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PLC Model: Supporting Teacher Effectiveness Project

Professional Learning Community model

STEP is a systemic, asset-based approach to professional learning communities (PLCs) that helps educators discover and replicate what's working in their schools.

All too often, exceptional teachers don't get the recognition they deserve, and, all too often, their expertise—what they know and are able to do better than most—remains an untapped resource.

Implemented in districts nationwide, the Supporting Teacher Effectiveness Project (STEP) framework guides educators in identifying the bright spots—assets—that can be leveraged and scaled toward greater improvement and replication.

STEP was developed by Insight in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Kitamba, American Institutes for Research, and Sage Education Advisors to create an approach to help teachers solve problems through discovering, testing, and sharing better practices.

Stephanie Callaway, STEP Lead Teacher, Colonial School District, Delaware

What is the STEP framework?

The STEP framework provides a structured, yet nimble way to conduct PLCs. It attends to the technical and social aspects of improvement, and ultimately helps answer the question: How do we know when a change is an improvement?


STEP Professional Development Model - Seek, Discover, Confirm and Share

How does STEP work?

STEP is committed to a process of “ground up” change management and the “top down” conditions that support and encourage teacher-led innovation.

Through the STEP process, teachers find and share positive deviant practices with their peers.

The theory of positive deviance is an asset-based, problem-solving, and community-driven approach that enables the community to discover successful behaviors and strategies from within and develop a plan of action to promote their adoption by all concerned.

Check out this video to hear from educators using the STEP model.


What are STEP's results?

Tweet from STEP facilitator in Mishawaka, Indiana (Sarah Hickle)STEP is designed to be a paradigm shift.

Rather than telling teachers how to improve instruction, STEP empowers teachers to authentically select and hone the tools and mindsets that allow them to improve their practice and positively impact student learning.

And it’s working.

  • 80% of participants report that they have changed their teaching practice as a result of STEP.
  • 87% of participating teachers reported they are more likely to use data to inform decisions about their teaching practices as a result of participating in STEP.

STEP has been successful at delivering a model that:

  • drives teacher engagement in improving their own practice
  • builds authentic collaboration processes and teacher community
  • creates meaningful job-embedded teacher leadership opportunities
  • builds teacher measurement literacy and capacity
  • influences teacher instructional practices
  • shows positive directional impact on student learning

Article: The 5 Shifts Healthy PLCs MakeRecommendation: Check an article from Education Week about STEP entitled How the STEP Model Uncovers Local Bright Spots and Transforms Instruction.


How is STEP implemented in districts?

Boot camp for STEP PLC trainingInsight trains and supports principals, assistant principals, teacher leaders, and instructional coaches who will lead and facilitate the STEP teams.

Part I: Boot Camp

Through a three day in-person professional development experience, principals, teacher leaders, and instructional coaches:

  1. Learn how to recruit STEP teams in their schools in order to form a network that will identify common challenges and ultimately find multiple solutions to those challenges that will work in each team’s unique context and beyond. 
  2. Increase effectiveness of facilitation skills.
  3. Expand capacity to apply data within cycles of inquiry and improve instruction.

Part II: Quarterly On-Going PD Sessions

To support a strong implementation, Insight recommends four additional day-long PD sessions throughout the year to provide support and coaching.

To set up the boot camp in your district, contact us to set up a time to talk.


Interested in learning more?

Article: The 5 Shifts Healthy PLCs MakeRecommendation: Download a sample from the STEP Playbook. Complete the form on the right (or below on mobile devices). 


STEP Partners

Insight Education Group - STEP Partner        American Institutes for Research (AIR) - STEP Partner

Kitamba - STEP Partner      Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - STEP Partner 


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