Professional Learning - Learning Communities


Learning Communities

The Standard

Professional learning that enhances both educator practice and outcomes for each and every student occurs within learning communities committed to continuous growth, collective responsibility, family and community engagement and alignment of district and school vision and goals.

Learning Communities Defined

Learning communities are groups of educators and other stakeholders (e.g., families, community leaders) who collaborate together to identify and implement learning strategies and practices that enhance the growth of educators and the academic and non-academic growth of students.

Learning Communities and Professional Learning

The primary goal for professional learning is to promote enhancements in educator practice, which, in turn, advances student outcomes. A vibrant learning community—comprised of educators, school and district leaders, students’ families, and community leaders—is committed to high-quality professional learning, aligned to the professional learning standards.

Creating and Sustaining Learning Communities

Professional learning within communities requires a commitment to continuous growth, collective responsibility, and the alignment of goals among all constituencies—educators, school and district leaders, family members, and community leaders.

Continuous growth
  • Learning communities convene regularly and frequently to engage in collaborative professional learning focused on educator and student growth. Practices that encourage this continuous growth in a transparent, collaborative way include:
    • The use of data to determine student and educator learning needs;
    • Active, ongoing inclusion and engagement of families and the community as partners to support student growth;
    • Identification of shared goals for student learning and educator learning;
    • Professional learning that extends educators' knowledge and skills to impact teaching and learning; and
    • Selection and implementation of appropriate strategies to enhance student and educator growth, evaluate results, and refine implementation.
Collective responsibility
  • Learning community members collaborate with peers to learn and support one another. Individual members within those communities hold themselves accountable to learn, apply, and practice what is needed to support student growth. A learning community has individuals who also work collaboratively toward the shared goals of the team, school, and district. Peers share collective responsibility for effective teaching and advancing the learning and growth of each and every student. Individual and collective responsibility for learning and enhancing practice fosters a commitment to meaningful, relevant professional learning. Within highly functional learning communities, members:
    • Exchange feedback about their practice with one another;
    • Visit each other's classrooms or work settings;
    • Use technology, when possible, to meet virtually in order to expand the learning community across diverse schools and districts, reinforce shared goals, promote knowledge sharing, strengthen coherence, tap educators' expertise, and increase access to and use of resources; and
    • Engage families and the community as partners to support student growth.
Alignment of goals
  • Professional learning that occurs within learning communities aligns with an explicit vision and goals for educator and student growth. It supports and is supported by policies, curriculum and instruction, the assignments of all educators within the system, and an understanding of how to support change to achieve the established goals.


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

  • What professional learning practices are currently in place to encourage continuous growth of and support for learning communities within the school and/or district? Across or between other schools and districts?
  • How do families and community leaders support professional learning at the school and/or district?
  • What specific actions could further encourage, motivate, and develop collective responsibility with families and community leaders?
  • What practices do educators engage in to demonstrate collective responsibility for the sustainability of high-quality professional learning for educator practice and student growth?
  • Describe the current alignment of  learning community goals with school and/or district initiatives. What strengths exist? What gaps exist? How will educators and other stakeholders bridge those gaps?

Used with permission of Learning Forward, All rights reserved.