Program Standard 4: Questions and Answers

What is professional learning?

In CASC programs, professional learning encompasses specific professional development experiences, coaching and assessment, plus additional opportunities to learn and grow during reflection on practice and networking with colleagues. These learning opportunities are written into an Individual Induction Plan (IIP). Professional learning may address common leadership themes pertinent to beginning administrators, but is also responsive to the needs of each candidate with individualized work targeted in the California Professional Standards for Education Leaders (CPSEL), grounded in the context of the candidate's position and experience. Novice administrators benefit from opportunities to practice pertinent skills and connect with other induction candidates who provide support, celebrate success, and collaboratively engage in learning.

What are the characteristics of effective professional learning?

Research-based professional learning can be a primary lever for improved educator practice and student results when it is:
  • Rooted in student and educator needs
  • Focused on content and pedagogy
  • Designed to ensure equitable outcomes
  • Ongoing, intensive, and embedded in practice
  • Collaborative, with an emphasis on shared accountability
  • Supported by adequate resources
  • Coherent and aligned with other standards, policies, and programs

In a CASC induction program, professional learning:

  • Is outlined in the IIP
  • Is related to IIP Goals that are part of the evaluation system
  • Is aligned to Category III, Standard 5 (CPSEL)
  • Supports growth for the candidate
  • Takes a variety of forms: for example, workshop or networking with peers, in-person or online
  • May be an individual or group activity
  • Provides networking opportunities
  • Provides offerings that address needs common to all beginning administrators
  • Provides offerings that address the individual needs of each candidate (Administrative Services Credential Program Standards, p. 25)

Specifically, for the CASC Program, professional learning includes coaching, professional development and assessment, organized into an Individual Induction Plan. Examples of these professional learning components are detailed in other modules:

How is Professional Learning different from Professional Development?

Joellen Killion, Senior Advisor for Learning Forward, describes professional development as an "event or activity to develop educators" that focuses primarily on what is being done to promote learning, whereas professional learning (PL) is "the kind of learning expectations we have" and focuses on outcomes of "What is the learning that's taking place - how are we engaging people in a process that promotes their learning to move it toward practice?" Killion elaborates that "An individual event is not sufficient to change practice, we need a process of learning - a continuous, ongoing process of looking at how we change, adapt and grow as educators." (2013)

In CASC, the induction experience is a composite of the key intersecting elements of individualized coaching, professional development opportunities, and assessment of skills, chronicled in the IIP. Professional learning is a continuous cycle of planning, learning, practice, and reflection, both as an individual and as part of a network of learners. 

What are the expectations for professional learning in California?

The Greatness by Design report recommends a system of professional learning that brings together the goals of the state, districts, and schools, as well as individual educator needs, while recognizing and addressing the unique assets and needs of California's diverse student population. Specifically, the report calls for a focus on students with disabilities; students from minority cultural, racial, and linguistic subgroups; and students from low-income families (p. 53). The report also stresses that quality professional learning must provide a continuum of opportunities for educators to learn and practice skills that advance expertise throughout their careers, from preparation through expert practice. 

Expectations for professional learning in California are encapsulated in The Superintendent's Quality Professional Learning Standards (QPLS) (November 2013, revised March, 2015). These standards were drafted by an educator panel, shaped by three public reviews, and approved by State Superintendent Torlekson and the State Board of Education. 

What are the Quality Professional Learning Standards (QPLS)?

The QPLS are seven interdependent program standards comprising the essential elements of quality professional learning. Combined, the standards create a foundation for the content, processes, and conditions essential to promote quality educator learning and development. They include:

  • Data: Quality professional learning uses varied sources and kinds of information to guide priorities, design, and assessments.
  • Content and Pedagogy: Quality professional learning enhances educators' expertise to increase students' capacity to learn and thrive.
  • Equity: Quality professional learning focuses on equitable access, opportunities, and outcomes for all students, with an emphasis on addressing achievement and opportunity disparities between student groups.
  • Design and Structure: Quality professional learning reflects evidence-based approaches, recognizing that focused, sustained learning enables educators to acquire, implement, and assess improved practices.
  • Collaboration and Shared Accountability: Quality professional learning facilitates the development of a shared purpose for student learning and collective responsibility for achieving it.
  • Resources: Quality professional learning dedicates resources that are adequate, accessible, and allocated appropriately toward established priorities and outcomes.
  • Alignment and Coherence: Quality professional learning contributes to a coherent system of educator learning and support that connects district, school, and individual priorities and needs with state and federal requirements and resources.

What might QPLS be used in the administrator induction program? By the candidate? By the employer?

The QPLS are intended to help users contextualize their own goals, plans, and evaluations when making decisions about how to create and/or improve professional learning in their own systems. The QPLS are in no way intended to replace professional personnel standards for individual educators. Instead, the QPLS describe the system of quality learning experiences that, if well implemented, will benefit educators focused on increasing their professional capacity and performance.

By the Program: Just like the Administrator Program Standards, the QPLS were not designed to be used as a checklist or workbook for creating one-size-fits-all professional learning. Rather, the QPLS should be used by program providers as research-based criteria to inform and customize their own professional learning design, implementation plans, and program evaluations to fit their specific context. Using the QPLS to effectively guide professional learning requires that program providers, candidates, coaches and employers collaboratively engage in careful study, analysis, planning, implementation, and evaluation to build a system and activities that address their own identified program goals for candidate learning and employee performance. The program can also use the QPLS as content for the induction program, teaching candidates the evidence-based elements of effective professional learning systems.

By the Candidate: Beginning administrators, CASC candidates, can use the QPLS in leading professional learning at their own sites. The QPLS provide an anchor point for leaders to work with their staff and other stakeholders in planning, implementing and assessing professional learning that aligns with their shared vision and goals for enhancing instruction and learning. The candidate can also use QPLS to assess the quality of her or his own professional learning experiences and use the results to provide feedback to providers and/or choose professional learning that is more relevant and effective for her or his objectives.

By Employers: Employers can use the QPLS to assess the quality of their current professional development activities. The QPLS provide characteristics of professional learning that will most likely lead to educators' increased knowledge and skills and, then, to improvements in educator practice. As they are used at the site, district leaders and stakeholders can turn to the QPLS for guidance in planning individual and collective continuous improvement activities that are evidence-based and relevant. 

How can QPLS be linked to other California Standards and Initiatives?

California has many sets of standards and expectations to guide policies, programs, and personnel effectiveness (e.g., CCSS, NGSS, CSTP, CPSEL). The QPLS present criteria for identifying program quality by describing the content, processes, and conditions inherent in effective professional learning. For example, state content standards identify expectations for what students should know and be able to do grade by grade and, therefore, student standards point out what educators need to know and do to help all students meet these standards. 

 Building the capacity of educators to meet this challenge requires ongoing educator development and support. The QPLS help to identify necessary elements for educator learning and support that leads to improvements in instruction and to students reaching expected learning outcomes. QPLS also connect with professional standards for teachers and administrators. QPLS identify criteria these educators can use in selecting professional learning activities, collaboratively planning professional learning at their sites, or assessing the impact of professional learning expenditures on changes in practice or results. The various sets of standards have unique purposes and uses, but should be interconnected to align the professional learning system with educator effectiveness and student learning outcomes. 

(See Types of Standards in Program Standard 5
Updated December 12, 2022