What it Takes to Shift the Professional Learning Paradigm

Posted by on December 21, 2015 in Commentary, Featured | 0 comments

Change takes courage. It threatens norms, challenges systems, and requires persistence and resilience that exhaust even the best of us. But change is often needed to move forward, to make real progress. Working with a group of educational leaders last week, it became clear to me that within the educational community, we will need real courage to challenge existing paradigms, to rethink assumptions, and to redesign professional learning so that teachers grow as professionals and students are prepared for a promising future.

Reinventing professional learning is difficult and multifaceted work because teaching and learning are complex endeavors that require sustained commitment and support over time. Through their Partnership to Redesign Professional Development, Learning Forward is helping the educational community to venture into uncharted territory. They have invited leaders from every level of the education community—state, district, and school leaders; professional organizations; researchers; and teachers—to work collaboratively and think differently about what professional learning should look like. Leaders at Learning Forward have asked us to be bold and demonstrate courage, to upend existing systems, to explore new job descriptions, to rethink assessment and accountability, to stand up to traditional norms (and their champions), and to purposefully exact change in American education. The National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future (NCTAF) is honored to be part of the team that is throwing out the current professional learning paradigm.

Last week while attending Learning Forward’s annual conference, “Lead change. Maximize impact,” I worked with leaders in the Partnership to contribute ideas from NCTAF’s Great Teaching Initiative, which is a bold vision to support educators and promote the conditions that allow great teaching. During this time, I also learned a great deal from other members of the Partnership, including:

  • a state leader who is challenging his state to rethink professional learning through legislative action in 2 years;
  • a district leader who is rethinking the whole school year in order to allow for more consistent and purposeful collaborative planning time for educators; and
  • non-profit organizations who are looking at micro-credentialing as a way to allow for individualized, just-in-time professional learning.

Listening to their stories reminded me that, while understanding that the processes and shifts needed to make these changes are not light lifts, one of the biggest challenges is having the courage to make and sustain these transformations.

I applaud Learning Forward for building this Partnership of leaders who share a commitment to think boldly and broadly about how we can authentically change education so that every child can succeed. The Partnership serves as a catalyst to instill courage and spark change.


Melinda George, President, oversees NCTAF’s research, policy, and implementation projects, develops and maintains strategic partnerships, and provides thought leadership about teaching for the 21st century. Melinda served as NCTAF’s Vice President and Chief Operating Officer since 2011.

Leave a Comment