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PD Brain Trust Wants Your Input on Professional Learning Redesign

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Stephanie Hirsh

Despite everything we know about effective professional learning, and despite a growing consensus about the importance of professional learning as a school improvement strategy, education stakeholders remain challenged to implement and sustain effective professional learning.

Learning Forward is facilitating a diverse group of leading thinkers, designers, and practitioners to discuss this challenge. Called the PD Brain Trust, this network has been established to inspire new thinking and generate new expertise about how to create demand for -- and deliver -- redesigned systems of support that guarantee all educators have access to effective professional learning. 

The question of professional learning redesign is enormous and will benefit from extensive dialogue with stakeholders at all levels about these challenges. Here are some initial questions the PD Brain Trust is considering. Your input on these topics is essential.

Why is professional learning redesign important now?

Members of the PD Brain Trust have cited several key reasons that professional learning is rising to the top as an international issue: the demands of new student standards and teacher effectiveness systems, the need to improve teaching quality to close student achievement gaps, and the opportunities that emerging technologies present for adult and student learning. What would you add to this list?

What are the elements of effective professional learning?

Building a shared vision of effective professional learning is critical to establishing a comprehensive professional learning system. While Learning Forward has established Standards for Professional Learning that outline the characteristics of effective professional learning, and many other organizations have published research and frameworks that deepen our understanding, the PD Brain Trust is investing time in examining those elements and looking for what is most essential and perhaps what has been overlooked.

This network has identified several critical elements, including a systemwide culture of continuous improvement; high-quality leadership; use of data to determine needs and measure impact; educator collaboration; innovation; and individualized coaching, feedback, and time for reflection. Which of these elements do you consider most critical? What is missing from this list?

What are the barriers to overcome?

While many educators agree on the value and elements of effective professional learning, sustained implementation at scale is rare. The PD Brain Trust has identified several barriers and will continue discussions about how to address these barriers. Among the top barriers cited are inadequate structures for job-embedded learning, lack of a continuous improvement culture at the system level, inadequate capacity to lead and implement professional learning, and limited buy-in for transformation at all levels. Which of these barriers are really holding us back? How would we address those barriers?

Along with my PD Brain Trust colleagues, I will be writing about these questions through our blog and social media outlets. I hope you'll join me. Use #RedesignPD to add your voice to the conversation.

Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the PD Brain Trust is a collaborative professional learning community of individuals from organizations that have demonstrated leadership in all aspects of K-12 education. Learn more and meet our partners here.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward

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