expertise of the faculty to teach and engage diverse students effectively. The memo will have three parts and will identify:

  • Professional development that builds teachers’ capability to meet the needs of diverse learners.
  • Essential characteristics of effective professional development.
  • Potential  difficulties in implementing the plan.

This four week module is designed to help you draft this memo. It is recommended that as you finish each of the three sections of the memo, you summarize what you have learned in the form of draft answers.. Your instructor may ask you to share your preliminary ideas about each aspect of the memo with one or more members of the class so that you can benefit from collaboration.

[The instructor will be advised that this last sentence can be deleted or that such collaboration could be facilitated online. The instructor might want to make the quality of feedback among students as part of the evaluation of student performance.]

Initial Response [Instructor option]

Before you examine any of the learning resources provided below, write down your initial thoughts regarding the three parts of the memo—two to four sentences for each of the three elements of the memo you are planning to prepare will suffice. These initial reactions will not be graded but can be used to facilitate discussion and later assessment by you of what you have learned. Depending on instructions from your instructor either (1) submit your thoughts to the instructor via email or (2) if you are using an online discussion board, submit your comments there. If you are using an online discussion board, your instructor may ask you to comment on one or more of your classmates’ ideas.