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Boston, MA, 02108
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ANet is a nonprofit dedicated to the premise that every child in America deserves an excellent education and the opportunities it provides. We pursue our vision of educational equality in America by helping schools boost student learning with great teaching that is grounded in standards, informed by data, and built on the successful practices of educators around the country.

Aligning professional learning to instructional priorities

When schools commit to just one or two instructional priorities and use those priorities to determine their approach to professional development, teacher improvement becomes a continuous cycle of learning and teachers are able to gauge their improvement over time.

Aligning professional learning to instructional priorities

A continuous cycle of learning

We’ve all been thereyou’re in a professional development session, wondering, “How does this relate to what I’m working with my students on this month?” or “How will this help me become a better teacher?” When schools approach professional development through the lens of their instructional priorities, teacher improvement becomes a continuous cycle of learning and progress can be gauged over time. 

Commit to using your instructional priority (and related tools and resources) to support and develop teachers instead of for evaluative purposes.

Start by determining  an instructional priority with clearly defined "look-fors" to ensure teachers and leaders share a vision for what great instruction looks like. But what determines the success of this priority is how it is pursued. Schools that advance teachers toward this vision every chance they getthrough observation and feedback, during planning or data meetings, or in professional learning sessions. When leaders seize every opportunity to develop teachers toward the school’s instructional priority, improvement feels cohesive and relevant, and becomes an invaluable part of what it means to be a teacher.

How can leaders help teachers advance toward an instructional priority?
  • Work with teachers to set individual goals aligned to the instructional priority.
  • Devote a portion of planning and/or data meetings to teacher knowledge- or skill-building aligned to the instructional priority.
  • Look for evidence of newly learned skills or strategies in teachers' lesson and unit plans.
  • Prioritize look fors aligned to the instructional priority when observing instruction.
  • Use the instructional priority and the related look fors to guide post-observation debriefs.

Watch this video to hear how Robby Chisholm, principal at Condon Elementary School in Boston, MA, thinks about using his school’s instructional priority to drive what teachers learn in professional development and planning meetings.