Education Opinion

Intentional and Deliberate Adult Learning

By Learning Forward — January 27, 2011 2 min read

We all know that the school is the site for student learning. We may engage in substantial discourse about what students are to learn, how they are to learn it, and when, but student learning remains the ultimate goal.

We also know that the most significant factor in whether student learning is taking place at school is teaching quality. Not just teacher quality, but teaching quality.

If teaching quality is the most important influence on student learning, how do we maintain, increase, enhance, or improve teaching quality? The answer is continuous professional learning. And the most powerful setting or environment for continuous professional learning is the community of professional learners.

Where this community focuses its attention is key to improving student learning. Effective communities of professional learners begin their work by studying the wide array or of student outcome data available to them. As they study the data, they determine where students have performed well, and where student performance shows disappointing outcomes.

While we take time to celebrate our successes for our students’ results, we also recognize our responsibility for the areas where they were less successful. Since students did not learn well from the content and instructional strategies that we used, we look to another way of understanding and/or teaching what they didn’t get. If we simply repeat the same efforts, we should expect the same results.

As a result, the staff turns it attention to exploring multiple solutions (new practices, programs, processes) that will better serve students’ learning needs. After extensive study, a new and different way is decided; these steps occur in any typical school improvement process.

At this point in the professional learning community, the journey takes a hard right turn as the community recognizes that these practices are new to them, and acknowledges that they do not know precisely what the new practices will look like in their own theatre of the classroom.This is the moment of truth! The staff realizes that while they have identified new strategies that according to their research should produce better results, they must learn how to implement the strategies appropriately., The staff will undertake its own intentional learning of the new practice so as to be able to use the new way well with students.

For decades of school improvement activity, we have glossed over the needs of staff members to learn deeply and thoroughly what new practices will look like when they are implemented in a high-quality way. Both staff development and change process research have informed us that continuous staff learning and support is necessary for successful classroom implementation.

This is the intentional or deliberate learning that is the purpose of and focus of attention in the community of professional learners. This is why the “L” is in the middle word in PLCs for adult learning must define the community’s work for it to truly impact students’ learning.

Shirley Hord
Scholar Laureate, Learning Forward

Related Tags:

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.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.


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.
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

Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Data Analyst
New York, NY, US
New Visions for Public Schools
Project Manager
United States
K12 Inc.

Read Next

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
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read