NAESP Partners to Provide Unique Professional Learning Experience

April 2016, Volume 39, Issue 8

Experience is the best teacher. This is the thinking behind a recent partnership between NAESP and Ed Leadership SIMs (ELS) to provide professional learning simulations for elementary school principals and administrators across the country.

School leaders must be able to make critical decisions as part of their jobs, and behavioral studies show that practice and reinforcement help guide a school administrator’s abilities to make these decisions quickly and effectively. A professional learning simulation can support and enhance leadership training by exploring and discussing real-life, on-the-job scenarios.

For instance, principals have taken the requisite higher education courses, training, and certification programs to know how to effectively lead a school. But activating those skills each day on the job is very different. This is where simulations can help principals apply classroom lessons with the hands-on knowledge that typically only comes from years of experience.

Simulations provide an opportunity to bring together ideas and issues and try out solutions around scenarios such as playground mishaps, staff relations, board relations, new teacher evaluations, or budget crises. They narrow the focus of leadership responsibilities and responses that set culture and structure in a school.

A sample simulation shows a parent complaining to the school board that the new girls’ basketball coach, who is leading them to a championship season, curses at his players. The parent’s complaint has caught the attention of the superintendent and the media. The interactive video gives participants options to choose how they would respond as the situation unfolds—the next morning, will the principal first return the call from the parent, the reporter, or the superintendent? That choice leads the participant into a new scenario with issues they may not have considered.

SIMs also understand that new principals may respond to situations very differently than veterans. In a typical exercise, facilitators take into consideration their audiences’ backgrounds, experiences, and individual school situations. The facilitators may challenge principals to show judgment around a variety of issues that require experience in dealing with situational awareness, political environments, contextual settings, and understanding stakeholders.

NAESP was particularly interested in the project because many elementary school leaders need help with engaging a broad range of stakeholders from their communities, says NAESP Professional Learning and Outreach Specialist, Carol Riley. They also are interested in experiential learning opportunities as a way to build their leadership skills, she adds.

“We’ve seen how ELS’ simulations engage leaders in professional development activities and we want to bring these tools to our members,” says Riley. “NAESP is excited to use ELS’ simulations to develop administrative skills and build stronger mentoring programs while also developing elementary school specific scenarios and expand usage of this valuable experiential tool with our members.”

Simulations are currently used in the NAESP Principal Mentor Program and in other professional learning activities. Program participants report that the positive and the deeper conversations focusing on the complexity of the role of the principal and how their responses to situations impact all aspects of school operations provide a new dimension in training and program development.

“We know simulations work for engaging leaders in leadership and professional development activities that improve both judgment and decision making capacity,” says Ken Spero, Chief Executive Officer of ELS. “In working with NAESP, we have also seen the power of simulations to help in developing mentors and assisting in their ongoing efforts with sitting principals. We’ve been showing education leaders the dramatic affect that simulations can have on their problem solving and collaboration skills as well as improving their conversations.”

Spero adds, “We are excited about the partnership with NAESP and the opportunity to work with their member principals and administrators to use simulations and the benefits this approach can provide to their teams and their buildings utilizing aspects of social learning and shared experience.”

NAESP Membership Discount
Active NAESP members receive a 10% discount on the purchase of any of the Ed Leadership SIMS for use in professional development. This offer allows members to access individual simulations or a package of the simulations for use in their district or for individual activities.

To learn more about the NAESP-ELS partnership, contact Carol Riley.

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