When it comes to professional development for principals, one size does not fit all. James Hilton Harrell, a doctoral student at Harvard University, explained in an article for Edutopia that principal-focused professional development should offer blended leadership models so that principals can take away practices that they are able to sustain at their own schools, despite individual school cultures.
Harrell points out a few key categories to develop in communities of practice, including relationship building, which is a critical skill for school leaders. It is also important for leaders to set aside time and space to come up with long-term solutions to problems rather than just quick fixes.
Strong communities of practice also embed time for reflective thinking and peer-to-peer collaborations. Collecting and sharing resources on problem-solving ideas specific to the district can help leaders overcome obstacles, such as racism.
Ongoing professional development not only supports educators and their leaders; the exposure to best practices also benefits the students. Professional learning communities (PLCs) are one way to achieve this, but it means giving teachers time to work together as a team. Communities that including project-based learning open opportunities for teachers to apply their professional development into a classroom lesson and then bring the results and data back to the group to compare and contrast.
PLCs give educators a chance to see their peers in action. While there may be some time to chat about best practices during collaboration time before or after school, rarely does a teacher get the opportunity to watch a peer in a way that allows them to learn new ideas. And allowing principals to visit each other's schools can keep them from feeling isolated and allow them to pick up strategies that work for their schools.
Teachers and principals that feel connected to their peers are also able to build on each other’s skills. Some educators have taken to social media platforms to foster connections, and even friendships. In the book "What Connected Educators Do Differently," authors Jimmy Casas, Jeff Zoul and Todd Whitaker break down how connecting with others in the profession improves school results. The book asserts connected leaders lead with passion, they give more than they take and demonstrate that relationships are key to educational success.