Keys to Sustaining a Professional Learning Program That Sticks

Keys to Sustaining a Professional Learning Program That Sticks

Professional Learning is one of the most important responsibilities that Building and District Leaders coordinate and plan. Why? Today, a school’s success relies on its implementation of research-based and current instructional best practices. To improve student achievement and teaching practices, educators must also focus on integrating their own continuous learning in a sustained and measurable way.


While there is no debating the importance of professional learning, schools sometimes find themselves challenged to effectively deliver programs that “stick” and have long-term impact.


Common questions from our school leadership partners include:


“How do I keep my teachers engaged, motivated, and excited about long-term opportunities and growth through professional learning?”


 “How do I hone my own expertise and instructional practices in order to elevate my leadership and improve the ways I can support my teachers?”


At Schoolwide, we’ve been on a journey with our partners to uncover what impactful, sustainable professional learning programs look like. Designing meaningful plans has played an important role in forming close partnerships with districts we work with across the United States. We have found that when we can build consistent, ongoing programs, our work together meets great success.


Asking leaders to commit to ongoing support has revealed that this support can come in a variety of forms. We have always believed that professional learning is not ‘one and done’ but instead, a series of connected interactions—in person, on the phone, via email, or just a matter of stopping in for a visit at the end of a school day. These connections help to build trust but also reveal to our school leaders that Schoolwide has an invested interest in their educators, in their school community, and in them.


So what are some of the takeaways from the professional learning journeys we have taken with our partners?


Balance “Now” Goals with “Future” Goals


When Schoolwide works with both new and existing partners, terms like vision, action planningsustainable growth, and enhancing culture are often used. These accompany conversations about long-range goals versus immediate, in-the-now, concerns or goals. It is extremely important to distinguish between the two, so that district leaders can allocate resources appropriately and establish a communication plan stating the current goals for professional learning and growth, versus the long-range goals that will be realized over time, with support.


Lead with Positivity 


I have found in my role as Senior Director of Professional Learning and Partnerships that a critical component of this work is to both model and promote a growth mindset. While I have had an array of experiences, the ones that have reaped the most success are when leaders can share a message of, “We can do it rather than “This is going to be hard work, but if we don’t make this change, our scores will never improve.” Professional learning will only be as successful as the positivity that is shown throughout by all stakeholders.


Shift the Tone to Focus on Opportunity


Conveying the message that professional learning inspires administrators and teachers to build proficiency, broaden their knowledge bases, and gain expertise in their fields is imperative. Communicating that professional learning is an opportunity instead of a reactive response to a problem will go a long way.


Schoolwide recently created a new annual professional learning program called Partners for Progress. Read about the ways we collaboratively build custom “pillars for progress” alongside our partners to create professional learning experiences that lead to meaningful growth.

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