Why Schools and Teachers Need to Grow Together (or Growth Spurts Aren’t Just for Teenagers: The School System Edition)

“Growing together isn’t just a strategy; it’s a school’s superpower. When teachers learn and systems evolve, we don’t just teach lessons—we transform futures.”

Part of the “Barriers to Professional Learning & Doing” series…

Ever noticed how teacher training can sometimes feel like it’s happening in a bubble? Teachers get all this new knowledge and then, without the right support from the system, it just… fizzles out. It’s not just a hunch—research shows that for teacher training to stick, the whole school environment needs to evolve alongside our educators.


One key study by Timperley et al. (2007) drives this point home. It found that effective professional development isn’t just about learning new strategies; it’s about the whole school system—policies, resources, culture—adapting to support these strategies.


And it’s not just about systems. Leaders playing an active role in this learning matters a ton. A study by Darling-Hammond, Hyler, and Gardner (2017) showed that when administrators learn alongside teachers, they gain insights into how to better support teaching and learning in their schools. Plus, their participation shows everyone that growth is a team sport.


But here’s the kicker: if the system doesn’t adapt, all this new learning doesn’t last. A report by Fullan (2007) highlighted that lasting change in education comes from both individual growth and systemic support. Without both, improvement efforts can fall flat.


So, what’s the takeaway? For starters, school leaders need to jump into training with both feet. Not just as a checkbox but as active learners and supporters. Then, we need to keep the conversation going. Leaders should regularly chat with teachers about these new strategies, asking questions like, “How can we make these changes work here?”


This isn’t just academic fluff. Studies, like one by Hattie (2015), show that when teachers believe they can make a difference and the system has their back, student achievement soars. This belief, known as collective efficacy, is built on ongoing support and shared learning.


In essence, when teachers are learning and trying new things, the school system needs to be right there with them, making sure those new ideas have the room to grow. Otherwise, we’re just spinning our wheels.


Learn, Do, Report

Start this week by scheduling a session to join your teachers in their next professional development opportunity. Don’t just observe; actively participate. Then, initiate a follow-up discussion to explore how what you’ve learned together can be supported and integrated into your school’s culture and systems. This is your first step in ensuring learning leads to lasting change—not just for your teachers, but for the entire educational ecosystem you lead.




Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., & Gardner, M. (2017). Effective teacher professional development. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.

Fullan, M. (2007). The new meaning of educational change (4th ed.). Teachers College Press.

Hattie, J. (2015). What works best in education: The politics of collaborative expertise. London: Pearson.

Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar, H., & Fung, I. (2007). Teacher professional learning and development: Best evidence synthesis iteration. Wellington: Ministry of Education.




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