Where do you want to get to?

Effective professional learning begins with a clear destination in mind

By Thomas R. Guskey
April 2017
Vol. 38 No. 2
In Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice asks the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” the cat tells her. “I don’t much care,” Alice says. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” the cat replies. This telling scene from Carroll’s classic story describes how many educators go about professional learning. Just like Alice, they don’t know where they want to get to. They are on an adventure, thrilled by new encounters and exploring possibilities with no particular destination in mind. In evaluating their adventure, they simply reflect on the experience and make judgments about how enjoyable or meaningful it was. What learning

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Thomas R. Guskey ( is a professor of educational psychology at the University of Kentucky.


Ainsworth, L. & Viegut, D. (2006). Common formative assessments: How to connect standards-based instruction and assessment. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Brennan, R.T., Kim, J., Wenz-Gross, M., & Siperstein, G.N. (2001). The relative equitability of high-stakes testing versus teacher-assigned grades: An analysis of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). Harvard Educational Review, 71(2), 173-216.

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DuFour, R. (2004). What is a professional learning community? Educational Leadership, 61(8), 6-11.

Epstein, J.L. & Associates (2009). School, family, and community partnerships: Your handbook for action (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Guskey, T.R. (2000). Evaluating professional development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Guskey, T.R. (2001a). The backward approach. Journal of Staff Development, 22(3), 60.

Guskey, T.R. (2001b). Backward planning: An outcomes-based strategy for professional development. Curriculum in Context, 28(2), 18-20.

Guskey, T.R. (2002a). Does it make a difference? Evaluating professional development. Educational Leadership, 59(6), 45-51.

Guskey, T.R. (2002b). Professional development and teacher change. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 8(3/4), 381-391.

Guskey, T.R. (2004). Organize principal support for professional development. JSD, 25(3), 8.

Guskey, T.R. (2005a). Five key concepts kick off the process: Professional development provides the power to implement standards. JSD, 26(1), 36-40.

Guskey, T.R. (2005b). Taking a second look at accountability. JSD, 26(1), 10-18.

Guskey, T.R. (2007a). Multiple sources of evidence: An analysis of stakeholders’ perceptions of various indicators of student learning. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 26(1), 19-27.

Guskey, T.R. (2007b). Leadership in the age of accountability. Educational Horizons, 86(1), 29-34

Guskey, T.R. (2012). The rules of evidence. JSD, 33(4), 40-43.

Guskey, T.R. (2014a). Evaluating professional learning. In S. Billett, C. Harteis, & H. Gruber (Eds.), International handbook on research in professional and practice-based learning (pp. 1215-1235). New York, NY: Springer International.

Guskey, T.R. (2014b). Measuring the effectiveness of educators’ professional development. In K.L. Bauserman & L. Martin (Eds.), Handbook of professional development in education: Successful models and practices, PK-12. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Guskey, T.R. & Bailey, J.M. (2001). Developing grading and reporting systems for student learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Guskey, T.R. & Bailey, J.M. (2010). Developing standards-based report cards. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Guskey, T.R. & Jung, L.A. (2013). Answers to essential questions about standards, assessments, grading, and reporting. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Guskey, T.R., Roy, P., & von Frank, V. (2014). Reaching the highest standard in professional learning: Data. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press & Learning Forward.

Learning Forward. (2011). Standards for Professional Learning. Oxford, OH: Author.

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University of Kentucky | + posts

Thomas Guskey is a professor emeritus in the College of Education at the University of Kentucky, whose work is dedicated to helping teachers and school leaders use quality educational research to help all of their students learn. The author/ editor of 25 books and more than 250 articles and book chapters, he is an expert on educational measurement, evaluation, professional learning, assessment, and grading. His five-level framework of professional learning evaluation is a seminal resource in the field. His latest article for The Learning Professional, Learning Forward’s journal, is “Look beyond the satisfaction survey: A framework to evaluate results of professional learning.”

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