Professional learning communities have proliferated dramatically over the past several years, becoming almost commonplace as a strategy for addressing student learning problems. Much to the disappointment of many educators, though, the presence of learning communities does not always bring significant changes in student learning.
Trust is integral to educator learning and student success. From teachers to policymakers, understanding how trust contributes to professional learning and how to build it is critical at all levels.
Educators want to know that their professional learning is effective; system and state leaders want evidence that their planning and funding are producing results; and community members want to know that educators are spending their time and tax dollars wisely and, most importantly, achieving results for students. Evaluating professional learning can satisfy these needs and help educators make the connection between professional learning and better teaching.
While effective professional learning necessitates identifying and leveraging the expertise that exists in schools already, external vendors and technical assistance providers also have an important role to play in building educators’ capacity. Expectations for these third-party vendors are shifting and may now include reframing their roles so they act as collaborative partners, critical friends, coaches, and experts who bring new perspectives and help manage change.
Using technology for professional learning offers the possibility of improving current processes, stretching resources, expanding the learning environment, and improving learning designs and results. New possibilities for improved learning now exist that were not available before. However, to avoid being an empty promise, technology must be part of a comprehensive professional learning system, aligned to the Standards for Professional Learning, and implemented within a cycle of continuous improvement.