Formal Professional Learning

Educators typically participate in formal professional learning opportunities as requirements for state certification and district employment. Formal opportunities include university level courses either online, in-person or blended, webinars, workshops, district or school led communities of practice, and coaching/mentoring partnerships. Below are several examples of formal professional learning opportunities that can effectively support educators.


Instructional technology/digital learning facilitators or coaches have proven to be valuable in providing support to educators as they shift to new instructional practices. This direct one-on-one and small group instructional assistance can show teachers how to modify and deliver their lessons to take advantage of new technology resources. To be effective, districts should consider assigning at least one expert to each school (depending upon size) in order to accelerate the adoption of new forms of instruction and assessment.

Communities of Practice (COP)

Online, face-to-face and hybrid models of communities of practice provide educators with the ability to connect with fellow educators both asynchronously and in real-time to share resources, successes and challenges. Teachers and administrators benefit from the ongoing support available through these communities as they grow and expand to support the diverse needs of educators. Communities may be school, district or state based and/or connect teachers of similar content areas or grade levels nationally or internationally. Communities of practice differ from educators’ online courses. Online courses are more structured, typically requiring specific content and activities within a specific time period. Many of them do contain elements of a CoP to facilitate interaction and support among participants.

Examples of Communities of Practice

From Policy to Practice

The goals for the Apache Junction United School District’s (AJUSD) Collaboration Coaching Program are to build capacity in 21st century learning, which is built into the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards (AZCCRS).


All AJUSD collaboration coaches are classroom teachers that have made the commitment to participate in the program and work alongside their peers to develop an engaging, creative, and collaborative learning environment for students. The trainings focus on technology integration, lesson design and pedagogy. While Collaboration Coaching provides ongoing, job-embedded professional development through learning communities, the format is different at each school based on the site vision and goals. In all cases, where teams engage students in rigorous learning, as they support and help build capacity with the AZCCRS. Every year site principals collaborate with their coaches to develop goals, providing direction and support for their staff. Areas of focus include content-based or 1-to-1 professional learning communities, building capacity with the AZCCRS, setting goals to increase rigor, and co-facilitating project based learning models. In addition to the support of the collaboration coaches, all professional learning provided by the district office is designed with technology integrated into the instruction.

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