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Reimagine Professional Learning To Achieve Better Results

Stephanie Hirsh image
Stephanie Hirsh

As many of you know, TNTP released a new study yesterday, The Mirage: Confronting the Hard Truth About Our Quest for Teacher Development, which recommends that we re-envision professional learning by asking fundamentally different questions about what better teaching means and how to achieve it. This will demand measuring the impact of professional development more closely and require coordinated action from education stakeholders at all levels, including teachers, administrators, and technical assistance providers.

Fortunately, the appetite and will for professional learning system redesign is growing -- particularly among teachers.

The major findings of The Mirage include:

  • Districts included in the study invested substantially in teacher evaluation and improvement strategies.
  • Despite these efforts, most teachers did not appear to improve their teaching practices substantially from year to year.
  • Even when teaching practices did improve, researchers couldn't identify evidence of the conditions and mechanisms leading to their improvement.
  • These districts did not help teachers understand where they need to improve or how they would do so.

The recognition of the importance of improving outcomes from professional development is the primary reason that more than 25 leaders from top education advocacy, membership, and philanthropic organizations, as well as state and local education agencies, began meeting last year to collectively address this significant issue. These partners, including a representative from TNTP, have spent a year challenging assumptions, studying promising models within and beyond education, clarifying shared principles, and discussing individual and collective action plans.

The group's recommended course of action to address professional learning challenges includes:

  • Define the critical elements of professional learning systems that are essential to supporting teachers to bring effective teaching practices to scale.
  • Establish tools and resources that help all educators measure the return on investment and impact of teacher supports and other models of professional development so they can make well-informed decisions.
  • Leverage the collective intelligence and work of the partners to invent new strategies and systems that take effective teaching and learning to scale and eliminate all barriers along the way.

Please read the full statement from Learning Forward and its partners here. I'm excited and proud to be joined by so many committed education leaders at organizations and school systems around the country.

Also, I'm curious to hear your thoughts about the issue and the report as we continue this important conversation about how to reimagine professional learning systems so all teachers experience the kinds of support and learning they deserve.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward
@HirshLF

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