Professional Development Opinion

There IS Time for Professional Learning

By Learning Forward — March 03, 2014 2 min read
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Frederick Brown

“Ask any educator what the major challenge is in providing the effective professional learning needed to implement college and career readiness standards, and the answer is the same - TIME.”

Establishing Time for Professional Learning (Learning Forward, 2013)

Whenever I show a video of a learning team like this one from Ford Middle School from Allen, Texas, most educators agree it represents the type of professional learning they aspire to put into practice. They love watching this team of teachers use data to inform their learning and the learning their students will experience. Watchers also applaud how the teachers share best practices, set up times to visit each other’s classrooms, and seek ways to be a support for their colleagues. However, as I’m facilitating discussions about the Ford Middle School video, it doesn’t take long for someone to say they simply don’t have time for this type of professional learning in their school or district.

Time is a precious commodity in schools, and if we’re committed to changing results for students, we have to challenge our assumptions about time for professional learning. For example, which of the statements below are you inclined to agree with and to what degree?

Time is a fixed commodity that cannot be adapted,


Time is a resource to adapt to our needs.

Time constrains our efforts,


Time enhances our efforts.

Determining how time is allocated and used during the workday is an individual decision,


Determining how time is allocated and used within a school day is a collaborative decision.

Explore these questions and more in Establishing Time for Professional Learning, a free Learning Forward workbook designed to help schools and systems find ways to make time for collaboration. It was written to support a school team in going through a process to find time to support the kind of professional learning we know results in changes in educator practice and improved results for students. The guide has seven steps:

  1. Examining assumptions about time
  2. Examining existing time
  3. Studying time options
  4. Forming and approving recommendations about time
  5. Establishing a plan to implement and evaluate accepted recommendations
  6. Reviewing time use and results

The questions above come from the “Examining assumptions” tool in the workbook. Use this tool (click on the screenshot below) to explore your personal assumptions and perspectives, and those of your team, about time and time for collaboration among educators in schools.

If a lack of time is the issue your school or district is trying to overcome, I strongly suggest a review of this guide. If you take the time to review it, I guarantee it will give you strategies to get back that time and much more.

The ideas in this post have been informed by our Transforming Professional Learning initiative, which has included more than two years of on-the-ground work in partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education and with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates, Sandler, and MetLife Foundations.

Frederick Brown

Director of Strategy and Development, Learning Forward

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