How We Work

The Challenge

In order to raise the achievement of underserved students, we must improve the instruction in thousands of schools. Despite US schools investing over $20 billion annually in teacher training, typical professional development (PD) simply does not work. Most PD is ineffective because it is characterized by low teacher buy-in, generic content, and lack of follow through.

An Innovative Model

Teaching Lab uses a model based on three key elements supported by cognitive science and education research: Teacher Leadership, Core Content, and Iterative Cycles of Inquiry. These elements in combination create impact greater than the sum of their parts.

Grassroots Community

Teaching Lab works in communities to identify, coach and provide on-going support for Lab Leaders. These teacher-leaders leverage the principles of community organizing to recruit colleagues to participate in teacher-led professional learning.

A Community Driven Approach

Research shows that professional learning is effective when teachers drive the learning process and there is a sense of shared endeavor. Teaching Lab is built on the ideas of voluntary participation, collaboration, and peer-to-peer learning. When teachers own their learning, we can radically improve classroom instruction, local capacity and opportunities for kids. 

Core Content

In the Teaching Lab model, teachers’ questions and the needs of their students drive the learning. As opposed to content-neutral training, Teaching Lab focuses on the specific curriculum and subject matter teachers teach. Lab Leaders interview their colleagues and school leadership to identify local instructional challenges. Once Lab Leaders identify a question to explore, Teaching Lab staff provides research-based and standards-aligned content to meet their needs, drawing from our experience working with authors of the Common Core. We help Lab Leaders to adapt these materials to their local context and support them in developing content knowledge to lead sessions for their peers.

Cycles of Inquiry

Finally, Teaching Lab supports and coaches Lab Leaders as they guide their peers through iterative cycles of inquiry. Teachers explore new content together, try it out in their classrooms, and collect evidence of student learning. They then meet to discuss what worked and what did not, analyze student work, and choose new questions for the next inquiry cycle. This model is dramatically more hands-on, relevant, and practical for teachers than traditional PD. 

A New Paradigm for Professional Learning

We believe that teacher professional learning is the key lever for improving educational outcomes for underserved students and ultimately closing the opportunity gap. Yet currently, despite massive investments of time and money, typical professional development simply does not work. The professional development industry is ripe for disruption. Our model has the potential not just to improve current teacher learning, but to remake the landscape of professional learning in the United States. By shifting to a paradigm of teacher-led, content-focused, cycles of inquiry, we can create an engine for continuously increasing student achievement at scale.