This knowledge brief is part of a continuing series designed to inform California education leaders about new research findings on key state policy topics. This brief summarizes recent findings on effective teacher professional learning.

By Reino Makkonen & Joy Lewis, WestEd

Guidelines for teaching California’s students have changed dramatically in recent years, as state leaders have adopted new academic standards, curriculum frameworks, and instructional materials lists in an attempt to better prepare students for college and career.

However, adopting high-quality standards and curriculum materials does not guarantee effective instruction in classrooms. Teachers need sustained, job-embedded, content-rich professional learning in order to build their capacity to make the instructional shifts required to engage learners around today’s academic expectations and curricula (Hill, 2020). Moving forward, this brief refers to such professional learning simply as curriculum-focused professional learning. As one California district leader recently explained, the state’s previous academic expectations “did not call for huge shifts in instructional practice in the way that the Common Core standards are calling for, yet we haven’t made that same kind of investment in professional development that we did back in the early 2000s” (Finkelstein & Moffitt, 2018, p. 5).

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