The Elements: Transforming Teaching through Curriculum-Based Professional Learning

A new report by Carnegie Corporation of New York calls for transforming teaching and student learning by anchoring professional learning in high-quality curriculum materials.

Teachers’ jobs are changing in real time. Over the past decade, new academic standards have dramatically shifted expectations for student learning. It’s no longer enough to raise a hand and give the right answer. Instead, we want students to wrestle with complex problems, collaborate with one another, and investigate and apply information in creative ways.

This is not how most teachers learned when they were in school. It is not how most teacher preparation programs develop adults to lead a classroom. And it looks nothing like the seminars that dominate teachers’ professional development experiences. Most teachers have never experienced the sort of inquiry-based learning we expect them to provide for their students. 

How can we make professional learning work better for teachers and their students? And how can we ensure that teachers experience the same kind of inquiry-based learning we expect them to provide for their students? The answer is Curriculum-Based Professional Learning.

Traditional teacher professional development often takes the form of a lecture-heavy workshop disconnected from the day-to-day lessons that teachers lead. By contrast, curriculum-based professional learning is active, ongoing, and focused on improving the rigor and impact of teachers’ lessons. Curriculum-Based Professional Learning:

  • Is focused on instructional materials and specific teaching strategies
  • Involves repeated sessions, coaching, and feedback opportunities during teachers’ regular workdays
  • Groups teachers by the curriculum they are using
  • Includes active learning experiences, such as practicing instruction or participating in lessons as students
  • Offers curriculum-focused coaching and feedback for all teachers
  • Is provided to all teachers using new materials

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