Learning Forward – Part 4: Learning Design and Implementation

Photo credit: http://www.learningforward.org/

Photo credit: http://www.learningforward.org/

In my previous posts, we unpacked the core elements of the first four Standards for Professional Learning released by Learning Forward — Learning Communities, Leadership, Resources, and Data. Now I would like to take a look at the next two standards: Learning Design and Implementation.

Learning Design Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students integrates theories, research, and models of human learning to achieve its intended outcomes. 

Learning design should apply learning theories of cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists, and educators who have studied how learning occurs.  The contributions of learning experts provide the underlying framework for educators to plan and design professional learning programs. The learning design should apply directly to workday tasks, duties, and teacher practices in the classroom. Job-embedded approaches to learning design engage participants and include analyzing student data; reviewing case studies; and conducting simulations, peer observations, or visitations. Active engagement is the key in learning design. Other possibilities to promote professional growth in this area include:

  • Co-teaching with peers or specialists
  • Peer and expert coaching
  • Student observations
  • Observing and analyzing demonstrations of application
  • Inquiry into teacher practices
  • Problem-based learning
  • Study groups
  • Lesson study
  • Video clubs
  • Action research
  • Data analysis
  • Constructing and scoring assessments
  • Examining student or educator work
  • Professional reading or book studies

Implementation – Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students applies research on change and sustains support for implementation of professional learning for long-term change.

Julie Lambert and Valerie Mitrani are co-directors of educational services.  In this video clip, they talk about the Implementation standard.

More changes are made in education than most industries. Learning Forward acknowledges that professional learning is a process of change in which educators think about how they work and make adjustments accordingly. These thought processes and practices impact long-term efforts and practices. Learning new skills and knowledge affects short-term change, but a process or approach that is actually practiced sustains the change.

Before approaching how to sustain the change, consideration should first be given to the implementation of change. There should be a willingness to use research on change management.  Resources for change management include research by Anthony Bryk, Focus by Mike Schmoker, and Switch by Chip and Dan Heath.  Professional learning initiatives must include the application of change research, followed by sustained practice. The application of change research should drive implementation.  Specific tools are used to share the vision of the change. Specific people are assigned the task of managing and monitoring the change as a practice. Specific models are used to identify what the change in practice should look like.  The model includes a depiction or identification of how successful implementation should look.  If investments are made in front-end professional learning, time and resources should be allocated to ensure sustainability of the learning and its implementation into a cultural practice.

One hour presentations, one-day sessions, or two-day workshops should be replaced with more intensive training.  Multi-year training plans are needed to ensure that Common Core standards are part of practice and that practices are sustained.  In addition to training, constructive feedback should be offered to teachers. It is important that constructive feedback be focused on “how to” methods rather than evaluation or criticism. Coaching and peer-to-peer coaching offer opportunities for feedback and ongoing development that positively impact sustainability.

How are you utilizing effective learning design for your professional development program to impact student achievement?

How are you providing ongoing support for implementation of professional learning to impact student achievement?


Mary MitchellMary Mitchell is an instructor who has held several positions at FLVS over the years. A National Board Certified Teacher, she has been recognized as a Teacher of the Year for FLVS, the United States Distance Learning Association, and Discovery Middle School in Orange County, FL. She has written articles on topics ranging from computer image processing to teacher training for the online classroom.

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