Framing instructional improvement strategies as ongoing, coordinated learning opportunities can help school systems create both positive professional learning opportunities for educators and more ambitious and equitable outcomes for students.
On March 31, the Bank Street Education Center released “Becoming a System of Professional Learning: Conceptualizing Improvement as a Throughline of Learning,” a new paper introducing the center’s “Throughline of Learning” (Throughline) model. The paper explores how this framework builds on the concept of the instructional core and supports system-wide adult learning to help districts successfully reimagine their approach to instructional improvement at scale.
“Through our research and district partnerships, we learned that a coherent strategy that considers adults learning at every layer of the school system is essential in developing a strong vision to improve instruction and practice for all kids,” said Doug Knecht, Vice President, Bank Street Education Center. “We designed the Throughline model to help practitioners identify those needs—to determine the knowledge, skills, and understandings a strategy would require for educators across their system.”
Grounded in Bank Street’s commitment to strengths-based, learner-centered, and equitable educational practices, the paper provides an overview of the Education Center’s work using the Throughline model to help districts achieve teacher and student learning goals and shares lessons learned from the field where the model has been put into practice.
The visual of the Throughline model illustrates how the entire process begins with a vision for high-quality classroom instruction and then explores the nature of the interdependent learning experiences required at each level of the system, including teachers—who are closest to the classroom and student learning—principals, principal supports (i.e., supervisors, departments of curriculum and instruction, and instructional coaches), and the district/central office personnel.
“We have utilized the Throughline model in multiple districts and the most immediate benefit we have observed is a conceptual shift among our partners from understanding improvement as ‘implementing change’ to thinking about it as ‘identifying and creating opportunities for adults to build knowledge and skills,’” said Tracy Fray-Oliver, Senior Associate Vice President, Bank Street Education Center. “This new paper serves as the first publication on how the Education Center is using the Throughline model to drive our work with districts.”
The Education Center found that use of the Throughline model prior to launching a potential instructional improvement strategy was helpful for comprehensively assessing and evaluating a plan. In doing so, districts were able to surface and prioritize learning experiences for adults in their strategy that would support the desired student learning goals.
The paper was researched and written by Fray-Oliver; Knecht; and Michelle L. Forman, Director, Internal Coherence Strategy, and former member of the Bank Street Education Center. The authors wrote under the advisement of Shael Polakow-Suransky, President, Bank Street College of Education; Cecelia Traugh, Dean, Bank Street Graduate School of Education; and Jessica Charles, Director of Scholarship on Educator Practice, Bank Street Graduate School of Education.
The project received additional support from members of the Education Center, including Rachel Bello, Director of Learning Strategy, Mónica García, Special Projects and Data Manager, School Systems Partnerships & Programs, and Tarima Levine, Director of Content Development.