Services for Schools, Educators, and Families

Things You MUST Think About: Strategic Professional Learning


This is the ninth in a promised gloss on each of the 11 THINGS INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS MUST BE THINKING ABOUT featured in an earlier post. (I recap the entire list below the body of this post.)

#9. Strategic professional development learning

If you are planning to move your academic program in a particular direction, you’re going to need teachers who are equipped to go there. A professional development program that lacks coherence or that is unrelated in its purposes and resource allocation to the specific goals of the institution may help teachers grow, but not as intentionally as you may need it to.

Try tying the goals of every professional learning initiative, individual or collective, to the identified needs of the school. This may mean shrinking an on-demand or stipend-based system that rewards practically anything or even reeling in “we’ll pay for your master’s degree” programs; big things, strategic things, that the school must work on to ensure its own vibrancy and sustainability have to take precedence sometimes. A “laptop school” in which even a few teachers are permitted to opt out of understanding the potential of the tool is not completely a laptop school. This may not be easy to do, but it will be the fastest way to reach those strategic ends that will strengthen the institution and make learning better for all kids.

As a corollary, build into your annual evaluation program a component that relates each teacher’s learning to things the school is trying to achieve. Working on some aspect of technology or project-based learning? Ask each teacher to set a personal goal that involves the application of the skills the school wants them to learn and is supporting them in acquiring. In turn, be sure that the school really is providing the teachers with the learning resources, including of course time, that they will need to be successful. This may mean more school-wide training sessions and fewer individual excursions to narrowly content-specific workshops far away.

Remember that the goal of program and professional growth initiatives is to provide students with a better, more intentional learning experience. Professional learning, in other words, is ultimately for the kids. If a program or initiative doesn’t serve their needs, as determined by the school’s mission, leadership, and strategic priorities, it has little real value.

So, who is thinking about strategic professional learning at your school?

The 11 Things:

  1. Design Thinking. What-ing? DONE HERE
  2. Data-informed decision-making DONE HERE
  3. Collaborative learning and (related issue) project design DONE HERE
  4. Smart assessment of student learning DONE HERE
  5. Social media—for advancement DONE HERE
  6. Social media—in the classroom DONE HERE
  7. New directions for your library DONE HERE
  8. Online learning DONE HERE
  9. Strategic professional development learning DONE
  10. Shorter horizons for strategic thinking
  11. Being Green