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What is the difference between professional development and professional learning for teachers?

Professional development (PD) and professional learning (PL) are both terms used in the context of continuous learning and growth for teachers. While they are related, there are some subtle differences between the two concepts.

Professional Development: Professional development often refers to a structured process or activities that teachers engage in to enhance their knowledge, skills, and competencies in their profession. It often involves workshops, seminars, conferences, courses, or other formal training programs. Professional development can be organized by schools, districts, educational institutions, or professional organizations. The focus of professional development is typically on acquiring new knowledge, learning specific strategies or techniques, and developing practical skills that can be applied in the classroom. It often includes a planned curriculum and predetermined learning outcomes.

Professional Learning: Professional learning, on the other hand, is a broader concept that encompasses not only formal training but also informal learning and ongoing reflective practice. It recognizes that learning for teachers can occur in various contexts and through different means. Professional learning emphasizes a continuous and self-directed approach to professional growth. It encourages teachers to engage in reflective practice, collaborate with colleagues, engage in action research, explore new teaching approaches, and engage in independent study. Professional learning places a stronger emphasis on self-directed learning, inquiry-based approaches, and the development of a reflective and growth-oriented mindset.

In summary, professional development refers to structured training programs with specific learning outcomes, while professional learning encompasses a wider range of activities and encourages ongoing, self-directed learning and reflective practice. Both concepts are important for teachers’ growth and improvement in their practice.

We strive to accommodate both PD and PL with EC Premium.

We see plenty of schools prescribing learning through their portals (which would fit more into the PD definition) and also see millions of minutes of ongoing learning, collaboration and personal exploration (more likely to be defined as PL). So, in short, whether it’s PD or PL, we are for it all!

Aaron Tait

Aaron is a co-founder of EC by Go1 and Vice President of Marketing. Since 2012 Aaron has developed and delivered professional learning programs K-12 education staff across the world. He is the co-author of the books Edupreneur (Wiley) and Dream Team (ASCD).

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