Professional Learning - Leadership



The Standard

Professional learning that enhances both educator practice and outcomes for each and every student requires and develops leadership capacity at all levels to advocate for and create systems for professional learning.

Leadership Defined

Leadership is the act of motivating and guiding others toward a specific outcome. In professional learning, the goal of leadership is to create, sustain, and advance significant school and district growth that enhances educator practice so that each and every student will advance towards positive academic and non-academic outcomes.

Leadership and Professional Learning

Leaders of professional learning are not defined in terms of their status or position; however, the ability of leaders to make certain decisions regarding professional learning may depend on their position in the school and/or district. Educators may assume a leadership role at any time, according to needs, circumstances, and personal passions and beliefs. Leaders inspire and motivate others to adopt and cultivate high standards of professional learning.

Keys to Successful Leadership

Leaders of high-quality professional learning facilitate, coach, and supervise other educators who are also committed to professional learning. To do this, effective leaders:

Develop leadership capacity
  • Effective professional learning starts with the educator’s own commitment to high standards and continual learning and growth. Leaders create a culture for developing leadership capacity by:
    • Listening to and encouraging discourse among educators;
    • Modeling the skills of leadership;
    • Applying technical knowledge and skills to plan, design, implement, and evaluate professional learning;
    • Encouraging other educators to develop their own expertise by sharing and learning new knowledge and skills;
    • Setting high standards for educator practice and providing frequent positive and constructive feedback, based on data and objective observation; and
    • Recognizing and encouraging shared leadership—within the school and district—to more effectively achieve individual, team, school, and district professional learning goals.
Create support systems and structures
  • Leaders of professional learning work collaboratively to establish and maintain organizational systems and structures that support educator growth and development. They achieve this by:
    • Identifying and equitably distributing the resources needed to accomplish individual, team, school, and district goals;
    • Interacting with policy-makers, decision-makers, and community leaders so that resources, district policies, schedules, and structures all support professional learning to support student and educator growth;
    • Creating and aligning policies and guidelines to ensure effective professional learning within their schools and across the district, and
    • Working within national, regional, and local agencies to adopt standards, monitor implementation, and evaluate professional learning’s effectiveness.
Advocate for Professional Learning
  • Leaders identify, articulate, and work to strengthen the critical link between systems for educator professional learning, enhanced educator practice, and improved student academic and non-academic outcomes. As advocates, they:
    • Apply understanding of organizational and human dynamics to bring about needed change to processes and mindsets;
    • Research and apply information in multiple fields to enhance their leadership practice;
    • Clarify their own values and beliefs, influence on others, and on the attainment of organizational goals; and
    • Model the attitudes and behaviors they expect of all educators.


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 Leadership standard across the school and/or district professional learning system:

  • Who are the leaders of professional learning at the classroom, school, and district levels?
  • What systems are in place that support professional learning at each level?
  • What systems need to be created to support leadership at the individual, team, school, and district levels?
  • What resources are currently provided to support the leadership development at the individual, team, school, and district levels? What resources are needed for each level?
  • How do leaders currently advocate for high-quality professional learning in schools and the district?

Used with permission of Learning Forward, All rights reserved.