Moving from Compliance to Agency: What Teachers Need to Make Professional Learning Work

By Laurie Calvert

Teacher Agency

Learning Forward and the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future interviewed teachers and school administrators to understand the disconnect between the professional learning that teachers need and want and what they actually experience on the job. Teacher agency emerged as a factor that needs to be elevated in the discourse about professional learning.

Authored by Laurie Calvert, education policy advisor for Learning Forward and NCTAF, this report emphasizes the importance of teacher agency and pinpoints strategies that education leaders and policymakers can use to leverage agency in designing more effective professional learning.

Download the report for:

  • Rationale for the importance of elevating teaching voice in professional learning;
  • Insight into teachers’ experiences learning on the job; and
  • Recommended actions school and district leaders can take to increase teacher agency.

Recommended actions school and district leaders may take to increase teacher agency:

  1. Make all professional learning decisions -- including content, format, participants, and time -- only in serious consultation with teachers and principals. Ensure at least 50% teacher representation on school and district planning teams.
  2. Reorganize the school to give educators time to meet regularly within the school day to collaborate to improve teaching and learning.
  3. Involve and support teachers in analyzing data and identifying teaching and learning challenges.
  4. Establish learning communities where educators solve problems of practice and share responsibility for colleague and student success.
  5. Give teachers choices regarding their professional learning, including who they work with and where they focus their learning.
  6. Ensure that professional learning is for continuous growth, not evaluation.
  7. Resist the temptation to "scale up" or mandate a particular form of professional learning without thoroughly examining the context. Understand that professional learning is contextual; learners must believe they can improve their practice and that the provided learning opportunity will help them to accomplish this.

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