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Using Learning Huddles to Improve Teaching and Learning

Date: September 25, 2018
Location: Webinar

The REL West K–6 Literacy Improvement Partnership is working closely with staff in the Washoe County School District (WCSD) in Reno, Nevada, to strengthen implementation of writing curriculum using improvement science strategies—such as the “Plan-Do-Study-Act” (PDSA) cycle—to select and iteratively test improvements in instruction and collect short-term data on its effectiveness. Participating teachers engage in grade-level inquiry or “learning huddles,” which provide opportunities for peer support as teachers examine data and evidence together and engage in testing change ideas as they strive to improve students’ writing.

Before engaging in the inquiry process, participating teachers attended a two-day training, which introduced the PDSA framework and learning huddle protocols. See a video excerpt from the training.

This one-hour webinar provided an overview of the inquiry cycle structure, an explanation of the design features of the discussion protocols, and examples of change ideas and related data tracking to demonstrate how teachers are learning about improving instruction. WCSD practitioners discussed their early experiences and lessons learned while facilitating and participating in the learning huddles. Participants:

  • Learned about the theory and practice of teacher learning huddles and how they reflect an improvement science PDSA inquiry cycle;
  • Through huddle examples from WCSD, gained understanding of the design features and leverage points to facilitate learning about instruction; and
  • Explored ways to support teacher learning through inquiry in their context.

Attendees were asked to consider how the PDSA and learning huddle frameworks might be applicable in their own contexts and what strategies they might try to engage in teacher-led improvement.

REL West created a 2-page document that describes how inquiry cycles can be used in professional learning communities and provides a step-by-step data analysis protocol for use in group meetings.


Kim Austin Kim Austin is a Senior Program Associate for REL West at WestEd and the partnership lead for the K–6 Literacy Improvement Partnership, a collaboration with WCSD focused on K–6 writing instruction. A qualitative researcher by training, Austin brings expertise in literacy, online learning, professional development, evaluation, and learning theory.

Darl Kiernan Darl Kiernan is the Early Literacy Learning Facilitator for Nevada’s Northwest Regional Professional Development Program, which is committed to elevating student performance by providing sustained professional learning and building regional partnerships.

Sola Takahashi Sola Takahashi is a Senior Research Associate for REL West at WestEd, where she leads the work of integrating continuous improvement methods in the coaching, technical assistance, and research conducted by the REL West partnerships. Her areas of content interest include the teaching profession and educational equity.


This webinar was designed for district leaders, instructional coaches, and school leaders who are interested in engaging teachers in structured inquiry protocols for curriculum implementation and improvement in any subject.


Using Learning Huddles to Improve Teaching and Learning