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Relevant, Job-Embedded Professional Learning

STRATEGY: Embed professional learning needs into the school schedule and each teacher’s every day work.

Effective school leaders embed professional learning needs into the school schedule and each teacher’s day so that learning is part of day-to-day practice, also known as “job-embedded learning.” When school leaders place a priority on job-embedded learning, they foster conditions necessary for teachers to transfer new skills into practice within a strong system of support. By embedding professional learning needs into the school schedule, school leaders provide relevant and timely learning opportunities for teachers. Job-embedded learning provides teachers with greater access to more learning opportunities, which results in development of higher levels of self-efficacy to positively impact student learning.


Job-embedded learning occurs in the context of the school and represents one of six criteria associated with the Every Student Succeeds Act’s definition of high-quality professional learning. Job-embedded learning supports continuous and collaborative professional learning that facilitates implementation of evidenced-based practices to ensure positive student outcomes. Through implementation of job-embedded learning, teachers engage in collegial conversations and reflection to arrive at solutions to their specific problems of practice. Examples of job-embedded learning include collaborative planning, lesson study, mentoring, coaching, peer observations, personal learning networks, professional learning committees, study groups, action research, journaling, and reflective logs. Job-embedded learning can involve one or more adult learner(s).

First Steps to Consider

School leaders who embed professional learning into the school schedule leverage educators’ professional knowledge in the school as a driver for meeting learning goals. Through the iterative process of learning from practice, continuous improvement becomes the norm as the instructional capacity of teachers increases each day in direct relation to the most critical student needs. Quick wins

  • Actively promote the idea that authentic learning can occur anytime and anywhere as a viable option for improving practice.
  • Develop trusting and supportive relationships within the school.
  • Assign value for learning evidenced by artifacts (i.e., student work) and “currency” (i.e., hours, credits, etc.) as the standard for documenting learning, whether for individual portfolios or to meet district requirements.
  • Use student performance data to inform areas of focus for job-embedded learning.
  • Review teacher appraisal outcomes to inform job-embedded learning priorities.
  • Schedule time within the regular school day for learning.
  • Enhance collaborative processes by leveraging technology.
  • Celebrate growth realized through job-embedded learning efforts.

First steps

  • Examine existing time to inform the best strategy for how to schedule time for learning within the regular school day.
  • Align job-embedded learning with individual and schoolwide student academic achievement goals.
  • Assign teacher leaders specific authority and responsibility for facilitating, supporting, and reinforcing job-embedded learning as a key strategy for achieving learner outcomes.
  • Support teachers with identification of protocols that will enhance job-embedded learning structures being implemented.
  • Determine the highest priority to be addressed by job-embedded learning.
  • Ensure that job-embedded learning is aligned with student standards and school curricula.
  • Establish a system to leverage peer-to-peer accountability as a component of job-embedded learning efforts.

Complexities & Pitfalls

When embedding professional learning needs into the school schedule and each teacher’s every day work, school leaders often encounter complexities associated with time, space, structures, and support. Common pitfalls

  • Providing limited time and resources for job-embedded learning.
  • Perpetuating existing and ineffective practices.
  • Promoting passive learning mindsets over active learning mindsets.
  • Promoting an isolationist culture over a collaborative culture.
  • Encountering varying levels of commitment to school improvement.
  • Viewing job-embedded learning as a program and not a process.
  • Disproportionately focusing on changing the practice of others instead of self.
  • Initiating job-embedded learning that confirms existing practices as opposed to leading to new discoveries to inform teaching and learning.
  • Teachers fearing failure in response to expectations around implementation of new learning in the classroom.
  • Allowing varying levels of expertise among grade- or subject-level teams and implications for group dynamics.
  • Failing to reconcile unexpected or unintended misalignments between external professional learning providers and job-embedded learning work.
  • Teachers experiencing limited autonomy due to top-down (transactional) leadership practices

Guiding Questions

  • In what ways will students benefit from job-embedded learning?
  • How will job-embedded learning increase teachers’ knowledge and skills?
  • What goals will be met through job-embedded learning?
  • What types of job-embedded learning will work best at the school level? At the team level? At the individual level?
  • What strategies will be implemented to share benefits being realized from job-embedded learning across grade levels and subject areas?
  • What barriers does the school culture present in relation to job-embedded learning and what proactive measures will be implemented to eliminate those barriers?
  • What systems support alignment of job-embedded learning with goals?
  • What systems support monitoring and evaluating job-embedded learning outcomes? What strategies will be implemented to measure and account for teachers’ learning and collaboration?
  • What schedule of job-embedded learning will be feasible to implement? What creative use of time will be implemented to support job-embedded learning?
  • What role will the school leader play in the job-embedded learning process? How will the school leader participate in job-embedded learning and to what level of frequency?
  • What are other schools in the district, state, and nation doing to support job-embedded learning? How will school leaders leverage those best practices in their school(s)?