Professional learning that enhances both educator practice and outcomes for each and every student requires purposeful planning for the identification, coordination, monitoring, evaluation, and equitable use and allocation of resources to support educator learning.
Professional learning resources are the various means and supports needed to enhance the growth of educators and the academic and non-academic growth of students. Resources include funding, people, time, technology, and materials.
Resources and Professional Learning
The primary goal for professional learning is to promote enhancements in educator practice, which, in turn, advance student outcomes. The availability and allocation of resources affect quality and effectiveness of professional learning. Understanding the availability and allocation of resources, and then actively and accurately tracking them, facilitates better decision making regarding professional learning.
Managing Professional Learning Resources
When economic challenges emerge, schools and districts often reduce investments in professional learning. But just as top-performing businesses frequently increase training and development in challenging times, professional learning should be emphasized in lean times, not reduced. To manage professional learning resources effectively, it is necessary to:
- Resources for professional learning include funding, people, time, technology, and materials. Decisions about resources for professional learning require a thorough understanding of student and educator learning needs, a commitment to ensuring equity in resource allocation, and thoughtful consideration of school/district priorities to achieve the intended outcomes for students and educators. Considerations include:
- People. It is necessary to consider who will be involved in the professional learning (e.g., tapping internal expertise of educators within the school/district or the cost of bringing in outside expertise) and coverage needs (e.g. substitutes). Educators facilitating professional learning with other educators in the school or district and the cost to bring outside presenters or facilitators into a school or district.
- Time. Professional learning time should be embedded into the school day. This allocated time supports educator collaboration and planning. Schools and districts may need to re-think how they can use structures that are already included in the school day, and how they can restructure their time to more effectively and efficiently support professional learning. Other investments in professional learning may take place outside the workplace. These investments supplement and enhance job-embedded professional learning and should align with individual, team, school, and district goals.
- Technology and material resources. Use of high-speed broadband, web-based and other technologies, professional journals and books, software, and a comprehensive learning management system all support individual and collaborative professional learning.
Allocate and coordinate
- With funding for professional learning, school improvement, and other reform initiatives coming from multiple sources and for myriad purposes, ensuring alignment and effectiveness in resource use is paramount to ensuring success. Equitable funding doesn’t necessarily mean that funding is equal (i.e., the same) for all individuals, teams, or schools. Funding is equitable when it is sufficient to achieve the professional learning goals of an individual, team, or school. Decisions about equitable funding must specifically address inequities in learning needs and opportunities; this must be given highest priority so that all students and the educators who serve them have the resources to ensure academic and non-academic growth. While school and district leaders are primarily responsible for coordinating resources, all educators have a shared responsibility to understand and contribute to these decisions.
- Resources for professional learning come from many sources, including government allocations, public and private agencies, and educators themselves. Tracking and monitoring these resources is challenging, yet essential. Some costs are relatively easy to track, such as those for staff, registrations, consultants, materials, stipends for mentor teachers, and relief teachers. Others, such as the portion of time educators are engaged in job-embedded professional learning and technology used for professional learning, are more difficult to monitor. Yet without a consistent and comprehensive process to track and monitor resources, it is difficult to evaluate the appropriateness or effectiveness of their allocation and use.
Use these guiding questions to engage members of the school and/or district community to identify strengths, areas for growth, and next steps to align the Resources standard across the school and/or district professional learning system:
- What monitoring strategies are in place to ensure appropriate use of all resources dedicated to professional learning?
- What professional learning resources currently in place are most effective? What other resources are needed and why?
- Who is involved in decision making regarding the acquisition and implementation of professional learning resources at the school and within the district? Who else should be involved?
- Identify and prioritize the resources needed to achieve professional learning goals and student growth over the next 12 months.
- What plans are in place—or need to be developed—to ensure that professional learning resources are expanded—not reduced—during economic turndowns?
Used with permission of Learning Forward, www.learningforward.org. All rights reserved.