Through decades of shifting school reforms, policymakers have consistently called for stronger and more effective teacher learning opportunities as a means to school improvement. These calls are now more pressing than ever, as our nation’s efforts to both accelerate student learning in the wake of the pandemic and radically boost educational opportunities and outcomes for historically marginalized students will rely on the success of its teaching workforce. In short, any serious pandemic recovery theory of action will include a focus on ensuring teachers have the knowledge, practices, and skills to accelerate student learning and advance educational equity. However, notwithstanding strong evidence that some professional learning (PL) programs dramatically shift student outcomes, the field has struggled to develop PL opportunities at scale that translate into improved results.
One potential source of these challenges is the current state of PL research. Much of the existing PL research literature tests only whether particular programs work. While we can derive some design principles from comparing common features across effective programs, we cannot derive very many. This means that the PL reaching teachers may not be designed in a way that maximizes its potential for leading and driving change.
Our partnership—the Research Partnership for Professional Learning (RPPL)—responds to this challenge by uniting PL organizations with leading researchers to drive a transformation of PL research and practice in the United States. We aim to create a more equitable system of schooling for all students by deliberately testing multiple design options for PL programs and working to understand their effects on teacher and student learning.