School & District Management Opinion

A Whirlwind of Learning in Vancouver

By Learning Forward — December 01, 2016 3 min read
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Stephanie Hirsh

I landed just a few hours ago in Vancouver, British Columbia, the site of Learning Forward’s 2016 Annual Conference. As I prepare for the seven-day marathon shared with many on the Learning Forward team, I want to explain why I am more excited than ever.

The week begins with two days of board meetings, followed by two days of preconference and Academy sessions and three days of conference activities. Our board of trustees begins each meeting focused on its own development. We have chosen to focus on the future of learning.

Each of us has read different texts and will begin a series of conversations on the future of learning for children and adults and the implications for the field of professional learning. This will be the first of many conversations to shape the future of our organization and the field. I will share with you more on this subject after the conversation and over the next year.

I am looking forward to my own learning during the upcoming conference days. This year’s program will allow me to learn from brilliant practitioners and partners from around the world. More than 40% of attendees are from outside the U.S. and, at last count, represented 13 countries.

I will hear from practitioners who are cracking the code on challenges that have plagued us for a long time: how we measure professional learning’s impact, how we use that information to improve practice and align resources, and how we create coherent learning systems that provide teachers with consistent, relevant, and rigorous professional learning. Many of those practitioners will engage in two days of intensive learning in Learning Forward’s Redesign PD Community of Practice and will then share their successes and challenges in sessions for conference attendees

I am in awe of the work of our publications team and in deep appreciation to our many partners with whom we’ve collaborated recently to produce reports on important issues, including microcredentialing, teacher leadership, coaching, ESSA, teacher agency, and more. The list of partners includes Digital Promise (@DigitalPromise), SREB (@srebeducation), NCTAF (@NCTAF), Public Impact (@publicimpact), The Lastinger Center (@LastingerCenter), a group of Learning Forward senior consultants focused on teacher leadership, and members of the Redesign PD Partnership. Check out their reports on our website. Our next steps are to determine their implications and use the tools to further our own agenda and work.

Most importantly, I am grateful to Carol Campbell and her research team, the Canada Study Advisory Group, the British Columbia partners facilitated by Audrey Hobbs-Johnson, and our advisors, Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves. On Monday, we will release a study on the state of professional learning in Canada, the first Pan-Canadian study of its kind.

As we embrace the powerful lessons we can learn from Canada, the country’s education leaders once again model for us their commitment to ongoing learning and improvement by embarking on a study to examine what’s working and where they can improve. Releasing the study at this conference reinforces Canada’s culture of continuous improvement. And I am here to learn all I can about it.

I am excited to learn from the Canadian educators -- almost half of the presenters on the program -- who, in a different political climate, are able to accomplish results that challenge and inspire us. While it is going to be a long seven days, it will launch my learning for the coming year. The conference allows me to connect with colleagues from around the world, add to my network, and be inspired every minute. After 30-plus years attending as a member and staff member, I never grow tired of this week. And none of this would be possible without our amazing host committee, many wonderful sponsors, and the engagement of dozens of exhibitors.

If you’re attending the conference, I look forward to joining you. If you were unable to come this year, we will miss you, but we will share our learning and invite you into our conversations for the next year. We hope you will be an active participant in helping us with our own improvement journey in our quest to serve you and the field.

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.