Teachers Deserve Our Teamwork on Quality Professional Learning

As a relatively new football mom, fall has a new meaning for me. Not only am I thinking about whether my 6th-grade son is keeping up with school and friends, but every Saturday I’m focused on whether he’ll come off the field in one piece. What I’m quickly realizing, though, is the power of the team that surrounds him. When he and his teammates are doing their jobs, everyone can focus on making the best plays and moving the ball. 

The same can be said of the collaboration we need to provide meaningful professional learning experiences for teachers. The Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) at Columbia University recently published a “State of the Field” report on curriculum-based professional learning. This study of high-quality, instruction-aligned teacher training across the country aims to show “where, how, and to what extent curriculum-based professional learning is taking hold, and why.” This is exactly what CurriculumHQ seeks to do for the implementation of high-quality instructional materials more broadly. 

From the earliest entries to this blog and platform, I’ve emphasized what is obvious to any educator: while quality materials matter, equipping teachers with the support they deserve to engage their students in those materials matters, too. The football can’t score touchdowns by itself.

The CPRL report identifies not only who’s on the team advocating for curriculum-based training, but how each player has an important role in advancing the state of play, including several recommendations for where to go from here. Here are my takeaways: 

  • The more we share a common understanding of effective teacher training grounded in a strong instructional core, the more teachers we can empower and students they can serve. This is why concrete examples of classrooms, districts, and states engaging in this work are so important: they demonstrate what’s possible. 
  • We need the whole education community to support instruction-aligned professional learning – and this work must be grounded in the experiences and perspectives of students and teachers. In order to turn more training opportunities from eye roll-inducing to engaging and productive, teachers must provide input into their instructional needs. And curriculum and training providers, districts, and states must create feedback loops with classrooms and homes to hear directly from those they are serving. 
  • This work, done right, takes time and money, and it isn’t necessary to reinvent the wheel at every turn. Sharing what quality training looks like and prioritizing investments in those opportunities will help drive success.

The report states: “to strengthen educational experiences and outcomes for students, proponents of HQIM and curriculum-based professional learning must build a strong, resilient field of individuals and organizations working together to transform teaching and learning.”

Readers, we are this strong, resilient field, and we’re all on the same team. Let’s keep doing the work to support those who most deserve to win – teachers and students.

Check out our new professional learning-focused page on CurriculumHQ and drop me a line with additional resources.

Jocelyn Pickford is an education policy and communications specialist focusing on understanding and promoting practitioner-informed public policy across the private, public and non-profit sectors as a Senior Affiliate with HCM Strategists. She began her career in education as a high school English teacher in a regular and special education inclusion classroom and is now a public school parent and recent member of her local district school board. Previously, Jocelyn led the design, launch and implementation of the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship at the U.S. Department of Education to integrate teachers into the national education policy dialogue. Jocelyn’s passion for her work was seeded during her own public school education and took root during her classroom teaching experience in Fairfax County, Virginia, where she led action research and presented instructional materials to a variety of audiences. Jocelyn earned her bachelor’s degree from Trinity College (CT), working as a professional writer and editor prior to becoming a teacher, and obtained her master’s in secondary education from the George Washington University. Jocelyn lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and two children.