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What Makes Professional Learning Actually Work for Teachers?


Written by Adan Garcia

What Makes Professional Learning Actually Work for Teachers?

Principles for High-Quality, Standards-Aligned Professional Learning

Across the country, we’re seeing a promising shift in professional learning that is getting sustainable results at a large scale. When teachers have strong support to work together on lessons that inspire and excite students, schools become more equitable. So, what’s the difference between traditional “PD”—widely seen as a waste of time and resources—and this new approach?

That’s the question our friends at Student Achievement Partners attempt to answer in Principles for High-Quality, Standards-Aligned Professional Learning, a new set of resources that use research and insights of system leaders and support partners like Leading Educators. They name key pieces of a professional learning system that creates lasting changes in practice. They also leave space for structures that meet unique contextual needs.

All of these principles show up in the work we do with partners every day from Oakland to Baltimore. Several of our team members who work directly with schools contributed to these tools.

professional learning principles

  • Principle 1: Professional learning must be content-focused. It builds the content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge teachers need to teach the concepts of their subject.
  • Principle 2: Professional learning must be teacher- and student-centered. It promotes collective responsibility for students’ learning and cultivates a dynamic culture for adult learning.
  • Principle 3: Professional learning must be relevant and actionable. It is anchored in the instructional priorities of teachers’ daily work. It is acted on in a system of collaborative planning, classroom practice, observation, feedback, and continuous cycles of inquiry grounded in evidence of student learning.

There is a role for everyone to play to guarantee excellent and equitable teaching to every student. So, we’re deepening our support around the learning systems, conditions, and vision that need to be in place for instructional culture to thrive.

If you’re ready to get to work, SAP’s Take Action page recommends ways to support strong professional learning today and far into the future. Let us know how we can support you.

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