Master Class – Andy and Danette

Designing and Leading Professional Learning Networks

Andy Hargreaves and Danette Parsley

Engaging educators in meaningful and impactful collaboration through professional learning networks (PLNs) is an increasingly common—and potentially effective—strategy for innovation and improvement in schools. It is a popular strategy for a reason: we know that teachers are the most important within-school factor that affects student learning and achievement, and teachers working with teachers is key for advancing professional capital and transforming classroom practice. But do all PLNs reach their full potential and achieve their desired outcomes? Not necessarily.

That’s where an intentional design (or re-design) approach can help.

In this masterclass, presenters will introduce a framework of principles, or design elements, that can be used to examine and strengthen an existing PLN, or even design a network from scratch. They will share practical tools, lessons learned, and concrete suggestions drawn from their extensive combined experience in designing, advising, leading, and studying a variety of networks around the world. As participants actively engage with and discuss the framework, they will contribute their own insights and experience with each design element, including:

  1. Shared Vision, Goals, and Focus
  2. Membership and Citizenship
  3. Form of Collaborative Activities
  4. Collective Leadership from the Middle
  5. Sustainability and Resources
  6. Knowledge Circulation, Innovation, and Improvement

Together we will grapple with challenges that are commonly faced in designing and leading PLNs and surface solutions and strategies. Participants will leave with practical tools and insights they can use to design, assess, and enhance the networks in which they are involved.

This masterclass is designed to bring together participants with varying levels of experience with PLNs – from those just exploring, to those with extensive experience participating in, facilitating, and/or studying PLNs. Come learn and share your ideas with us!

Andy Hargreaves is is Visiting Professor at the University of Ottawa in Canada and Research Professor at Boston College in the US. He is an elected member of the US National Academy of Education, former President of the International Congress of School Effectiveness and Improvement (2018-2020), former Adviser in Education to the Premier of Ontario (2015-2018), and current adviser to the First Minister of Scotland. Andy is co-founder and president of the ARC Education Collaboratory: a network of seven national or provincial systems, their Ministers and professional leaders committed to humanitarian goals in education. He has also co-designed, evaluated, or been an advisor for 8 other networks in the UK, Canada, the US, and Australia. Andy has published more than 30 books and has 8 Outstanding Writing Awards.  He has been honored in Canada, the US, and the UK for services to public education and educational research and is ranked by Education Week (US) as the #16 scholar with the most influence on US education policy debate. Andy’s most recent books are Leadership from the Middle: The Beating Heart of Educational Transformation (Routledge)and (with Dennis Shirley) The Age of Identity: Who Do Our Kids Think They Are?… and How We Can Help Them Belong (Corwin).

Danette Parsley, EdD, is a principal and chief executive officer of Marzano Research, an organization working at the forefront of practitioner-centered, evidence informed education improvement in the US. An expert in school system improvement, educator networks, rural education, research-practice partnerships, and out-of-school-time programs and practices, Danette has worked for more than two decades with schools, districts, and state education agencies to improve student opportunities and outcomes. She conceptualized and worked with a steering committee to create and lead the Northwest Rural Innovation and Student Engagement (NW RISE) Network, a nationally recognized initiative that brought together isolated rural educators from predominantly high-poverty, underserved communities in five states to collaborate in cross-district professional learning communities. Danette has since consulted on and facilitated the design of a variety of similar networks, including a new statewide professional learning network of teacher researchers in South Carolina. Since 2019, Danette has been an elected board director and now serves as president-elect for the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI).