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Toolkit: Connected Professional Learning for Teachers

Research and tools to help school systems accelerate teacher effectiveness and student growth through Connected Professional Learning

A Teacher's Perspective

“During my first year of teaching sixth-grade English Language Arts, I met for one 50-minute period per week with my grade-level teaching team. We typically used this time to cover administrative updates, talk about the kids in our grade level, and plan around events like field trips…I usually ended up planning instruction alone after I got home from work or over the weekend. 

My mentor observed me once, left me an observation form with some tips to improve classroom management, and never scheduled any follow-up. For professional development, I attended district-run workshops with other new teachers several times over the course of the year…

As a teacher, I felt like a failure almost every day. It was the hardest job I have ever done.”

— Former sixth grade ELA teacher in a large urban district


Connected Professional Learning for Teachers

The introduction of college- and career-ready standards profoundly raises the bar for teaching and learning in American schools—and for professional development. Successful school systems integrate three elements into one cohesive strategy:

  1. Rigorous, comprehensive curricula and assessments
  2. Content-focused, expert-led collaboration
  3. Frequent, growth-oriented feedback

We call this Connected Professional Learning. It requires significant shifts in how school systems organize resources—moving away from one-size-fits-all workshops and pay for advanced degrees—toward time and instructional leaders to help teachers engage with the curriculum and adjust to student results. 

In this toolkit we explore what these strategic practices look like, how to organize resources, and where to get started. We also share a diagnostic assessment, in-depth case studies, and other tools to support the shift. 

For a closer look at how districts and schools can use federal COVID stimulus money to organize resources in ways that empower teachers through regular, job-embedded learning and increased time for reflection, planning, and collaboration, explore our Schools Start Here guide on Professional Learning & Collaboration.



Igniting the Learning Engine: How school systems accelerate teacher effectiveness and student growth through Connected Professional Learning

We studied four school systems that are rising to the challenge and seeing growth in student achievement, even as they work with large populations of high-need students through Connected Professional Learning.

In many school systems today, teacher PD remains disconnected from everyday instructional work —disconnected from the material being taught, from the collaborative work of teacher planning time, and from observations by peers, mentors, and school leaders.

In contrast, professional learning in the systems we studied is profoundly connected—really, embedded—into the teaching job, and teachers learn and grow through the daily work of improving instruction.

Igniting the Learning Engine explores the strategic practices in these four school systems, how to organize resources to make them happen, and where to get started.

Download the Report

Download the Executive Summary

Rigorous, Comprehensive Curricula and Assessments in Louisiana

See how the Louisiana Department of Education is improving student and teacher learning through access to high-quality curricula—despite a combination of resource challenges.

Download the Case Study

Finding Time for Collaborative Planning

Learn six strategies for finding enough time for meaningful collaborative planning among your teachers.

Download the Case Study

Content-Focused, Expert-Led Collaboration at Achievement First

Get a detailed portrait of how the charter network Achievement First provides its teacher teams with the lesson materials, time, expert support, and teacher culture to embed professional learning in collaborative planning teams.

Download the Case Study

Frequent, Growth-Oriented Feedback at DC Public Schools

Take a look at frequent, growth-oriented feedback at DC Public Schools, which is a key part of LEarning together to Advance our Practice, or LEAP.

Download the Case Study

Teacher Professional Learning Diagnostic Assessment

Assess how your school system supports curriculum, collaboration, and feedback and compare yourself to strategic practices in our case study systems.

Take the Assessment

Access the tools and resources used by the case study systems from Igniting the Learning Engine to support Connected Professional Learning (such as curriculum guides, collaborative planning protocols, sample schedules, and more). The tools are organized by each of the three elements of Connected Professional Learning.

  Rigorous, Comprehensive Curricula and Assessments





 Content-Focused, Expert-Led Collaboration




Frequent, Growth-Oriented Feedback


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For more than a decade, Education Resource Strategies has worked with school systems to transform how they use resources. We are ready to partner with your school system or connect you with other service providers to create Connected Professional Learning.


See below for a list of related resources from both inside and outside ERS

Media and blog coverage of Connected Professional Learning

Related resources from ERS

Related resources from other organziations:



Professional learning strategies should be designed as part of a holistic strategy for system-wide change. This means connecting it to other elements like:

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