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Professional Learning


Teachers deserve high-quality instructional materials and ongoing support to implement those materials. Mounting evidence suggests that providing teachers with access to high-quality, standards-aligned instructional materials and curriculum-based professional learning can result in improvement in student outcomes, making this a research-based continuous improvement strategy. For more information on continuous improvement, please click here. Research has shown that teachers’ build a deeper understanding of the student academic standards when they receive professional learning that is based upon the standards-aligned instructional materials with which they are teaching.

This site summarizes existing research about materials-focused professional learning, provides guidance on key actions to implement a curriculum, and gives Wisconsin educators access to a guide of providers of materials-focused professional learning. Links to each of these subpages can be found in the left-hand navigation bar.

Key Terms

Academic standards are content-specific end of year (or, in the case of social studies and other subjects, end of grade-band) goals for all students. Wisconsin Academic Standards specify what students should know and be able to do in the classroom. They serve as goals for teaching and learning.

Instruction is the art and practice of implementing curriculum with instructional materials; instruction is designed to meet the needs of all learners, eliminating any barriers to their learning or application of academic standards. Instructional decisions are made in a systematic way to ensure coherence, both horizontally across a grade-level and vertically from grade-level to grade-level.

Curriculum reflects a district’s philosophy of teaching, learning, and assessment; curriculum identifies what is essential to teach in order to meet academic standards; curriculum organizes and groups the academic standards in meaningful ways for teachers and students, including a scope and sequence or pacing guide; curriculum is a collection of instructional materials and activities implemented by educators in order to support students in reaching proficiency in academic standards; curriculum identifies and connects educators to resources that the district requires; curriculum identifies how students’ knowledge and understanding of the academic standards are measured.

Instructional materials can include texts, videos, and other materials to facilitate instructional activities, assessments (formal and informal), graphic organizers, and other materials. High-quality instructional materials are aligned to standards, are coherent both horizontally across a grade-level and vertically from grade-level to grade-level, may include embedded assessments, and supports for all students to access and engage with grade-level work. Many sets of standards, aligned high-quality instructional materials include embedded assessments, supports for students, a scope and sequence, and a pacing guide, and therefore, may be considered curriculum.

The local context, available personnel, selected materials, and available time will determine the specific needs of professional learning within a school or district and should be considered when creating a professional development plan. The steps outlined above, while seemingly linear, need to be revisited and adjusted to ensure implementation integrity, timely response to concerns and questions, and effective use of professional learning structures. The use of high-quality materials, in conjunction with effective professional learning, can lead to increased equity for both students and teachers and increased student achievement throughout the system.

Instructional Materials and Professional Learning

After engaging in a needs assessment or root cause analysis process, districts may identify their instructional materials as being a potential cause of their undesired outcomes. The instructional materials and professional learning school improvement strategy can result in improved student outcomes. More information about the instructional materials and professional learning school improvement strategy here.

To achieve equitable outcomes for every student, districts should connect their instructional vision, academic standards, instructional materials, and professional learning. Instructional materials are evidence of a district’s instructional vision and professional learning needs to support the selection, implementation, and ongoing collaborative conversations on the use of the standards-aligned instructional materials.

Effective Implementation of High-Quality Instructional Materials and Equity

Choosing high-quality materials and developing professional learning requires an intentional focus on equity for both students and teachers. Click here for Wisconsin’s vision on equity. Through this work, equity is not something extra; something more; something on top of the core work, but rather the core of our work and embedded into everything we do. It is assumed that schools have already, or will in conjunction with this work, address equity within their school context. Below are resources that can help guide this work: