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What Stood Out at Learning Forward 2018

Professional Growth

Earlier this month, thousands of educators, school leaders, C&I and professional learning department heads and others descended on the Gaylord Texan Hotel in Dallas for the year’s premier professional learning event: the annual Learning Forward conference.

Literally hundreds of sessions comprised nearly a solid week of in-depth learning. You could almost see the thirst for knowledge and desire to grow among people who spend their lives in service of teachers and students.

Given the array of sessions available, every single person there had a unique experience of the conference. Here’s what some of us at Frontline came away with.

Top Takeaways from the Learning Forward Conference

“This year Learning Forward continued to focus on assessing the impact of professional learning, and on coaching and its effects on instruction and ultimately student learning. But one thing that stood out was that more than ever before, the issue of equity took center stage — I was blown away by Glenn Singleton’s keynote address.

“What’s next for Learning Forward? Executive Director Stephanie Hirsh’s retirement is a big milestone, but it’s clear that she has the right people in place to continue to support her four cornerstones: leading with equity, promoting team learning, leveraging high-quality instructional materials, and advocating with evidence. We will miss her!”

 – Juliet Correll, Director, Education & Learning Strategy

“The big takeaway I had was related to micro-credentials. This year, people seemed both more interested and more understanding of what they are as they pertain to a competency-based approach to professional development.”

– Kathy Landon, Portfolio Manager

“In the first session I attended, I was encouraged by the work that districts are doing around engagement of their teachers and administrators. A lot of work has gone into developing induction programs to help new teachers get acclimated — induction programs that were more than simply assigning a mentor for the first year; these were multi-year programs.

“They have also developed career pathways for various subsets of educators (school administrators who want to become district administrators, teachers who want to become administrators, teachers who want to advance in their careers in ways that don’t mean leaving the classroom). We know many teachers voluntarily leave the classroom because of lack of career development or advancement opportunities, and it’s encouraging to see districts putting career pathways into place to mitigate against that.

“Another takeaway was the many different roles of a coach. One group of presenters spoke about the many hats a coach wears: change agent, coach, counselor, curriculum development, data coach, evaluator, instructional support, literacy support, mentor, pedagogical expert, professional development creator / implementor / supporter / trainer, reality check, resource provider, teacher leader, teacher coach, technology support… It was striking to see this list, as we often see coaching more narrowly confined to that mentor role.”

 – Holly Harley, Sr. Product Marketing Manager

You may enjoy this hand-picked content:

Professional Development Program Evaluation for the Win! How to Sleep Well at Night Know Your Professional Learning is Effective. From veteran educator, program evaluator and educational consultant Sheila B. Robinson, this eBook dives into why and how to evaluate your professional development programs so you can make better decisions for your teachers, staff and students.

 “It was obvious that this conference draws highly passionate, focused, dedicated people. I heard many discussions around providing meaningful, flexible, adaptable professional learning for all employees, from teachers to custodial staff to the transportation department.

“There was also a key focus on leadership: training is critical. A great teacher might be a great principal, but that’s not guaranteed. And lastly, I saw that employee retention and recruitment are two huge stressors for district leadership.”

– Kalonji Martin, Senior Solutions Executive

“I was in awe of how the HR group cares so genuinely about their critical role in not just the staffing, but the end goal of best educating kids.”

– Lance Guy, Education Solutions Executive

“Leadership development was a huge theme (of course!). I attended a session with the Holdsworth Center for Excellence in Education Leadership, Arlington ISD and Klein ISD in Texas. It highlighted the need for a systemic approach to identify teacher leaders, noting that teachers often leave a district because they aren’t sure what leadership opportunities or career paths are available to them.

“Another standout was ‘How Learning Organizations Improve and Succeed’ from the Center for Public Research and Leadership at Columbia Law School. This looked at four types of organizational governance, with an emphasis on evolutionary learning: a system to improve by learning from the experience of those closest to a given problem.

“But perhaps the most enjoyable part of the conference was simply rubbing shoulders with educators who care so deeply about serving their schools and students.”

– Ryan Estes, Marketing


Wordcloud covering topics covered in Learning Forward 2018
A bird’s-eye view of topics at Learning Forward 2018, based on titles and descriptions for all sessions.

Ryan Estes

Ryan is managing editor for the global award-winning creative team at Frontline Education. He spends his time writing, podcasting, and creating content for leaders in K-12 education.