Leaders play key roles in the professional learning ecosystem

By Sarah Woulfin
October 2021
A tiger in the arctic. Sunflowers in a coral reef. Would they thrive — or even survive — in those ecosystems? Probably not, despite being strong and resilient species. Similarly, even well-designed, evidence-based professional learning must occur in a supportive, rather than endangering, ecosystem to take root and thrive. In my experiences as a researcher and a practitioner across states and districts, I have observed and engaged in ecosystems that support high-quality professional learning and promote improvement. But I have also seen situations where professional learning is dropped into schools, with high expectations for learning and change, but with little consideration of the nature and vitality of the wider ecosystem. Sometimes, reformers and administrators may neglect to account for how organizational structures and conditions shape

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Sarah L. Woulfin (; @sarahlouwou) is an associate professor in the department of educational leadership and policy at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education. 

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