Professional Learning and Instructional Leadership During COVID-19
Problem and Purpose: Professional learning has the potential for significant impact within the realm of teaching and learning. District and school-based leaders spend valuable time mapping professional development calendars and planning learning opportunities for staff. In addition to the time spent, professional learning has a significant impact on the budget. Planning and implementing professional learning is a timely and expensive endeavor. However, professional learning often falls short in delivery. Impacts are limited and sometimes even negative when staff have a bad experience. During a time of crisis, professional learning is paramount as all stakeholders respond and adjust. Time is of the essence during a crisis. As a result, effective delivery of professional learning is critical for managing and maintaining the instructional core. The purpose of this study is to further explore and understand what influences teacher professional learning and instructional practices. Additionally, this study will seek to identify the ways in which principals create the conditions to support teachers’ professional learning. Understanding teacher learning and leadership support for learning will help practitioners to design for learning that has an impact. Methods: To answer these questions, a qualitative case-study of one medium sized urban district in Massachusetts was studied. The district reflects a diverse student body that includes English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and students identified as high needs. Interviews, observations, and document review were utilized for data collection. Analysis of the data was informed by Communities of Practice. Implications: In order for professional learning opportunities to be meaningful and to have an impact, district and school based leaders should remain mindful that learning is a social endeavor. Balancing vertical and horizontal power with creating space for partnership will contribute to professional learning plans that are productive for teachers and that engage principals in creating the conditions to support teacher learning.