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Characteristics of Effective Professional Learning Systems

Purpose of a Professional Learning System 

  • Fundamentally, to ensure that all students have equal access to high quality learning from every teacher they encounter.
  • To ensure the professional learning time (aka “PD”) teachers experience is connected to the core improvement priorities of the school.
  • To deepen shared understanding of and commitment to an equity oriented vision for instruction.
  • To serve as a central vehicle for leading change.
  • To build and sustain a culture of learning among adults, which nurtures a sense of collective efficacy.

Designed to advance the adult learning targets that flow from school priorities.

  • Is designed based on specific adult learning targets that flow from each school priority.  
  • Is based on teacher-need in relation to the priority work of the school.
  • Includes concrete evidence as indicators of progress and as an assessment of attaining annual goals (e.g. teacher perception of change, observation of practice change, etc), which are tied to student level outcomes.



Embeds a cycle of learning to build capacity based on the ways in which adults learn best.

  • Honors a true cycle of learning:  new learning → supported practice → data-based reflection and feedback.  
  • Puts student work and high-quality, standards aligned curriculum and assessment at the heart of the learning.
  • Is collaborative and lifts up teacher expertise, creativity and leadership.




Integrates all available learning and collaboration structures and time.

  • Is planned in advance, similar to a teacher’s long-term plan and/or unit plan.
  • Uses all available structures and time and ties the learning topics and cycle together to create coherence.  (In our context, this might include Wednesday PD time, 120 minutes, common planning, summer institute, and beyond.)
  • Ties in TEVAL professional growth plans.