Putting the “Development” in Professional Development: Understanding and Overturning Educational Leaders’ Immunities to Change

Fall 2008

Source: Harvard Educational Review. Volume 78, Issue 3; Fall 2008. p. 437-468
(Reviewed by The Portal Team)

In this article, the authors argue that today’s educational leaders face a host of complex demands as they strive to implement lasting, meaningful change in their school environments. As these demands often require a level of personal development many adults may not yet have, there is a need for professional development programs that are genuinely developmental. The article describes one such program that provides the opportunity for participants to make qualitative shifts in the ways that they understand themselves and their work.

This article seeks to make two contributions to the field of professional development for educational leaders in this complex and changing environment by (1) calling attention to the need for professional development opportunities and goals that are informed by theories of adult development,
and (2) illustrating the potential of one particular professional development framework to lead to transformative learning.

Using case study methodology, the authors explore the psychological development of one participant as she increases her capacity to determine, and be guided by, her own theories, values, and expectations of her personal and professional relationships and responsibilities.

Case Study of Selma Meredith

Selma Meredith is a school change coach in a large urban district in the southern United States, where, previously, she had also served as a teacher and then a school principal.
Selma's case illustrates the mental demands that the work of change leadership places on individuals and the need for them to be able to exercise self-authoring developmental capacities in order to be successful. Therefore, programs such as the Immunities to Change work are critical to support educational leaders' evolving abilities in their roles.



Applying an adult developmental lens to issues of professional competency has powerful implications for professional development. This lens enables to identify the particular demands of change leadership that may not be effectively addressed simply through increased knowledge acquisition or behavioral modification.
Increasing the developmental capacities of adults and the quality of their professional practice, requires an environment that is both welcoming of individuals at their current developmental level and also encouraging of their greater psychological growth.
Professional development programs that provide avenues for identifying, reflecting on, and altering one's core beliefs, such as the Immunities to Change work, can offer this kind of assistance.



Updated: Nov. 30, 2008