In 1994, National Staff Development Council (which later became Learning Forward) developed and released an industry-leading set of research-based recommendations to standardize professional development, establishing a playbook for educators around the world.

Learning Forward has continued to invest in its Standards for Professional Learning with periodic revisions to ensure the standards provide the latest knowledge and insights that lead to the success of schools, educators, and students through high-quality professional learning. On April 25, 2022, Learning Forward released the standards’ fourth iteration following an inclusive two-year development process.

For the global release, members of Learning Forward’s standards advisory council, research partners, district affiliate members, district leaders, principals, and others participated in First Look: Standards for Professional Learning, a webinar where they discussed why standards matter and how the standards uniquely equip educators to address system gaps.

Segun Eubanks, Learning Forward Board president, cited Learning Forward’s Action Guides, created for seven major educator roles with corresponding innovation configuration (IC) maps, as essential tools for embedding the standards “into the daily lives of the profession. (We have developed) all that is necessary for our leaders to take the work we have done with these standards and implement them in ways that will impact the lives of educators, and most important, the students they serve,” Eubanks said.

“We really listened to our state affiliates, our membership, and our clients as to what is most important to them,” said Learning Forward President and CEO Denise Glyn Borders. “And that was how best to actually use and implement the standards systemically.”

Global impact

In a spirited call to action, Anthony Mackay urged education leaders to consider the global impact of high-quality professional learning.

“This is about a system that has purpose,” Mackay said. “It is not just about the local, the national, and the global. It is also about an ecosystem,” Mackay said. “We are in the business of transformation, not just incremental improvement.” Mackay is a Learning Forward standards advisory council member and CEO of National Center on Education and the Economy.

“This is about a system that has purpose. It is not just about the local, the national, and the global. It is also about an ecosystem. We are in the business of transformation, not just incremental improvement.” -- Anthony Mackay… Click To Tweet

Joining the livestreamed discussion from Australia, Mackay called the newly revised standards “a remarkable set of professional learning standards and completely world-class.”

“The global community appreciates that you can’t activate standards around knowledge and practice without constantly investing in your own professional learning; professional learning that then engages young people and their parents, the wider community and other stakeholders. At the heart of our learning profession is the capacity for us to continually learn and develop expertise that is required in order to achieve the outcomes that we want for all young people.”

Mackay described how global educational leaders working collaboratively over the past decade are achieving an “end-to-end system of a profession led system, and at the heart of that is a learning profession with the standards that are fully refreshed, updated and will be a driver for the kind of learning systems that we want. We are really seeing the power of standards driving the quality of education for all young people.”

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Segun Eubanks, Learning Forward Board president, said implementation tools will help education leaders and policymakers implement the newly revised Standards of Professional Learning

Girding high-quality materials and practice

Jim Short, program director at Carnegie Corporation of New York, elevated the importance of high-quality curriculum and instructional materials for students, integrated with curriculum-based professional learning.

“Curriculum-based professional learning requires a shift in practice,” Short said. “We need to move from learning about new curriculum and instructional materials to actually figuring out how to use them, and professional learning standards can help with that.” Carnegie Corporation of New York is a funder of the professional learning standards revision initiative.

Short said he looks forward to seeing the standards’ impact and “particularly how they will help improve the instructional core for teachers and students.”

“We need to go from disconnected learning to deep-dives in how high-quality instructional materials work,” Short said. “This is a shift for teachers so that professional learning isn’t just focused on their content or curriculum development, but (on) really understanding the underlying structures and internal logic in high-quality instructional materials. It’s more about learning how to adapt and scaffold curriculum to meet the needs of kids but at the same time maintain the integrity of the instructional materials.”

The work continues

According to Eubanks, “Our work now transfers from the incredible work done by our Learning Forward team and all of our partners to our leaders and colleagues in the field, in policy at the state, local, and national levels, and most important in districts and in school buildings across the country.”

“We think the standards are critical to help inform improvements and spur innovation in education,” Short said.

Throughout 2022, Learning Forward will publish articles and share reactions and implementation plans that we are hearing about from Learning Forward members, state affiliates, clients, research partners, coaches, principals, policymakers, and others to enrich the journey for all who are on the professional learning path. A Quick-Start Guide to the standards is available for those who want a concise overview. Professional learning standards sessions and opportunities for interactive learning will be available during Learning Forward’s 2022 Annual Conference, being held in person in Nashville, TN, from Dec. 4-7, 2022.