Leading Professional Learning

Mary Ford, Fordham University


With little research as guidance, it is difficult for educators to know how to prepare to lead systems of professional learning at the district level. In this phenomenological study, the sensemaking framework was used to understand the experiences, knowledge, and beliefs of those who hold district-level leadership roles with responsibility for leading professional learning and how their sensemaking and knowledge of the research influences the systems they create and the way they prioritize the many demands for professional learning within their districts. Fifteen district leaders in the role of assistant superintendent or director of curriculum, instruction, and professional learning were interviewed using a semi-structured interview protocol. Artifacts of the professional learning experiences offered within their districts were collected and analyzed for common themes and patterns. Factors that influenced their sensemaking include their own background, experiences and beliefs, as well as the vision of the superintendent, district statements of vision or mission, and the culture and context of the district. The research on effective professional learning and adult learning theory influenced their work, although the degree of impact was influenced by several contextual factors specific to their districts. Prioritization was seen as the most challenging aspect of these roles and was heavily influenced by public statements of district focus and the vision of the superintendent. Internal and external thought partners were identified as significant supports to these leaders as they strive to prioritize and build coherent systems of professional learning.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Educational administration|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Ford, Mary, "Leading Professional Learning" (2021). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28497614.