As districts and states ramp up professional learning to deepen implementation of Common Core, NextGen Science, and other college- and career-readiness standards and educator evaluation systems, a troubling question frequently emerges among planners. Which professional learning standards should we address as we plan?
The answer is simple: All or none. The standards work as an integrated whole. They represent a complete set of attributes, drawn from research and evidence-based practice, that define the effectiveness of any form of professional learning. If one standard is missing, the likelihood of weak or limited results increases:
Imagine professional learning being effective when educators don’t agree on shared goals or a commitment to improve for the success of all students.
Envision professional learning occurring when leaders fail to create the conditions and structures to facilitate it or when leaders do not value their own or others’ growth.
How likely is the success of professional learning if resources such as time, staff, technology, funding, or materials are absent?
A frequent complaint about professional learning is its lack of relevance. This typically occurs because insufficient or inadequate data were used to assess needs, plan professional learning, and evaluate its effectiveness and effects.
What are the likely results of professional learning that fails to integrate learning designs based on theories, research, and models of human learning?
There are decades of evidence of what happens when leaders and learners fail to plan for and engage in sustained learning and support over time for the implementation of professional learning. Learning is usually short-lived and previous practices quickly return.
When professional learning is disconnected from the strategic priorities of schools or districts, student content standards, and educator performance, the potential of professional learning to contribute to the achievement of goals related to those standards is weakened.
Now imagine just the opposite. Professional learning planned with all seven standards in mind is much more likely to achieve its intended outcomes:
Professional learning occurs within a community that promotes continuous improvement.
Leaders value their own and others’ learning and create conditions and structures that facilitate learning for enhanced performance and student results.
Sufficient resources to support learning and deep implementation of learning exist and are focused on high-priority areas to achieve equity in learning for all educators and students.
Multiple forms and types of easily accessible student, educator, and system data are used to design, implement, and evaluate professional learning.
Professionally respectful, intellectually stimulating learning designs actively engage educators in the learning process.
Sustained support over time includes constructive feedback, differentiated services, and accountability for high levels of implementation.
Outcomes for professional learning align with student content standards and educator performance standards to build a consistent and coherent focus on results that reflect agreed-upon goals.
The decision about which standards for professional learning to include is not a difficult one. The actions to incorporate the seven standards may initially seem complex, yet their application in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of professional learning is not only logical, it is essential to achieve high levels of results for educators and students. The question about which professional learning standards to include can be answered simply based on the level of results desired.
Senior Advisor, 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.