Beyond effective approaches: a rapid review response to designing professional learning

Connie Cirkony, Mark Rickinson, Lucas Walsh, Jo Gleeson, Mandy Salisbury, Blake Cutler, Mandi Berry, Kathy Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Professional learning (PL) in education is thought to be a key mechanism for improving classroom instruction and student achievement. Yet despite decades of research into PL, the impact of this investment is not well understood, with reports of limited change in both research and practice. As part of a large-scale investigation focusing on practitioner use of evidence in education, the authors undertook a rapid review to understand what is known about effective PL for K-12 school-based educators. Based on analysis and synthesis of 12 included studies, the review identified eight features of effective PL: collaboration; active learning and reflection; content and pedagogy in context; sustained duration; coaching; external expertise; models and modelling; and, audience and alignment. It also highlighted additional considerations for effective PL, including workplace conditions, PL providers, and online and blended approaches. This paper argues that though there is a consensus around effective PL features, there is a need to go beyond ‘effective approaches’ and consider the broader conditions and methodological limitations that impact improved and sustained change. Overall, this paper has implications for understanding the research landscape around effective PL, and applying an evidence-informed approach to designing PL programmes.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalProfessional Development in Education
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • in-service teacher education
  • professional continuing education
  • professional development
  • Professional learning
  • rapid review
  • systematic review

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