New Report Shows What Makes Professional Learning Work

November 9, 2022

New Report Shows What Makes Professional Learning Work

A new paper released by the Research Partnership on Professional Learning highlights strategies and techniques for teacher professional learning (PL) that improve instructional practice and student outcomes. The findings from this paper align directly with NIET’s experiences of building educator excellence across thousands of school partners. 

The paper, “Building Better PL: How to Strengthen Teacher Learning',' provides guidance that is relevant and actionable for practitioners. Authors Heather C. Hill and John P. Papay reviewed research and concluded that effective professional learning includes a focus on the “how” of instruction, including:

(1) built-in time for teacher-to-teacher collaboration around instructional improvement;

(2) one-to-one coaching, where coaches work to observe and offer feedback on teachers’ practice; and

(3) follow-up meetings to address teachers’ questions and fine-tune implementation.

The authors also share growing evidence that professional learning may be more productive when focused on the following:

(1) building subject-specific instructional practices rather than building content knowledge alone;

(2) supporting teachers’ instruction with concrete instructional materials like curricula or formative assessment items rather than focusing only on general principles, and;

(3) explicitly attending to teachers’ relationships with students.

The conclusions offered by the report reflect NIET’s structures and processes for professional learning led by teacher leaders in partnership with school leaders. This comprehensive approach helps teachers to strengthen their ability to use high-quality instructional materials.  

Caddo Parish Louisiana is one of our district partners using a school-based system for professional collaborative learning that supports teachers to improve their instruction using high-quality instructional materials. “When coaching and support for curriculum and pedagogy are done together, it makes more sense to a teacher,” said Katrina Harris, a Fourth Grade Teacher in Caddo Parish, “It doesn’t feel like two separate decisions; it feels like one. You may not label them as ‘curriculum’ or ‘pedagogy,’ but you intuitively understand it’s good teaching.”

According to this new report, successful PL focuses on improving what teachers do in classrooms and includes support from other educators — including follow-up support in classrooms. Overall findings in the paper indicate that effective PL supports teachers’ day-to-day practice, and that effective PL involves accountability for change and improvement. To learn more about how this looks in schools, take a look at our report about how educators are Connecting What to Teach with How to Teach It.


Read the RPPL Report here.

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