The following is an excerpt from the article “Pushing the Boundaries of Professional Learning,” which appeared in Inspiring the Future, the UF College of Education’s annual report.  To read more, please click the button to in the left column.

We know with greater clarity than ever before: unless teacher development is shaped by individual teacher and student needs and part of a coherent system of support, educator practices won’t change and students won’t have access to the great teaching they deserve.

Don Pemberton, a national leader in the teacher quality movement, supports that assertion.

FIRMLY. Formally. Publicly. Actively.

Pemberton, director of the University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning, the College of Education’s research- and-development incubator, is one of 28 partners in
a blue-ribbon coalition of top American education advocates and thought leaders who have spent the past year collaborating on the development of a set of principles for “re-imagining” professional learning to improve classroom teaching, school leadership and ultimately student achievement.

The collaborators are part of a self-described, national professional learning community called Learning Forward, whose teacher development reform efforts are supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Pemberton and his 27 colleagues have spent the past year challenging assumptions about professional learning, studying promising models, clarifying shared principles and discussing individual and collective action plans to raise the standard of teacher development in America.

They outlined their findings, consensual principles and recommended actions in a report called The Mirage: Confronting the Hard Truth About the Quest for Teacher Development. In early August, the national, nonprofit teachers group, TNTP released of the 63- page Mirage report in Washington D.C. The opening declaration of this article is a quote from TNTP’s public announcement introducing the report. The “hard truth,” the report’s authors write,” is that the (professional development) help most schools get isn’t that helpful” in furthering their teachers’ effectiveness and impact on student learning.

They call for a “new conversation” about teacher development and list three key recommendations, along with guidelines for accomplishing them:

Redefine precisely what it means to help teachers improve their craft.
Reevaluate existing professional learning supports and programs.
A deep understanding of the district’s or organization’s instructional framework and the related observation instruments.