Empowering educators: The importance of professional learning

Written by Rachel Hovington

Empowering educators and operational staff through professional learning is crucial in a school ecosystem that prides itself on creating a culture of continuous life-long learning for students. It positively impacts teaching quality, adaptability, and the overall educational environment, setting the stage for students to thrive academically and as lifelong learners. 

Teacher at professional development

A process of doing

At BFIS, we have committed to staff professional learning by speaking the language of adult learning and putting the financial, logistical, and time resources in place to allow it to flourish. Teacher learning is at its best when it’s a process of doing, being conscious of the results of that doing, taking time for reflection, and designing learning experiences next time based on that learning. Valuing everyone’s learning experience like it is a prototype of the perfect learning experience is the goal!

In every lesson, a teacher is walking through the process of learning themselves! We use the term fail forward and we want staff to try new things they have learned, upgrade learning experiences for themselves and students, and then reiterate. This is what we want to model for our community and it nurtures a culture of confidence, problem-solving, and solution-finding in the whole school.

Creating an environment of learning

Here are some of the ways we create an environment of learning for our staff:

  • Personalized Learning:  Professional Learning allows adults to take ownership of their own development and access learning that is specific to their needs and interests. This leads to more effective teaching practices and improved student outcomes.

  • **Professional Satisfaction**: When staff feel supported and empowered through professional development, they experience professional satisfaction. This leads to increased motivation, better job performance (aka student and wider school learning), and a greater sense of purpose. 

  • Learning Organization: Adult professional learning creates a learning organization, where everyone normalizes learning and improves their skill set and efficacy in their role. This leads to a culture of continuous improvement, where everyone is committed to learning and growing.

  • Fail Forward: Professional learning allows educators to take risks and try new things without fear of failure, knowing that they are safe to learn from any perceived ‘mistakes’ and are empowered to be vulnerable and to reflect with others on teaching practices constantly pushing the flywheel of their effectiveness. This leads to more innovative and effective teaching practices and faster adaptation to new technologies, learning methodologies, and the rapidly changing world our students and staff are experiencing.

  • Improved Student Outcomes: When educators are empowered through professional development, it is a win-win for students. Educators who are constantly learning and improving their skills are better equipped to meet the diverse needs of their students. Students learn better, measurably, on every front when the staff working with them learn.

Time for collaboration, experience planning, and learning

Throughout the year, teachers and BFIS instructional coaches co-plan, co-teach, analyze student data, create resources, and have important conversations about what students need most in relation to learning and teaching. Teachers at BFIS teach relatively less on average than their International School peers leaving more time for collaboration, learning experience (lesson) planning, and learning. Here are five ways we not only value but put structures in place to make teacher professional learning and development happen here at BFIS:

  • Pact Time: On Wednesdays, our teaching staff participate in Professional and Collaborative Time (PACT). Staff members remain at school for an extended day and engage in a variety of professional learning experiences and discussions related to teaching and learning at BFIS.

  • Cohorts: We collaborate with other international schools in Spain and Southern Europe to create economies of scale and offer them access to quality learning from the leading thinkers in the US and in International education. We can do this onsite at our affiliated schools nurturing opportunities to exchange best practices among our teaching networks.

  • Personal interest: BFIS staff can request specific professional development opportunities that are their desire and by giving them financial tax-free benefits they have significant autonomy over their own learning experiences and the necessary financial support to work outside of BFIS organized opportunities.

  • Leadership Cohorts: Whether you are an aspiring learning leader wanting to take on greater learning leadership responsibility at BFIS, or a leader with many years of experience at BFIS we have made it our goal to elevate the coaching, meeting efficacy and visioning of our teacher leaders through the Educational Collaborative for International Schools (ECIS) network of educators where we are collaborating on bespoke workshops on site with adult learning leaders like Nancy Lhoest-Squicciarini and countless other wonderful thinkers in the international work of education.

  • 5. Targeted Professional Development: Our school’s Vision for Learning demands that we strategically skill up in certain areas. When we know that there are groups of educators that we need to respond to with professional learning we strategically look to book readings, leading consultants, and organizations like Harvard Graduate School of Education´s Project Zero, The Council of International Schools (CIS) In conclusion, empowering educators through professional development is essential for creating a culture of continuous learning and growth. By providing opportunities for educators to learn and grow, we can create a more effective and innovative teaching workforce that benefits everyone involved.


In conclusion, we used to call professional learning professional development. We believe that in today’s rapidly changing world, we are empowering educators through professional learning experiences that are essential for creating a culture of continuous learning and growth in our school ecosystems and the networks we influence. By providing opportunities for educators to learn and grow within a variety of teacher networks, we can nourish a more effective and innovative local and global teaching community that benefits everyone involved.

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