Sparks and Loucks-Horsley (1989) suggest five models that are useful for accomplishing the goals of staff development:
- Individually Guided Development: The teacher designs his or her learning activities. An assumption of this model is that individuals are motivated by being able to select their own learning goals and means for accomplishing those goals. A belief that underlies this model is that self-directed development empowers teachers to address their own problems and by so doing, creates a sense of professionalism.
- Observation and Assessment: Instructional practices are improved if a colleague or other person observes a teacher's classroom and provides feedback. Having someone else in the classroom to view instruction and provide feedback or reflection also is a powerful way to impact classroom behavior. The person observing acts as another set of "eyes and ears" for the teacher. Observers also learn as they view their colleagues in action.
- Involvement in a Development or Improvement Process: Systemic school-improvement processes typically involve assessing current practices and determining a problem whose solution will improve student outcomes. The solution might include developing curricula, designing programs, or changing classroom practice. New skills or knowledge may be required and can be attained through reading, discussion, observation, training, and experimentation. Consequently, involvement in the improvement process can result in many new skills, attitudes, and behaviors.
- Training: A training design includes an expert presenter who selects the objectives, learning activities, and outcomes. Usually the outcomes involve awareness, knowledge, or skill development, but changes in attitude, transfer of training, and "executive control" need to be addressed as well. The improvement of teachers' thinking should be a critical outcome of any training program. The most effective training programs include exploration of theory, demonstrations of practice, supervised trial of new skills with feedback on performance, and coaching within the workplace.
- Inquiry: Teachers formulate questions about their own practice and pursue answers to those questions. Inquiry involves the identification of a problem, data collection (from the research literature and classroom data), data analysis, and changes in practice followed by the collection of additional data. The inquiry can be done individually or in small groups. This model is built on the belief that the mark of a professional teacher is the ability to take "reflective action."