Rooted in Research

Why KDS Professional Learning is Most Effective

What Makes Professional Learning Effective—and Ineffective?

Researchers have found that while 90% of teachers reported participating in professional development, most of those reported that it was useless. (Darling-Hammond et al. 2009) Thus, the real issue isn’t that teachers aren’t receiving professional development, it is that what is being offered is ineffective in changing teacher practice or increasing student achievement. The most prevalent model for delivering professional development is workshops. Yet, they have an abysmal track record for changing teacher practice and student achievement. (Yoon et al, 2007)

Research shows that when it comes to student performance, a teacher has two to three times the impact of any other school factor, including services, facilities, and leadership. Therefore, one of a district’s most pressing challenges is to ensure that teachers are continuously growing, developing their practice, and raising their effectiveness so they can help improve every student’s knowledge, skills, and achievement to graduate college and career ready.

A comprehensive study analyzed 1,300 studies, representing the entire landscape of professional research and the researchers found that the only professional development programs that impacted student achievement were lengthy (an average of 49 hours), intensive, and supported. In fact, programs less than 14 hours (like multi-day workshops) had no impact.

This research shows that effective professional development is:

  • Focused on one specific curriculum, content, and pedagogy
  • Designed to engage teachers in active, collegial learning that allows them to try out ideas in the classroom and make sense of what they are learning in meaningful ways
  • Presented in an intensive, sustained, and continuous manner over time (with an average of about 50 hours or more on a given topic), including time for teachers to not only learn a new strategy, but to have time to practice implementing it as well
  • Connected to teachers’ collaborative work in school-based professional learning communities and learning teams
  • Supported by coaching, modeling, observation, and feedback. There must be support for a teacher during the implementation stage that addresses the specific challenges of changing classroom practice
  • Integrated with other school-level policies or reforms, so that there is a coherent approach to curriculum, instruction, assessments, and PD

Effective PD doesn’t just require learning a new skill, however, it must also allow an educator to successfully implement it. The research is clear here too, and shows an exceptionally strong relationship between communal learning, collegiality, and collective action (key aspects of professional learning communities) and changes in teacher practice and increases in student learning.

The Importance of Integrating Formal & Informal Learning

To prepare educators to address the challenges of teaching students to be college and career ready and to think critically, educators themselves must embrace new thinking and teaching methods. Educators must both learn and apply new skills and be prepared to continue to evolve their teaching. Researcher Judith Little describes these two functions as technical skill training (“formal” learning) and an inquiry process where teachers innovate (“informal” learning). KDS is uniquely positioned to support both of these critically important modalities.

The research shows that this model, in which educators engage in both “formal” and “informal” learning supports both the acquisition and application of knowledge as well as the social, collaborative and self-directed continuous development that is needed for effective change. It provides a system of support for professional growth - not simply one of accountability.

Formal Learning – Content, Coaching and Implementation Support

Acquisition of knowledge and skills for implementation in the classrooms requires deep and formal professional learning for key district initiatives. For clients who are ready to transform teacher professional development and support in order to dramatically improve teacher practice as well as raise student achievement, KDS intensively trains district coaches in the practices and pedagogies that the district agrees all teachers must learn and improve in, defines an explicit role in teacher PD for principals and trains them for that role, and delivers at least 50 hours of blended professional development to teachers including instruction, coaching and practice.

With the KDS approach, districts achieve:

  • Deep knowledge by teachers of key practices and pedagogies through ongoing engagement in online instruction, coaching and practice and through facilitated collaborative work with peers
  • Expertise from district coaches in key practices and pedagogies through face-to-face training and online coursework
  • Deep knowledge by principals of instructional leadership practices and working knowledge of content in teacher courses
  • Shared teacher and coach knowledge of key content, which allows face-to-face teacher/coach interaction to focus on collaboration, modeling and feedback
  • Improved teacher practice and effectiveness Increases in student learning and achievement

Informal Learning – Connect, Empower, Transform with PLP

At the heart of Knowledge Delivery Systems’ technology offerings is the KDS Professional Learning Platform (PLP). PLP brings the power of a comprehensive, centralized, unified platform for developing employees to a district’s technology and platform ecosystem. PLP provides tools to support the ongoing engagement of all employees with rich content and dynamic learning tools.

PLP is a cloud-based, enterprise-level solution that has been developed to meet the needs of large, complex school districts that are building and implementing strong systems of support for their employees.

PLP is designed and developed to serve district PD needs with:

  • Content – A knowledge management system to find, organize and leverage rich curated content, district developed resources, 500+ targeted videos, 3rd party content, 225+ compliance courses, web resources, educator-generated content, and tools for developing online courses, plus options to access courses for continuing education and graduate credit.
  • Collaboration - The latest online professional learning and collaboration tools including virtual community workspaces, personalized learning experiences, discussion forums, HD video chat, webinars, shared screens and documents, blogging and peer-networking, and support for effective coaching that makes teacher learning engaging, convenient and social.
  • Personalization – Personalized and continuous professional learning aligned with individual, building, and district goals. The platform evolves and adapts to support educators as they build expertise and continuously improve practice.
  • Integration – Seamless integration and interoperability with district human capital management and authentication systems. (including SSO and LDAP)