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Professional Learning

Provides opportunities for educators to enhance their understanding of how they can help students learn and thrive.
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Professional learning allows educators to explore how their teaching and management strategies help students learn and thrive. Professional learning includes workshops and other more traditional types of professional development. But it goes further, engaging educators in ongoing self reflection, peer support, experimentation, and modification of instruction and management practices based on student performance data, student work, and both learning and social behaviors. Through an intensive process of collaborative and job-embedded learning, educators can gain more than content knowledge or technical strategies—they can gain an improved understanding of their own teaching and learning and of the various ways by which students learn. Through this effort, educators also come together as a community of self-developing practitioners.

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Promising Practices

  • Teaching Solutions: Many Ways Up, No Reason to Move Out External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
    Teachers do not need to move out of the classroom to develop their expertise to solve our schools' most pressing problems, suggests this new model that encourages effective teachers.
  • Center on Great Teachers and Leaders External link opens in new window or tab.
    The Center supports state education leaders in their efforts to grow, respect, and retain great teachers and leaders for all students. Based at American Institutes for Research, it provides various types of evaluation models of teachers and leaders.
  • Child Abuse Mandated Reporter Training External link opens in new window or tab.
    The goal of the online resource is to provide free training available for mandated child abuse reporters so they may carry out their responsibilities properly.
  • A Close Encounter, Through the Writers' Eyes External link opens in new window or tab.
    Part of the New ELA/ELD Framework. This webinar provides insights to the California Department of Education (CDE) ELA/ELD Framework for California Public Schools from the primary authors.


Excerpted from CDE’s External Linking Policy: The CDE is providing these external links only as a convenience, and the inclusion of any external link does not imply endorsement by the CDE or any association with the sites' operators.


“Developing is not enough. Educators must be knowledgeable and wise. They must know enough in order to change. They must change in order to get different results. They must become learners, and they must be self-developing.” (1)

Well-prepared teachers and leaders are essential for providing effective, high-quality instruction so that students learn and thrive. Traditionally, professional development has been offered through a combination of one-size-fits-all teacher and administrator education programs and periodic in-service sessions. While this traditional approach to professional development allows educators to build basic competency in content knowledge or new instructional strategies, it is generally perceived as insufficient to transform teaching practices or to improve the supervisory and coaching practices of school leaders.

The Educator Excellence Task Force, appointed in 2012 by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson (2), has recommended shifting California’s focus from professional development to professional learning. Professional learning—as opposed to traditional professional development—focuses on a wider range of formal and informal learning opportunities, emphasizes self reflection and peer support, and requires on-the-job practice and experimentation. Learning Forward explains that professional growth for teachers can result from both formal professional development and opportunities for professional learning—such as common planning time, shared opportunities to examine student work, or tools for self-reflection—that may occur outside the bounds of formal professional development events. . . . Professional learning [is] a product of both externally provided and job-embedded activities that increase teachers’ knowledge and change their instructional practice in ways that support student learning. Thus, formal professional development represents a subset of the range of experiences that may result in professional learning. (3)


Gaining new instructional techniques or an enhanced understanding of content is an important step in ensuring that students learn and thrive. Educators then implement these techniques and investigate and study how their teaching and management strategies impact their students’ learning. As the characteristics and needs of students change, educators find it is essential to better understand the unique cultural and linguistic learning needs of their students. (1) Teachers also examine how various instructional strategies and techniques are likely to advance their students’ learning. This process of development (content knowledge and instructional practices) and learning (how these skills impact student learning over time) can become a positive spiral so that new knowledge and experiences continue to inform and enhance classroom interactions. (2)

Some studies have quantitatively demonstrated the relationship between professional learning and student achievement. One encouraging finding is that student learning increases in schools where there are educator communities that are reflective, collaborative, and focused on issues of teaching and learning. (3) Also, an analysis of a large body of professional development research found that the average student would see a significant achievement increase if his or her teacher had received approximately 50 or more hours of professional learning. (4)


Professional learning requires effective communication, leadership, and collaboration, but it is ultimately about improved outcomes for students. (1) Preparation for professional educators is most effective when it is structured as a continuum of ongoing experiences designed to support effective student learning.

For example, at the beginning of their career, teachers receive Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment induction cosponsored by the California Department of Education (CDE) and the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). This provides a foundation for beginning teachers as one part of a larger professional learning continuum.           

Then, as teachers seek to expand or improve their professional skills and experience, they may participate in opportunities like professional learning communities (PLCs). Research has found that high-quality PLCs maintain an intensive and sustained focus on student learning and student-learning data. Teachers in high-quality PLCs are afforded opportunities for active learning. They are able to apply and reflect on their learning, and their learning process and content is based on evidence-based practices. Ultimately, PLC members become expert at dealing with change as a routine part of their work—not just in relation to the latest policy, but as a way of life. (2)

School administrators should also be actively engaged in the professional learning process and have a thorough understanding of instruction, curriculum, and assessment to enable them to support and foster a culture of learning in their schools. Like teachers, administrators need more than a one-size-fits-all approach to professional development—they need an ongoing professional learning process grounded in their everyday work to support student success.

CDE released seven Quality Professional Learning Standards (QPLS) that represent the expectations and criteria for quality professional learning. (3) The QPLS were developed by a broad group of stakeholders and based on comprehensive, current research about effective professional learning strategies and systems. The QPLS should be considered as an integrated set of standards that collectively help educators develop, implement, and assess professional learning.

According to the QPLS, quality professional learning is composed of the following seven standards:

  1. Data
    Quality prof fess ion al learning uses varied sources and kinds of information to guide priorities, design, and assessments.
  2. Content and Pedagogy
    Quality professional learning enhances educators’ expertise to increase students’ capacity to learn and thrive.
  3. Equity
    Quality professional learning focuses on equitable access, opportunities, and outcomes for all students, with an emphasis on addressing achievement and opportunity disparities between student groups.
  4. Design and Structure
    Quality professional learning reflects research and best practices and recognizes that focused, long-term learning enables educators with a variety of experiences and needs to acquire, practice, and assess new learning.
  5. Collaboration and Shared Accountability
    Quality professional learning facilitates the development of a shared purpose for student learning and collective responsibility for achieving it.
  6. Resources
    Quality professional learning dedicates resources that are adequate, accessible, and allocated appropriately toward established priorities and outcomes.
  7. Alignment and Coherence
    Quality professional learning contributes to a coherent system of educator learning and support that connects district, school, and individual priorities and needs with state and federal requirements and resources.


Standards and Frameworks

  • National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
    The California Department of Education (CDE) actively supports teachers in their efforts to achieve advanced National Board Certification as clarified and modeled by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
  • World Language: English Language Development Standards of Quality and Effectiveness for Subject Matter Programs A Handbook for Teacher Educators and Program Reviewers External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
    This handbook contains the Commission on Teacher Credentialing-approved standards and program requirements for universities and colleges to develop the professional credentialing programs for the new English Language Development single subject teaching credential. It can serve as a blueprint to identify gaps in training when developing professional development programs for school districts.
  • California’s Quality Professional Learning Standards
    California’s Quality Professional Learning Standards lay the foundation for creating a coherent set of professional learning policies and activities that span the career continuum of an educator, which leads to improved educator knowledge, skills, and dispositions and, ultimately, increased student learning results. The standards describe the criteria for quality professional learning and point educators and stakeholders toward evidence-based elements and indicators to use when they make decisions about how to create and/or improve professional learning in their own systems.


Questions: Quality Schooling Framework | | 916-319-0836 
Last Reviewed: Thursday, November 16, 2023
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