Research-Based Practices for PD: Rock Valley Case Study

Report prepared by Cambridge Learning Group

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Rock Valley Community School District in Iowa relies on to support its professional development program for teachers. Their program embodies four of the key features identified by educational researchers as characterizing high quality professional learning experiences, the effective design of online communities for teachers, and best practices for integrating informal online professional learning with formal district professional development. In each case, provides critical support that empowers Rock Valley leaders to implement research-based practices:

  • Content-based professional development through resources applied to instruction
  • Active learning through structured online activities and classroom application
  • Collaboration that builds knowledge and makes collective decisions
  • Sustained development through personal learning plans linked to activities in has made it possible for Rock Valley Community School District to put a professional development program into place that embodies many of the features most important for improving instruction. Rachel Langenhorst, a district leader responsible for developing the professional development programs the district uses, acknowledges that some of the activities could have been supported using general-purpose tools, such as Google Docs, and some do incorporate such tools. However, she says that she would gladly pay for because it provides a central hub through which to link together a “hot mess” of free tools. It offers an intuitive interface, keeps everything in one place, and offers extensive community administration options. enables leaders to design and deliver professional development programming that exemplifies much of what we know from research to be effective in transforming instructional practice to accelerate student growth. Rock Valley teachers benefit from edWebinar content aligned with their goals for instructional improvement they can use right away in their classrooms. The school year is punctuated with intensive active, collaborative learning activities that are structured and documented on These are tied to continuous improvement through each teachers’ professional learning plans and their collective decisions about instructional strategies, some of which are also made on the platform.  Rock Valley’s Individualized PD Day and Rocket University experiences are shared with their AEA as well as their school board to further increase communication and common goals.

Other districts would do well to build on Rock Valley’s example of how best to use to support powerful professional development grounded in research on how teachers learn.

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