Learning Forward Ontario


Learning Forward Ontario is in the process of scheduling events for the 2016-2017 school year.

In the meantime, members might want to check out the Ontario Principals' Council's event featuring Lyn Sharratt and Beate Planche. Visit www.principals.ca for more information.

Past Events

Leading Teams: Promoting Effective Collaboration

Tuesday, April 5th 2016 - Hamilton, Ontario

For decades, the most respected educational thought leaders and researchers have promoted professional learning designs that are inquiry-based and aimed to develop teacher leadership and promote effective collaboration. These themes were explored throughout the day.

Beate Planche facilitated a discussion on some of the co-learning strategies from the new book by Lyn Sharratt and Beate Planche entitled ‘Leading Collaborative Learning: Empowering Excellence’.

Margot Heaton modelled the use of protocols as a critical component in supporting high-leverage collaborative work.

In the afternoon, an Open Space Forum took place.

Thanks to all who participated.

Digital Leadership with George Couros

February 19th 2015 - Waterfront Hotel, Burlington ON

Digital Leadership with George Couros took place February 19th 2015 in Burlington. This event sold out within 2 weeks.

How to Create a Culture of Achievement with Dr. Douglas Fisher at the Chestnut Conference Centre

October 21st 2014 - Chestnut Conference Centre, downtown Toronto

What does it feel like to walk into your school? Is it a welcoming place where everyone feels valued? Most school improvement efforts focus on academic goals. But what makes or breaks your learning community are the intangibles--the relationships and connections that make up its culture. No school improvement effort will be effective unless school culture is addressed. In this session, we focus on five pillars that are critical to building a culture of achievement:

  1. Welcome: Imagine if all staff members in your school considered it their job to make every student, parent, and visitor feel noticed, welcomed, and valued.
  2. Do no harm: Your school rules should be tools for teaching students to become the moral and ethical citizens you expect them to be.
  3. Choice words: When the language students hear helps them tell a story about themselves that is one of possibility and potential, students perform in ways that are consistent with that belief.
  4. It s never too late to learn: Can you push students to go beyond the minimum needed to get by, to discover what they are capable of achieving?
  5. Best school in the universe: Is your school the best place to teach and learn? The best place to work?

Learning Forward Ontario Spring Conference

May 1st and 2nd – Crown Plaza, Niagara Falls.

The theme of ‘Moving Forward: Great to Excellent’ was clearly evident at the spring Learning Forward Ontario conference in Niagara Falls on May 1st and 2nd. Over 120 educators from across Ontario joined together for learning directly related to the work they are doing in their school districts. The focus on adult learning brought together superintendents, school administrators, provincial leads, consultants and classroom teachers for a common purpose; improving learning outcomes for all students.

The conference included a few firsts for Learning Forward Ontario. It was our first conference in Niagara Falls, our first use of twitter (#LFO2014) and it was the first keynote address in Ontario for Dr. Judith Warren Little. Dr. Little is known for her work in support of creating conditions for teacher leadership and learning in schools. This focus was timely for the Learning Forward Ontario audience who pursue this goal in their own work.

Day two of the conference started with our president, Amy Lin and OMCA president, Cam McDonald moderating a panel discussion with mathematics leaders from across Canada. The panel consisted of David Martin (Alberta), Annie Savard (McGill U., Quebec), Dr. Marian Small (Ontario), and Jan Crofoot (Principal, Peel DSB). This question and answer session left participants with a clear national perspective on the current thinking on mathematics learning and teaching in Canada. Here are a few thoughts and comments that came out of the discussion:

  • Teacher training in teaching mathematics is importance but even more important is the culture in the school around professional learning
  • Teachers need to have a clear understanding of not only what but why they are teaching what they are teaching
  • Inquiry has to be more than just the thing that you want to do. We have to move beyond surface learning
  • Understanding needs to be the focus, not speed.
  • Value divergence not convergence in math.
  • Value thinking –have the students had to ‘think’ each day?

Student learning in mathematics continues to be a significant concern across Canada. This panel confirmed that that teachers and districts have the ability to improve math learning outcomes for students. We need to take the time to intentionally take the time to apply what we know in order to see the results students deserve.

Event Sponsors

Collaborative Inquiry: Digging Deeper

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013, 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

CARMENS 1520 Stone Church Rd. East, Hamilton, ON L8W 3P9

Moving beyond getting started, this session is designed to support facilitators of collaborative inquiry. Topics include:

  • building trust and increasing the depth of dialogue in collaborative inquiry teams
  • identifying assumptions in theories of action – re-conceptualizing beliefs and practice
  • identifying teacher learning needs and mechanisms for professional learning
  • ‘knowing thy impact’ through evidence collection and analysis
  • documenting school improvement outcomes
  • building facilitation skills in others

If you are ready to ‘dig deeper’ into how to facilitate collaborative inquiry in schools, this session is for you! In addition, find out what the research says: Findings on the Impact on Collaborative Inquiry.

This is an opportunity for you to network with others who are engaging in similar work. Don’t miss out!

Creative Collaboration: Creating and Sustaining Collaborative Cultures

Monday, October 7th, 2013

475 Yonge Street Toronto, ON M4Y 1X7, Courtyard by Marriott

Most of us want to create collaborative cultures, and we certainly want to work in such an environment, yet a collaborative partnership, department or organization is one of the most difficult things to sustain. Contrary to what many believe, collaboration is not a motivation problem - it’s a skill problem.

Join leadership coach Sasja Nieukerk as she examines the predictable human processes that get in the way of true collaboration and learning. Based on the book Clear Leadership by Dr. Gervase Bushe, participants will be introduced to a creative model for collaboration that focuses on leading learning in the midst of performing: a model that results in clearer communication, an increased ability to learn both individually and collectively, and sustainable collaboration.

Facilitating Collaborative Inquiry, May 15 2013

Hamilton, Ontario

Thank you to Corwin Press for sponsoring this event.

On May 15th, over 220 educators from various school boards and other organizations across the province came together to focus on leading collaborative inquiry as a strategy for school improvement. Particpants received a copy of the book ‘Collaborative Inquiry for Educators: A Facilitator’s Guide to School Improvement’. Learning Forward Ontario would like to thank attendees as your participation helped to make the event successful.

Spring Conference, May 2012

Hockley Valley Resort, Orangeville, Ontario

A number of educators from around the province gathered on May 2nd and 3rd, 2012 at the Hockley Valley Resort in Orangeville. During the conference, attendees were provided with the connections, tools, learning opportunities, and resources needed to better understand and implement effective professional learning in their schools and school boards.

Keynote presenters included Dr. Punya Mishra, Professor of Educational Technology at Michigan State University; Dr. Yvette Jackson, CEO, National Urban Alliance; Sasja Nieukerk, Leadership Transformative Learning Facilitator; and Dr. Marian Small, Author and International Professional Development Consultant. A banquet dinner included 'The Six String Nation' presentation.

Dr. Douglas Fisher
Better Learning Through Structured Teaching

Friday, February 17, 2012 - Cambridge Hotel & Conference Centre

This session focused on the gradual release of responsibility and provided participants with information about implementation of an instructional framework that ensures student success, including establishing purpose through the sharing of learning goals, modeling thinking, guiding instruction, productive group work, and independent learning tasks. We examined the outcomes of high quality instruction, including increases in student achievement and decreases in attendance problems.

Dr. Douglas Fisher, Professor of Language and Literacy Education in the Department of Teacher Education at San Diego State University and a classroom teacher at Health Sciences High & Middle College, led this highly engaging professional learning session on Friday, February 17th at the Cambridge Hotel & Conference Centre.

Dr. Lois Zachary
8 Mentoring Hallmarks: Moving the Needle

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel

The Ontario Principals’ Council (OPC), in partnership with Learning Forward Ontario, offered an exclusive one day session featuring highly acclaimed international speaker and author, Dr. Lois Zachary. Research has demonstrated that mentoring is key to changing the culture in Boards.

Dr. Zachery led a very interactive session, as she demonstrated how professionals from all levels can benefit from mentoring, as it accelerates leadership development and growth along the career continuum. This session included a panel of education experts from three different Boards of education in Ontario who explained the development and success of their own mentorship programs.

Vision to Practice 2011
Act Today…Impact Tomorrow

August 29th - 31st in Windsor ON

This year’s conference took place from August 29-31, 2011, at Caesars Windsor Convention Centre. Over 1400 educators participated. Keynote speakers included Ted McCain, Dr. Douglas Reeves and Ron Clark. There were also great local and international guest speakers, including Dr. Brandon Doubek, Dr. Sharroky Hollie, Dr. Jim Knight, Dr. Marian Small and Dr. Thomas Van Soelen.

This conference provided teacher leaders, school-based staff developers, and administrators with valuable tools to bring the most powerful forms of professional learning to all the teachers with whom they work. In addition, there were opportunities to network with those who have similar roles and responsibilities. Participants learned from both the outstanding and innovative work of their peers, and the perspectives of provincial and national leaders.

Transforming School Culture Dr. Anthony Muhammad

May 10th 2011 in Toronto ON

At this well-attended professional learning event, Dr. Muhammad provided the framework for understanding dynamic relationships within school cultures and ensuring a positive environment that supports the changes necessary to improve learning for all students.

Dr. Muhammad explored many aspects of human behaviour, social conditions, and history to reveal best practices for transforming toxic cultures into healthy ones. This session was co-hosted by the Ontario Principals’ Council. It was an excellent collaborative venture for the two organizations, both committed to supporting professional learning for professional educators across the province.

Instructional Coaching Institute with Jim Knight

January 25th and 26th 2011 in Mississauga, ON

The Instructional Coaching Institute was attended by over 170 district decision makers, instructional coaches, site-based professional developers, principals and others interested in learning more about instructional coaching. The institute addressed how to coach (methods that coaches can use to enable instructional improvements) not what to coach (instructional practices).

Those who participated learned a great deal about how to accelerate professional learning in schools through an engaging mutli-modal presentation, led by Jim Knight, that included many opportunities for meaningful discussion and self-reflection.

Collaborative Inquiry ‘Growing Success’

October 13th, 2010, November 23rd 2010, March 9th, 2011 and April 22nd 2011 in London ON

The SDCO has invited teams from school boards in the London Region to participate in a Collaborative Inquiry Project during the 2010-2011 school year. This is an ongoing inquiry project with a focus on teams' self-identified implementation issues related to the Ministry of Education's assessment and evaluation policy document, Growing Success.

‘Talk About Assessment’ with Damian Cooper

November 8th 2010 in Hamilton ON or November 9th 2010 in London ON

Boards brought teams to work with Damian in exploring issues related to assessment and evaluation in schools. This professional learning opportunity was well-attended and very well-received. Many current and important issues were explored. This event was organized through boards' Student Success Lead. The SDCO co-hosted this event with the London Region Student Success Branch of the Ministry of Education.

Vision To Practice 2010
Dream - Dare - Do


The Staff Development Council of Ontario’s annual Vision to Practice Conference was held from August 30th – September 1st at Caesars Convention Centre in Windsor, Ontario. This is the 2nd year the Staff Development Council of Ontario partnered with the Greater Essex County District School Board in organizing a conference to support teacher leaders, instructional coaches, department heads, administrators, and staff developers. There are few other conferences in Ontario of this caliber designed specifically for those who are responsible for supporting professional learning and fostering leadership in school boards.

Keynote speakers included:

  • Rick Green (creator of the documentary ADD & Loving it! Is it Possible?)
  • Sharroky Hollie (Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching)
  • Steven Katz (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education)
  • Carson Kressley (Host of How to Look Good Naked)
  • Anthony Muhammad (New Frontier 21)
  • Phil Schlechty (Center for Leadership in School Reform)

Numerous breakout sessions were offered over the three days and facilitated by nationally recognized experts such as:

  • Sue Beers (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development)
  • Barrie Bennett (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education)
  • MaryLou Kestell and Kathy Kubota-Zarivnij (Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat)
  • Jim Knight (Director of the Kansas Coaching Project)
  • Linda Munger (Senior Consultant for the National Staff Development Council)
  • Candace Rice (Consortium of Reading Excellence)
  • Susan Stephenson (Author and Presenter for Solution Tree)
  • Marian Small (Author and former Dean of Mathematics Education)
  • Werner Zimmerman (Author and Illustrator)

In addition, a number of local presenters facilitated workshops and provided practical ideas for audience members to implement into their practice for the upcoming school year. Key themes included a focus on learning, building and connecting learning communities, collaborative inquiry, and assessing impact.

In addition to the educators from the Greater Essex County DSB, participants from the following Boards of Education and Organizations attended this year’s conference: Avon Maitland District School Board, Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic DSB, Conseit scolaire de district des ecoles catholiques du Sud-Ouest, District School Board of Niagara, Huron-Perth Catholic DSB, John McGivney Children's Center School Authority, London District Catholic School Board, Ministry of Education, Ontario College of Teachers, Ontario Principals' Council, Thames Valley DSB, Trillium Lakelands DSB, Windsor Essex Catholic DSB, and St. Clair Catholic District School Board. Thank you for attending. Also, thank you to the vendors who supported the event and provided door-prizes. If you're interested in attending next year, please check our website in the spring. Registration information will be posted in early May.

Mary Jean Gallagher, Chief Student Achievement Officer of Ontario, and Assistant Deputy Minister, Student Achievement Division, Ministry of Education introducing Carson Kressley on the final day of the conference.

Becoming A Learning School – Host Committee
Presented by Carol François and Joellen Killion


Carol Francois and Joellen Killion led an engaging two-day professional learning session in Toronto, on April 14 and 15, 2010. The focus of this institute was Becoming a Learning School. The essential questions that guided our work were:

  • How do we advocate for and articulate professional learning that positively impacts student learning?
  • How do we create the conditions and opportunities that advance our practices?
  • What are the strategies that learning schools use that bring success?

Learning schools, as we learned through this institute, make it their primary responsibility to engage in continuous professional learning to expand and refine teaching and increase results for students.

These schools build a dynamic culture that fosters collective responsibility for leadership among educators, expertise, collaboration, and continuous improvement. We developed strategies for transforming our schools into learning schools and we were introduced to a variety of tools to assess our schools' progress toward becoming a learning school.

Throughout our work, we endeavoured to clarify the roles of all stakeholders in a learning school and to affirm the promising practices that already exist in many of our schools. These were days of excellent professional inquiry and growth for all who were in attendance! Joellen Killion's and Paticia Roy's book, by the same name, Becoming a Learning School, can be purchased through NSDC, and comes complete with a companion CD containing many useful tools in .pdf format.

Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM)
Facilitated by Shirley Hord


CBAM is a framework that acknowledges the critical importance of supporting people in change in order for learning to occur. The model outlines developmental continuums according to which teachers can be measured and moved along in the process as they respond to and adopt change. “Understanding the stages and using the assessment techniques can result in significantly more effective one-on-one coaching sessions, more relevant workshops, and strategic plans that take into account the personal side of the change process” (Hall & Hord, 2006, p.134).

Participants from the Ministry of Education and a number of school boards from across the Province learned how to use Stages of Concern (SoC) profiles and measure Levels of Use (LoU) to help monitor the change process. In addition, participants had the opportunity to network, generate, and exchange ideas over the two days.

For more information about CBAM - see Hall, G. & Hord, S. (2006). Implementing Change: Patterns, Principles, and Potholes Second Edition. Pearson, Boston, MA.

Coaching Institute with Jim Knight


Over 250 educators attended over the course of four days. Jim Knight provided a foundation upon which a solid, effective instructional coaching program could be built. The institute addressed methods that could be used to enable instructional improvements and was found valuable by coaches, consultants, administrators, education officers, and supervisory officers who attended.

Feedback from respondents was overwhelmingly positive and demonstrates that the event was well received by those who attended. Read what attendees had to say:

“The Coaching Institute with Jim Knight was one of the best PD sessions I have ever attended. I am a secondary principal in a system role and I found the information not only useful for our coaching pilot but for my general practice as a principal.”

“This course was exactly what I needed, when I needed it. Everyone present was engaged from start to finish - which is an incredible accomplishment and says a lot about the quality of the presentation!”

“The SDCO conference was incredibly motivating. I have already used some of the presentation strategies that Jim modeled and it was really beneficial to meet other coaches and learn how their models compare to ours.”

“Jim Knight did a fabulous job of facilitating opportunities to network with a variety of people in similar coaching positions... so much energy and enthusiasm was evident throughout the 2 days!”

“The opportunity to dialogue in fierce conversations that made you honestly and personally examine your beliefs and actions.”

“Jim had really useful ideas that can be employed ‘tomorrow’ to address student needs.”

“I found it VERY useful. Jim’s presentation style alone was a great model, let alone the valuable content he brought. The ideas and spin off discussions were endless. I feel much better able to coach my colleagues now.”

“Jim Knight opened my eyes to some simple steps of engaging in this dialogue with teachers. He prompted a rich, personal reflection about my interactions and beliefs.”

“Jim Knight was fantastic! Entertaining and a wealth of relevant and practical strategies were shared. Great networking with people from various districts. Congratulations on a superb coaching institute!”