Teacher Professional Learning Through Teacher Network Programs

Bri Monahan

High-quality professional development opportunities for teachers are centrally important to improve instructional effectiveness and increase student learning. Teacher practice networks have emerged as a potential mechanism to support teacher professional learning and supplement other types of professional development available to teachers. Network programs support teachers and their instructional practice by (a) providing access to instructional materials, (b) providing training and support in the use of instructional resources and strategies, and (c) enabling teachers to connect with a network of other teachers to support instructional improvements.

This study examined the experiences of teachers in six schools participating in one of three teacher network programs during the 2016–17 school year. The goal of the research was to provide an in-depth picture that would describe how teachers engage in networks, what they may gain from participation, and how their learning from network programs may spread throughout their schools.

Key Findings

The teacher learning opportunities offered through the network programs studied had several promising ingredients. This included engaged core teachers, high-quality instructional materials, instructional approaches aligned to local objectives, and support from school leaders.

The study findings highlight a need for professional learning in both instructional content and teacher leadership to accelerate the benefits of network program participation. These findings also emphasize the importance of network program roles and activities responsive to school contexts and the limitations of professional development structures in schools.

The findings highlight several opportunities for program improvements to help teachers overcome obstacles to teacher-led learning in schools and be prepared to support the learning of peers:

  • Place more emphasis on professional learning for teacher leadership
  • Help core teachers understand school readiness
  • Engage school leaders to support teachers during early adoption