2021 NIET Conference: Next Level Learning

Mar 3 - Mar 5, 2021

NIET's 2021 Virtual National Conference, "Next Level Learning," was held March 3-5, 2021. The 2021 conference was entirely virtual, given the continued challenges and uncertainty the COVID-19 pandemic presents, and NIET designed our event with that reality in mind.

The 2021 National Conference website and agenda are available.

The conference offered participants the opportunity to participate in interactive sessions focused on the immediate needs teachers and leaders face and learn how to transform their instruction and leadership practices to reach the next level – no matter where they are now. NIET provided educators with strategies and practical tools for virtual, in-person, and hybrid learning environments that they can use immediately, and specialists helped educators to plan and strengthen long-term goals and practices. 


NIET team members facilitated learning through six key strands. Each strand consisted of three sessions that built over the course of the conference through 90-minute workshops each day. View the Agenda page for more details, and read the conference preview for information about the high-quality teaching and learning gained during the conference.

  • Strand 1: Maximizing Student Ownership of Learning – Whether In-Person or Virtual
  • Strand 2: Planning, Teaching, and Assessing with the Learner in Mind
  • Strand 3: Coaching as the Game-changer         
  • Strand 4: Connecting the Dots between Curriculum and Instruction
  • Strand 5: The Leader as the Lead Learner
  • Strand 6: Raising the Bar for Teacher Preparation

Guest Speakers

Professor John Hattie, Dr. John B. King Jr., and Natalie Wexler addressed plenary sessions during the conference. They covered topics important to NIET's work to support student-led learning, equity, and the use of high-quality, knowledge-rich content to prepare students for school and life.

Hattie, a world-renowned education researcher, professor, and author, delivered a presentation on opening day, March 3. Notably, his book, Visible Learning, outlines the keys to reflective teaching and seeing learning through the student lens.

King, The Education Trust president and CEO and former U.S. secretary of education, joined NIET CEO Dr. Candice McQueen for a conversation about how to advance equity for every student.

Dr. McQueen also hosted a conversation with Wexler, a leading education researcher and author, about how integrate knowledge as part of high-quality instruction and how to practically apply lessons from her book, The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America's Broken Education System – And How to Fix It. 


For additional questions, email nietconference@niet.org

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Below is the daily schedule for NIET's 2021 Conference:

  • 9:00-9:45 a.m. CT: Opening Session
  • 9:45-11:15 a.m. CT: Morning Workshop Session
  • 1:15-2:45 p.m. CT: Afternoon Workshop Session

During the workshop sessions, educators participated in sessions based on the strands they choose. Each strand was three parts, with one session being offered each day of the conference. Educators who registered for the full conference received access to all recordings. Educators who registered for the partial conference received access to the recordings of the strand they chose.

Strand 1: Maximizing Student Ownership of Learning – Whether In-Person or Virtual

This strand took attendees through three sessions focused on maximizing in-person and virtual instruction to ensure each and every student is engaged and learning. Sessions enhanced principal, teacher leader, and teacher understanding of the NIET Teaching Standards and usage of key strategies that shift learning and doing from the teacher to the students.

  • Session 1: Maximizing Student Engagement in the Virtual Environment

  • Session 2: Exemplary Teaching and Learning        

  • Session 3: Thinking and Problem-Solving: Putting the Student in the Driver's Seat

Strand 2: Planning, Teaching, and Assessing with the Learner in Mind

The pandemic has exacerbated learning loss and gaps in student understanding that won't be solved in one year. This strand moved leaders and teachers toward solutions that included practical tools, resources, and attention to structures that can help students to accelerate their learning. Sessions focused on using data, standards, and curriculum to identify unfinished learning and make decisions about group and individual student needs. Sessions also provided ideas for using collaborative structures and student and family communication to drive student growth.

  • Session 1: Communicating and Recovering Unfinished Learning

  • Session 2: Using Instructional Leadership Team, Clusters, and PLCs to Address Student Learning Gaps        

  • Session 3: Unpacking the Environment Domain as a Key Lever for Creating Student Engagement and Fostering Inclusive Classrooms

Strand 3: Coaching as the Game-Changer

Attendees learned how coaching can be effectively used to drive continuous improvement, reflection, and application of learning. This strand helped principals and teacher leaders improve their skills in pre- and post-conferencing, learning walks, and strength-based coaching. Sessions provided specific strategies to use when coaching – both in-person and virtually – and how to effectively integrate coaching into all aspects of observation and feedback opportunities. 

  • Session 1: Pre- and Post-Conferencing Like a Champ

  • Session 2: Making Every Play Matter: Using Learning Walks to Improve Feedback 

  • Session 3: Using Strengths-Based Coaching to Build a Cohesive Team

Strand 4: Connecting the Dots between Curriculum and Instruction

The evidence is clear: High-quality instruction and curriculum must go hand in hand to maximize student learning. This strand helped district, school, and teacher leaders make stronger connections between the two through the structures and processes they have in place and attention to support at different stages of curriculum implementation. Sessions went deeper into lessons learned as detailed in NIET's Curriculum Implementation paper along with actions district, school, and teacher leaders can take now that translate to in-person and virtual settings.  

  • Session 1: Connecting to What to Teach and How to Teach It (Lessons Learned)

  • Session 2: Using Learning Walks and Post-Conferencing to Anchor Coaching and Feedback in the Curriculum and Instruction    

  • Session 3: Stages of Curriculum Implementation and How to Support at Every Stage

Strand 5: The Leader as the Lead Learner

This strand focused on the work of leaders as defined by NIET's Principal Standards Rubric and how to support leaders in growing into these standards.

  • Session 1: The Language of Leading: Exploring the Principal Standards Rubric

  • Session 2: Leading ILT So Everyone Grows    

  • Session 3: Coaching School Leaders (for Supervisors)

Strand 6: Raising the Bar for Teacher Preparation

Attendees explored evidence-based practices, tools, and resources that ensure teacher preparation is the high-quality foundation we desire for all aspiring teachers. Sessions explored NIET PREP, the new Aspiring Teacher Rubric, and ways to strengthen teacher preparation in courses, clinical placements, and induction.

  • Session 1: Using NIET PREP's Tools and Resources

  • Session 2: Digging into the Aspiring Teacher Rubric    

  • Session 3: Course Mapping for Success

For more information, visit NIET's external conference website

For additional questions, email nietconference@niet.org

 Lowell  Milken

Lowell Milken

Lowell Milken's lifelong commitment to strengthening K–12 education has led to some of the country's most innovative means to dramatically advance educator effectiveness.
Dr. Candice  McQueen

Dr. Candice McQueen

CEO Dr. Candice McQueen leads a vision-setting and strategic planning process focused on ensuring that NIET continues to enhance educator excellence.
Professor John  Hattie

Professor John Hattie

Professor John Hattie is a researcher in education. His research interests include performance indicators, models of measurement and evaluation of teaching and learning.
Dr. John B. King  Jr.

Dr. John B. King Jr.

John B. King Jr. is the president and CEO of The Education Trust and served as the 10th U.S. Secretary of Education.
 Natalie  Wexler

Natalie Wexler

Natalie Wexler is an education writer and the author of "The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America's Broken Education System—And How to Fix It."