It is more likely, however, that professional learning communities will be criticized or debated when they are poorly implemented or facilitated, if they become disorganized and unfocused, if they are perceived as a burdensome or time-consuming obligation, or when teachers have negative experiences within their groups. Like any school-improvement strategy or program, the quality of the design and execution will typically determine the results achieved. If meetings are poorly facilitated and conversations lapse into complaints about policies or personalities, or if educators fail to turn group learning into actual changes in instructional techniques, professional learning communities are less likely to be successful.
Ultimately, professional learning opportunities should be a natural part of an educator's professional life. But it is also the responsibility of school leaders to provide time and space for educators to grow professionally and engage in conversations around common ideas. Professional learning should also be a personalized experience that allows every educator the autonomy to select his or her own learning pathway and connect with like-minded colleagues. Being an educator does not simply mean that you're transferring information to students. Rather, you're someone who models to your students every day what it looks like -- and means -- to be an evolving learner.
Next gen professional learning is built upon the research of adult learning and mirrors the core principles of next gen learning for students: agency, self-direction, and high-quality content personalized to educators’ strengths and needs. The learning is ongoing, iterative, collaborative, culturally relevant, focused on mastering competencies through authentic experiences, and data-driven. Microcredentials, coaching, job-embedded learning, and design thinking are shaping the future of professional learning for educators.
We know that when educators are thoroughly prepared to take on their essential role in next gen learning—and when they experience authentic, continuous, and deep learning themselves—that’s when next gen learning thrives.