Opinion
Education Opinion

Collective Learning Improves Teacher Practice

By Learning Forward — June 18, 2012 2 min read

This post is taken from Stephanie Hirsh’s column in our June issue of JSD, which focuses on learning communities.

Effective professional learning communities are based on the assumption that collective learning and problem solving are key to improving educator practice and student learning. Effective professional learning communities promote the spread of better practices from teacher to teacher and school to school, ensuring that more students experience instruction that leads to improved learning.

Effective professional learning communities are more likely than individualized learning options to ensure every student experiences great teaching every day. However, not all professional learning communities achieve this outcome. There is considerable variation in how professional learning communities operate, and, as a result, in the outcomes they are able to achieve.

Research in school improvement, reports of exemplary practice in the field, and expert observations provide insight into the characteristics of the most effective professional learning communities. The most successful pay attention to all three words in this concept.

Professional. Who will participate? Professional learning communities include the staff responsible and accountable for an effective instructional program, ensuring that students achieve high standards of learning. This means that professional learning communities include administrators, teachers, and instructional support staff such as counselors, librarians, and school psychologists.

Learning. What will be the work of the professional learning community? Combined ignorance will not lead to better outcomes. The needs of the professionals are paramount. Their learning must cover the content and activities to supply the knowledge and skills they identify as necessary to increase their effectiveness.

Community. How are educators organized to achieve the intended outcomes of the learning community? Productive communities operate according to structures and processes that facilitate learning and accelerate achievement.

Educators working in an effective professional learning community join the group with the assumption that the data they examine and the needs they identify will point toward the learning they will undertake to successfully address the challenges they face. Learning Forward’s definition of professional development focuses on the cycle of continuous improvement, outlining the steps a community takes to achieve its intended outcomes.

Members of effective professional learning communities recognize that their learning will be the key to their students’ learning. Learning is always intentional. It is not simply a byproduct of the many important tasks that groups undertake.

While many forms of professional learning may lead to improved knowledge and skills for adults, only the learning community offers a structure, process, and product that lead to systematic continuous improvement for both educators and students.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward

The opinions expressed in Learning Forward’s PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read