The Cognia Learning Community is a new model of professional learning —a network of educators from across the globe that chooses high-quality content and collaborates to solve problems, celebrate achievement, and accelerate school improvement. It’s something new and special: a global community of online engagement and learning with fellow educators—within a school, across the country, and around the world.

Convenient, high-quality professional learning is hard to come by and needed now more than ever. But the needs of learners and the demands of teaching and learning are evolving in ways not well served in traditional professional development delivery models. Sure, online access is more available but is anyone really paying attention? Are the offerings what learners want or need? How can we make professional learning more interesting, relevant, and effective?

We can transform professional learning so teachers and leaders own their own learning and get precisely what they need to grow. In February 2022, we launched the Cognia Learning Community, a professional learning platform that offers members diverse professional learning content, flexibility of use by state partners, districts, and schools; and community features that encourage professional engagement across our global network of educators.

Unlike programs that offer a one-size-fits-all approach, the new online platform puts ownership of the learning process in the hands of teachers and school leaders. Through the Cognia Learning Community, education leaders can:

  • Tailor content for staff in one school, across the district or throughout the state
  • Create hubs for individual learning
  • Monitor progress and engagement

Plus, teachers can access learning on demand 24/7 and connect with peers in their institution and around the world.

Content is organized into Learning Labs, which come complete with rich content designed for learning teams and individual educators. Implementation frameworks include instructional leader guidance, group learning resources and activities, and reflection and application tools for each practitioner. The Learning Labs focus on key areas of teaching and leadership practice, from effective questioning and growth mindsets to transformational leadership and using the learning environment to promote student engagement.

Increasing Educator Agency

This approach to professional development is meant to extend resources to empower teachers and leaders working as part of learning communities and as practitioners seeking to bolster their practice. The approach is based on research that indicates that educator professional learning is most effective when it is relevant to the learner (teacher or leader), directly applicable in their professional context, and shared within a network of practice.

The Cognia Learning Community represents a shift in mindset about what professional learning for educators can and should be. It is not about simply moving traditional professional development online.

“The Cognia Learning Community represents a shift in mindset about what professional learning for educators can and should be,” says Dr. Mark A. Elgart, president and CEO of Cognia. “It is not about simply moving traditional professional development online. Our goal is to increase educator agency by placing ownership of the learning process in the hands of the learner.”

The Cognia Learning Community reflects long-term efforts to build a comprehensive professional learning ecosystem—where teachers and leaders can study and learn from one another and on their own in asynchronous or synchronous environments using relevant, high-quality content geared to improving all aspects of professional practice. New content is added frequently, expanding choice and depth, and still is included as a part of membership.

Distinctive Attributes

The Cognia Learning Community was designed to overcome limitations of conventional professional development with important features that underly engagement and effectiveness.

  • Diverse content available in the Cognia Learning Community allows educators to personalize their professional learning by choosing topics aligned with district or individual priorities. Designed for use by learning teams led by an instructional leader or teacher leader, Learning Labs can be used as a group or in asynchronous sessions in which individual educators explore key questions of practice, and experiment to apply what they learn in their own professional space at their own time.
  • District-specific content. Schools and systems with specific professional learning initiatives can author and publish their own content in the Cognia Learning Community platform and push this content out to all users in the institution. This allows systems to create scalable solutions customized with locally created content. Local creators maintain ownership of their content and it is not available outside the institution.
  • Progress and engagement monitoring. An added value for instructional leaders strongly connected to personalization and district-specific content, the Cognia Learning Community has a built-in management tool to monitor and support teacher growth. Instructional leaders can track engagement and completion on the platform, which makes progress monitoring seamless, even across groups or individuals engaging in different professional learning topics and experiences. This scalable access of the platform can also be particularly useful for states that want to oversee implementation of required educator or leader training.
  • Cross-network connections. To mitigate isolation that teachers may feel operating within the confines of their classrooms or communities, the Cognia Learning Community can link educators across Cognia’s global community. The social community section of the Cognia Learning Community will expand to allow educators across districts, state, and national boundaries and within or across content areas to communicate, exchange content, and ultimately support one another. Educators can facilitate the engagement of improvement communities and groups of schools to work on common problems. Just as Cognia has introduced a system in which superintendents and their leaderships teams can participate in Leadership Circle and network to address problems as they emerge, teachers can build connections in community to strengthen teaching and learning through peer support and discussions around common problems

The Cognia Learning Community signifies our commitment to grow learners, teachers and leaders within our network and to offer educators access to their own development around the clock.

“The Cognia Learning Community signifies our commitment to grow learners, teachers and leaders within our network and to offer educators access to their own development around the clock,” Elgart says. “We have always engaged with institutions, but innovation allows us to connect with one another as individual educators in ways that were not possible in previous eras. We help educators learn the way they do best, and that can save cost in travel, meetings, and for substitute teachers.”

Effective Learning for Adults

Research from Stanford University created a “Model of Generative Change” that effectively engages teachers in learning and generates timely change. Learning Labs proceed through four phases that stimulate creativity and change:

  1. Spark—An introductory video to activate thinking about the topic
  2. Reflect—A guided exploration of the importance of the topic, the individual’s starting point, and consideration of new ideas
  3. Tinker—An opportunity to experiment with new approaches— with tools to support implementation in the classroom or with a professional learning team
  4. Grow—A process to consider progress from the starting point and define next steps for change, encouraging the questions, “How did it work?” and “What will I do next?”

Expanding Knowledge, Expanding Options

The Cognia Learning Community has Learning Labs of high-interest content that resonate with problems of practice and are fundamental to ideas promoted in Cognia’s 30 new accreditation performance standards. All members receive access to a library of content at no additional cost. Learning labs available for districts to download and share include:

  • Creating a Family Engagement Plan
  • Effective Questioning
  • Four Critical Questions for Highly Effective PLC’s
  • Growth Mindset
  • Leading Action Research in Schools and Systems
  • Teacher Observation as an Improvement Tool
  • Transformational Leadership
  • Using the Learning Environment to Promote Student Engagement

Cognia is also developing content libraries, collections of services and resources that provide a deeper dive into continuous improvement themes. They will address improvement priorities we have identified through our work in thousands of schools and institutions around the world. This additional content will help schools and districts address next steps to respond to engagement reviews.

In addition, Cognia’s Trusted Partner, LINC, has curated Learning Libraries designed specifically for Cognia network members. Members may choose to access these content libraries for an additional cost including:

  • Blended Learning
  • Accelerating Student Learning
  • Personalizing Instruction for all Learners
  • Project-Based Learning

These and additional LINC libraries can be purchased separately or as a complete package.

Help Us Grow the System

The technology users see at the outset is just the beginning—the interface and features will expand and improve. The wow factor at the start is the quality of the content, the impact of the learning, and the potential to expand engagement among five million educators across the spectrum of our 36,000 institutions.

We urge educators across the network to join us in building out the system to strengthen their own teaching and leadership. The nodes of any new network are only as strong as its most engaged and active links. We are looking for enthusiastic users who take to the space and make it work for them. We will continue to build it as the educators in the network use it.

We hope that you will ask your colleagues and district leadership to make the Cognia Learning Community a hub of professional learning efforts. You’ll be involved in exciting developments to enhance this unique, cost-saving, and effective approach over time, enlarging your professional world with unique access to educators in other districts in the United States and across the globe.

For more information on The Cognia Learning Community contact Scott Davidson.

Scott Davidson, M.A.
Scott Davidson is Senior Director, Improvement Services at Cognia. In this leadership role, Davidson supports the Cognia Learning Community. In previous roles at Cognia, he has served as content developer and program manager. Davidson has had the unique opportunity to work with leaders, educators, and students representing diverse schools and systems across the Cognia network. He has also led and supported review teams for schools, systems, and organizations around the world. Davidson has undergraduate degrees in history and secondary education, as well as graduate degrees in adolescent literacy and teacher education. In addition to working as a classroom teacher and building-level administrator, he has also worked as a content specialist and program manager for school improvement projects across the U.S. His current professional interests include professional learning in virtual environments and innovative instructional designs (e.g., STEM, CBE).