Powerful Conversations

By Stephanie Hirsh

Cathy Gassenheimer, director of the Alabama Best Practices Center, believes high-quality professional development is essential to improved student learning. In 2002, she instituted a process to identify and showcase schools with high-quality professional development. Instead of asking schools to participate in a typical application process, Gassenheimer invited applicants to join her in a facilitated conversation about their staff development practice in relation to the NSDC Standards for Staff Development.

Role-playing a powerful conversation

To enable school staff to experience a powerful conversation, dialogue, and discussion; to use the Innovation Configuration to identify needed areas for attention for staff development practice and planning; and to prepare participants to have powerful conversations with colleagues Ideally, the staff participating in this conversation has already been introduced to and understands the difference between dialogue and discussion. Definitions of both are provided on pages 8 and 9.


Handout for role play observers

Questions for observers to consider as they debrief the conversation.


Description of roles

Role players and observers should read each description of the roles to themselves. This will ensure that both role-play participants and observers are clear on the background of each character.


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