Collective Intelligence

December 2016


The Learning Professional

Published Date

In This Issue


From the director

The 22 districts participating in Learning Forward’s Redesign PD Community of Practice share our concerns that too few educators experience effective professional learning that will help them ensure all students succeed. As a result, too few students experience Learning Forward’s vision of excellent teaching and learning every day. The districts agreed to participate in a “ruthless […]


The power of thinking big. By Eric Celeste Communities of practice have become important tools for districts striving to improve teacher quality in a way that improves student outcomes, but scaling the benefits of these communities requires a more rigorous, intentional approach. That’s why Learning Forward, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, […]

A Brief Look At Learning Forward Projects In 3 States

Learning Forward is busy with projects in systems across the country. Here are some of the places where we are working with districts to improve professional learning and some of the programs we will be reporting on as implementation continues. This fall, Learning Forward launched a year-long engagement with Fort Bend (Texas) Independent School District […]

Book Club

High Expectations Teaching: How We Persuade Students to Believe and Act on “Smart is Something You Can Get” By Jon Saphier High Expectations Teaching is an assets-based approach to advancing student achievement by helping students believe that “smart is something you can get” and that one’s ability to do something is based on the effort extended […]

Learning In Name And Practice

Working collaboratively with teams of professionals continues to be a practice embraced within our educational communities. This is an important trend that should continue. In fact, I’ve seen the benefits of this approach in practice. Collaboration can take many forms. There are collaborative teams, communities of practice, learning communities, and learning teams. Regardless of which […]

Tustin High School Wins 2016 Learning Team Award

The leadership team at Tustin High School in Tustin, California, has won the 2016 Shirley Hord Teacher Learning Team Award. The award is given annually to a school-based learning team that successfully implements a cycle of continuous improvement that results in increased teaching effectiveness. Tustin High’s leadership team is made up of 13 instructional coaches […]

How to support a coach Most teachers, including experienced ones, need support to continue to evolve professionally, hone their practice, and use new tools. This support is most powerful when offered routinely and on the job by skilled professionals. In Coaching for Impact, Learning Forward, the University of Florida Lastinger Center, and Public Impact call […]

Lessons From Research

What the Study Says When district and school administrators and other key leaders engage together in instructional rounds within schools, they develop social networks that assume characteristics of communities of practice. Within these communities, they build relationships and develop a common language and shared understanding about teaching and learning. The practice of instructional rounds is […]

Tool: RADAR protocol guides planning

Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida has long been known as a leader in teacher learning — one with a culture of continuous improvement. To that end, leadership in the district’s Office of Teaching and Learning joined the Learning Forward-led Redesign PD Community of Practice last year in part to develop protocols and procedures to […]

Foundations For Success

Succeeding at learning, and at life, takes more than academic ability. That’s not news, but with studies on the importance of qualities like “grit” grabbing headlines, there’s a growing conviction that fostering the right mindsets and social-emotional skills in students will lead to better school achievement and post-secondary success. Policymakers are eager to measure these […]

Make evaluation count

In complex educational systems, stakeholders with varied interests often put the greatest value on singular, summative outcomes tied to high-stakes tests. While those summative outcomes are useful and important, an investment in teacher learning intended to improve student achievement is also a treasure worth pursuing. So how do we, at a systems level, know that […]

Task Mastery

For more than 20 years, education research has pointed to what Lake County teacher Tiffany Scott is experiencing firsthand: Collaboration holds promise for improving teaching and learning. Of course, research also shows that collaboration is a means, not an end. In Creating Instructional Capacity, Joseph Murphy (2016) warns that collaboration in and of itself is […]

Core Practices Fuel Superintendents' Equity Focus

For eight years, more than a dozen district superintendents in New Jersey have joined together for a full day each month during the school year to listen to and learn from each other as a community of practice. Known as the New Jersey Network of Superintendents, this community of practice has a tight focus on […]

Creative Tension

Effective and authentic communities of practice in schools have the potential to support teachers in improving their instructional practices around perennial challenges, such as improving the literacy skills of all students. But before they can achieve such goals, communities of practice take time to build, effort to sustain, and ongoing support to spread their work. […]

Neighbors Make Great Learning Partners

When school district leaders attend instructional sessions about professional learning, they might take away a few ideas and strategies they want to try. But when experts provide those districts with ongoing coaching, the educators are more likely to gain the ability to create strong professional learning systems that benefit all educators. That’s the shift taking […]

Taking a measure of impact

Denver Public Schools When Denver Public Schools joined the Redesign PD Community of Practice, leaders knew they needed to work on improving professional learning across the district. They had recently created a new Professional Learning Center and wanted to influence the learning delivered by central office departments and by instructional superintendents working with principals. “Data […]

Goals: Coherence and relevance

For more than a century, teachers in Tennessee’s Loudon County School District have come together before the start of the school year for a professional development day. But not anymore. For the first time this year, professional learning in the district will be based at each individual school — a result of the district’s use […]

6 key features of a successful community of practice

Most educators probably know what it feels like to be part of an unproductive professional learning community — one where the topics range from last night’s TV episodes to everyone’s weekend plans before coming around to instructional issues. Other communities might just feel like another staff meeting with a list of announcements. But there are […]

The power of thinking big

Who knew that groups of Yucatan midwives, Liberian tailors, meat cutters, and insurance claims processors would contribute so mightily to improving public education? Etienne Wenger knew. Wenger, an educational theorist and practitioner, with his writing partner studied the way these groups indoctrinated new members and apprentices. Their observations on what they called “situated learning” led […]

Up close: Redesign PD community of practice

In December 2015, Learning Forward launched the Redesign PD Community of Practice to support 20 of the nation’s leading school districts and charter management organizations in addressing systemwide educator and student learning priorities. The community — which has since grown to 22 districts — engages teams from the districts in identifying their local professional learning […]


Principals at Work Principals’ Time, Tasks, and Professional Development: An Analysis of Schools and Staffing Survey Data Institute of Education Sciences, October 2016 This study describes how principals reported spending their time and what professional development they reported participating in, based on data collected through the Schools and Staffing Survey by the National Center for […]

The perfect recipe for improvement

I was talking to my sister-in-law about butternut squash the other night. As we did some meal planning for Thanksgiving, I let her know that a) we had way too much last year; and b) preparing it always takes longer than she thinks. I don’t know that she appreciated hearing that, but my goal was […]

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