Professional Learning

What do we mean by professional learning?

"The quality of teaching is arguably the single most important thing that teachers and school leaders can focus on to make a difference in children’s learning. The difference between really good teaching and less effective teaching makes more difference to learning than any other factor within school. High-quality teaching narrows the advantage gap. Crucially, it is also something that can be changed: all teachers can learn to be better." (Wiliam, 2016, Leadership for Teacher Learning. West Palm Beach, FL: Learning  Sciences International)

For CPD to be effective, it needs to be prioritised by leadership. (Cordingley P, Higgins S, Greany T et al.,2015, Developing great teaching: Lessons from the international reviews into effective professional development. London: Teacher Development Trust.)

This section of the website is devoted to how you develop the professional learning of staff and the organisation as a whole. It's focus is therefore on Adult Learning and How to facilitate adult learning.

Heads Up!

The IB sometimes refers to developing effective 'professional learning communities PLCs)'. This is a technical term, and in some parts of the world has been taken to be an organisational term, namely to refer to how staff are grouped into professional learning communities.

In order to avoid misunderstanding, I prefer to speak about how you develop professional learning in your school as a 'learning organisation'. Go to Schools as 'Learning Organisations' to read about the origins of this term and how it has informed the  Revised Standards and Practices (2020) and subsequently the new Heads of School (Category 1) and Leaders of Learning (Category 1 and 2) workshops that will be rolled out in late 2020.

'Professional' has its roots in profess (= to claim a body of knowledge or expertise as one's own). 'Community' has its roots in common. Professional community implies that the body of knowledge or expertise is shared amongst a group of people. It is about building up collective practice.

Developing the school as a professional learning organisation is important because of the positive impact it can have on student outcomes: "An effective professional learning community has the capacity to promote and sustain the learning of all professionals on the community with the collective purpose of enhancing pupil learning." (Bolam, R, McMahon, A, Stoll, L, Thomas, S, & Wallace, M, with Greenwood, A, Hawkey, K, Ingram, M, Atkinson, A, & Smith, M, 2005, Creating and Sustaining Effective Professional Learning Communities, DfES Research Report).

"At my school we refer to professional learning communities as impact teams. In these teams which comprise of subject grade levels we are asked to really focus on what is the goal for students to learn each unit. Focusing on the outcome allows us to share our expertise, materials, and really focus on what will make the best learning environment for students. " (Jennifer Cain)

School leaders play a central role in creating and sustaining school cultures that embrace professional learning. You will investigate different approaches to  developing IB focused professional learning organisations.

We look at the nature of learning organisations, how they allow difficult issues to be talked about, questions about teaching and learning asked and how adults can actively learn from each other. We explore how you build, nurture and sustain professional learning in your school.

Professional Inquiry

  • What are the key features of professional learning?
  • How do professional learning organisations evolve, grow, network and become sustainable?
  • How do school leaders lead the development of professional learning? How do they establish a climate of trust and promote collaboration and effective teamwork? What are the causes of collaborative advantage and collaborative inertia?
  • To what extent is my school a professional learning organisation? How central is learning in our community? Which professional learning opportunities can our school offer to its educators? How networked is our school community?
  • To what extent should professional learning be an integral part of the schools performance management process?
  • How can networking and external networks and partners enrich our professional learning?
  • How does the philosophy and practices of professional learning communities resonate with an IB World School? What opportunities exist in the wider IB community for networking?
  • Why are there specific challenges in creating and sustaining a professional learning organisation in cross cultural communities?
All materials on this website are for the exclusive use of teachers and students at subscribing schools for the period of their subscription. Any unauthorised copying or posting of materials on other websites is an infringement of our copyright and could result in your account being blocked and legal action being taken against you.