Data Opinion

Everyone Is Invested in Measuring Professional Learning

By Learning Forward — March 26, 2014 2 min read
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Dawn F. Wilson

When it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of professional learning, there are stakeholders at every level.

Policy makers

I’ve learned that policy makers, such as legislators and school board members, are important because policy informs practice. Since professional learning is an important step in transforming schools and improving student achievement, it is important to have effective professional learning policies in place. When we adopted the Standards for Professional Learning as policy for Duval County Public Schools, it was significant. The standards became a Rosetta stone. Adopting them tells everyone that professional learning is valued — it is important enough to create policy for it. Prior to adopting the standards, many of our policies dealt with procedural issues like dismissal times.

From the perspective of policy makers, they are interested in the return on their investment in professional learning. They want to know how the system can create effective professional learning structures and policies that support continuous improvement and better understanding of student learning needs. Policy makers also need to be able to make decisions based on data, and evaluating professional learning gives them that data.

System leaders

System leaders set high expectations, allocate sufficient resources, and provide standards-based learning for school and district leaders. They need the data to make these decisions and plans. They also have to find a way to integrate professional learning so that school leaders don’t feel it is another burdensome initiative. For example, when we started working on learning communities, we had already been conducting lesson study for several years. We found common threads within learning communities and lesson study so that instead of educators seeing them as two distinctive models, they saw the nuances and similarities and how they work in tandem with one another.

School and building leaders

At the school level, practitioners have varying degrees of authority for determining professional learning, and each type has a significant role in evaluating impact.

School leaders are responsible for facilitating plans that include evaluation components. Part of their responsibility is assessing progress towards SMART goals, having data dialogues, and requesting additional support if needed. They work closely with staff to identify expectations of implementation and watch to see how well what was learned is preserved in ongoing practice.

Educators can evaluate progress toward learning goals through their individual learning plans. They can request data and disaggregate it to understand student needs, give feedback on data, and use it to determine what instructional strategies are impacting student learning. School teams and learning communities can use the data to assess progress towards their SMART goals, for themselves and students.

Evaluating professional learning is an important endeavor for stakeholders at all levels. Getting everyone to understand the significance can be a challenge, though.

How do you help your stakeholders understand the value? Please share your answer below!

Dawn F. Wilson discusses more on evaluating professional learning in this month’s issue of Transform Professional Learning.

Dawn F. Wilson
Learning Forward 2010 Academy graduate
Coach of Learning Forward Academy 2015 class
Director of professional development, Duval County Public Schools (Fla.).

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