Net Exchange Response

Title: Professional development for learning supports staff

Date Posted: 7/20/2015

Question: We get frequent requests about planning continuing professional development for student/learning supports professionals and also for covering learning supports for all school staff (e.g., at schools, at conferences, etc). Below are a few ideas we regularly share.

Response: Continuing professional development about student/learning supports needs to address both current concerns and encourage leadership in moving toward a unified, comprehensive, and equitable system for addressing barriers to learning and teaching and reengaging disconnected students. Moreover, all staff need to know more about how to help schools develop learning supports so that teachers are no longer expected to carry so much of the burden for enhancing equity of opportunity for students who are not doing well at school.

Here are some suggestions for a keynote and sessions (e.g., for a conference, for a year long professional development).

Keynote: Addressing Barriers to Learning and Teaching. Overview of the imperative for improving student/learning supports in every school and the leadership actions needed to move forward at every level.


  1. Establishing a Learning Supports Leadership. Creating a learning support leadership team and an administrative leader at a school and at the district to focus on enhancing the way available resources are used and to move toward developing a unified, comprehensive, and equitable system of learning supports. (Stressing how to rethink operational infrastructure at all levels and clarifying the difference between a leadership development team and a case study-oriented workgroup.)
  2. Weaving Resources Together. How to map, analyze, and blend school resources and weave in community resources at school, complex, and district levels to improve student/learning supports through system development. This includes mapping and analyzing current resources, identifying gaps, establishing priorities for system improvements, enhancing school-community collaboration, and capitalizing on economies of scale.
  3. Avoiding Projectitis. Moving beyond a special project approach in pursuing high priority problems (e.g., enhancing attendance, increasing school safety, dealing with learning, behavior, and emotional problems). The emphasis is on embedding each priority into the process of developing a unified, comprehensive, and equitable system of learning supports.
  4. Enhancing Classroom-based Learning Supports. Enabling support staff and volunteers to work in classrooms to help teachers/students address classroom organization, dynamics, and student needs in ways that reduce problems and increase learning (e.g., enhancing personalized learning and special assistance, engaging disconnected students).
  5. Ending the Marginalization of Student/Learning Supports in School Improvement Efforts. Strategies for ensuring student/learning supports staff are at key planning and decision making table to ensure that strengthening learning supports is on the agenda and that strategic plan are made for capacity building (e.g., resource allocation, professional development, operational infrastructure changes, etc.).

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    UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools
    Dept. of Psychology, P.O.Box 951563, Los Angeles, CA 90095.
    tel: (310)825-3634
    email: Linda Taylor ~ web: