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How Learning Forward Virginia sparks inspiration and learning

By Judy Newhouse

Does your professional learning inspire? See how Learning Forward Virginia ignites the spark with designs for educator leaning.

Designs for Educator Learning

“Good professional learning is hard to do — and few people have the deep knowledge and expertise to plan and execute it”  (Stephanie Hirsh, “How we can stop the cycle of ineffective professional learning,” 2015).

71% of teachers are not highly satisfied with the quality of most professional development. (Teachers Know Best, Gates Foundation, 2014, p.3).

66% of educators believe pd has not improved during their career (Teachers Know Best, Gates Foundation, 2014, p.3).

The words from Stephanie Hirsh and the statistics from the Gates Foundation ignited Learning Forward Virginia to change the quality and intent of our professional learning offerings. We embarked on a two-year commitment to create a program designed for practicing and aspiring learning leaders. The program, Designs for Educator Learning, looks at the following questions:

What is effective professional learning?

Why does professional learning matter?

How do we ensure professional learning is effective?

How do we know?

Professional learning is a continuous and collaborative endeavor. It’s about teachers and their colleagues being on a journey to continually learn and refine new strategies to better meet the needs of all their students. The Designs for Educator Learning program unpacks the science regarding adult learning and the importance of building trusting relationships that promote a student-centered learning culture. The Standards for Professional Learning and the definition of professional learning found in the Every Student Succeeds Act provide the framework for planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating professional learning offerings. The program’s intense learning experience provides anyone who leads professional learning with the knowledge, tools, and confidence to become agents of change who inspire educators through intentional and purposeful learning experiences. Learning Forward Virginia facilitated its first Designs for Educator Learning on August 14-15, 2018 to very positive feedback.

Social and Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning is about building relationships that support a way of interacting with students and colleagues, as The Learning Professional editor, Suzanne Bouffard, explains in introducing the recent issue of the magazine dedicated to this topic.  She adds, “It is a core strength of a true learning organization.” (“Social and emotional skills are learning skills,” 2018)

To support intentional and purposeful experiences, Learning Forward Virginia is hosting a three-part webinar series on Social and Emotional Learning in partnership with Collaborative Classroom. These free webinars, beginning September 25, 2018 and continuing through November, build on the research and practitioner stories found in The Learning Professional, August 2018.

Project-Based Learning Institute

Our affiliate is also partnering with the Buck Institute for Education in our second annual Virginia Project-Based Learning Institute, Oct 4-6, 2018. Project-based learning is a student-centered pedagogy that involves a dynamic classroom approach in which students actively explore real-world challenges and problems. Students learn about a subject by working to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, challenge, or problem.

Twitter Chats

To provide ongoing support and build an online professional learning community, we are in our second year of hosting a monthly Twitter Chat. These chats, facilitated by Chelyse Miller, an affiliate member, incorporate the goals and areas of focus from Learning Forward and Learning Forward Virginia. All chats take place on the second Monday of the month from 8:30-9 pm. Please join us at #LFVAchat.

Topics and dates for upcoming chats are

  • October 8 Equipping educators for social emotional learning
  • November 5 Using project-based learning in professional learning
  • December 10 Mindfulness for better learning with special guests Erin Sonn and Alexandra Midland, former teachers, now Mindfulness gurus

For additional dates and topics, please visit