Professional learning is a form of capacity development, which is defined as “the process by which individuals, organizations, institutions and societies develop abilities (individually and collectively) to perform functions, solve problems and set and achieve objectives,” (Godfrey et al., 2002). Professional learning falls under the umbrella of technical assistance, which is defined as a multi-tiered approach to build the capacity of individuals and organizations to achieve desired outcomes. Find out more about technical assistance by clicking here.
A finite college, university, or other preparatory training experience cannot provide the extensive range of learning experiences needed to sufficiently respond to the needs of diverse students, the demands associated with the education profession, or the changes to education in response to new research, understandings, and technologies. Therefore, on-going professional learning is necessary to support educators in meeting the needs of all students. On-going professional learning for educators should include what Instruction Partners calls the Three Pillars of Teacher Support (train, coach, plan).
Job-Embedded Professional Learning
According to the organization Learning Forward, job-embedded professional learning refers to teacher learning that is grounded in day-to-day teaching practice and is designed to enhance teachers’ content-specific instructional practices with the intent of improving student learning. Find more details and examples of job-embedded professional learning here. Find more information about Learning Forward here.
Multiple research studies show the impact of job-embedded professional learning, and especially materials-focused professional learning. Materials-focused professional learning is professional learning that is grounded in the standards-aligned instructional materials and curriculum an educator is using with students. Some examples of materials-focused professional learning include collaborative lesson study, collaborative analysis of student work, analyzing academic standards and corresponding instruction within a unit of instruction, and previewing an upcoming unit of instruction, among others. See the research on job-embedded professional learning that has resulted in student achievement.
Examples, guidance, and resources for job-embedded professional learning that is focused on effective implementation of instructional materials and curriculum can be found in phases two and three of the Instruction Partners Curriculum Support Guide. Find more information and a link to this guide here.
Professional Learning and the Every Student Succeeds Act
The Every Student Succeeds Act allows schools to use funds for professional learning experiences if they meet the following criteria:
- must be "sustained (not stand-alone, 1-day, or short term workshops), intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven, and classroom-focused," (U.S. Department of Education, 2016).
- must align with ESSA’s definition of “evidence based, to the extent the State…determines that such evidence is reasonably available,” (U.S. Department of Education, 2016).
For more information on professional learning, review the links below:
- DPI’s beliefs about professional learning
- Information about Wisconsin’s Educator Effectiveness system
- Information about the Continuous Improvement Process
- Additional information about why professional learning is important and how to ensure effective professional learning, see Learning Forward’s publication “Why Professional Development Matters”
- Find Achieve the Core’s resource: Practice What You Teach: Connecting Curriculum and Professional Learning in Schools