By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC)

Friday, April 1, 2016

Improving professional development is always a key topic for our nation’s educators. But how do we expand the professional development to become professional learning and why do we need to do that?

A US Department of Education analysis of 49 state equity plans found that improving or expanding professional learning was the most common identified strategy for eliminating equity gaps (U.S. DOE Office of State Support, 2015). Since worker training in the U.S. is a $400 billion industry (Carnevale & Smith, 2013), perhaps now is the appropriate time to look at the planning and designing of professional learning outside of education. That’s exactly what Learning Forward and the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders did. They collaborated and co-published a recent report entitled, “Looking Outside Education: What School Leaders Can Learn About Professional Learning from Other Industries. 

Here are the “best” practices from other professions that school leaders can adapt to meet their schools’ needs:
• Growth mindset: Fostering a culture that values continuous improvement;
• Deliberately developmental organizations: Reinforcing the notion that learning from mistakes is valuable;
• Simulations: Crafting scenario-driven practice for “real time” responses;
• Video review, reflection, and coaching: Using virtual and digital communications to blend the approach for ongoing support;
• Ongoing, role-specific training and support: Preparing for changes in future roles and/or positions with proactive thinking and learning;
• Context-relevant training and support: Providing learning that is current, relevant, tied to practice, and data;
• Mentoring and sponsorship: Offering continuous encouragement and time for reflective practice through ongoing support
• Employee resource groups: Creating groups with similar interests/job-alike roles who support each other  

What do you think? Can educators learn how to improve professional learning from those “outside” of the education world? Which of the above are doable in your school or district?

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