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Hope Is Not a Strategy

As people dig into the newly released Standards for Professional Learning, they gain greater understanding of what is essential if we want to change educator practice and increase student achievement.

A key challenge associated with the Learning Designs standard is what I call "phase two design." During phase two, educators make excuses for failing to select and implement learning strategies they know are essential to achieving desired outcomes. We all know the excuses -- no time, competing priorities, lack of resources, etc. I recall hearing an internationally recognized change expert recall a school district asking him to assist them in implementing a new literacy program. He drew a line down the middle of a chalkboard and indicated that the district must demonstrate its commitment to support learning during both phases of the change process. If the system was only committed to launching the initiative correctly, he would not work with them.

There probably are many educators who have not had opportunities to internalize I the significance of the Learning Designs standard. I have, however, had educators confide in me that they understand the importance of phase two design, but their work reality prohibits them from applying it. Some feel uncomfortable raising this issue with their supervisors and others in their school systems with more decision-making authority. With the release of the new standards, we must find the clarity of message and strength of action to ask tough questions when our decisions influence outcomes for adults and students. When it comes to designing learning for educators never forget to ask:


  • What is our goal?

  • What is our plan for meeting it?

  • Do we have sufficient commitment, resources, and design to achieve it?

  • If not, how do we get it or is it time to abandon this goal and choose one we can reach?


As I recently heard a superintendent say to a group of thoughtful educators, "hope is not a strategy." Learning designs provide the guidance you need if you are truly committed to better results for adults and students. Try at all costs to avoid a phase two error. The cost is too great and recouping confidence in your recommendations and actions will be a challenge.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward

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