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The New Essential Elements Of Professional Learning

Abstract

"In this Brief, we describe and illustrate three elements that our research showed to be the backbone of any serious approach to engage and prepare teachers for success with the Common Core:

1. Adult learning should be ongoing and active and include both collaboration and individual attention.
Individual improvement involves activities such as coaching, mentoring and observations with meaningful feedback. Collective learning requires teachers to work together through professional learning communities or shared planning time to discuss what's working, examine student work together and co-create and improve teaching materials.

2. Professional learning should focus on building grade-level content and common core-aligned instructional practices.
Building content knowledge, based on the focus and progressions of the standards, is a centerpiece of effective professional development. Teachers need to understand the content they teach -- and the concepts that support it -- in much more depth so that they can help their students delve more deeply into that content. And new levels of understanding require different instructional practices: posing challenging questions, asking students to form arguments and defend positions taken, or asking them to explain the process and thinking used to solve a problem.

3. Teachers should get support in identifying and using high-quality, common core-aligned instructional materials.
The best professional learning often is connected explicitly to the materials that students use in the classroom. Educators need support identifying, curating and using high-quality, CCSS-aligned classroom materials -- whether those are individual lessons, intact units of study or an entire curriculum. The current dearth of excellent materials means that teachers must be astute consumers and make smart choices; they need to find or build lessons and units from a wide variety of resources, rather than relying on a single textbook."

Related Briefs:
-- What Does High-Quality, Common Core-Aligned Professional Development Look Like? Three Vignettes
-- What Policymakers Can Do To Advance High-Quality Professional Development At Scale

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