Center on System Leadership

The NISL Program: Pedagogy

Overview  |  Vision  |  Pedagogy  |  Curriculum  |  Delivery  |  Coaching  |  University Partners  |  Foundation Support

The NISL program’s pedagogy mirrors that of dynamic, state-of-the-art executive development programs. Participants experience applied, job-embedded learning that focuses on application to ensure real-world improvements in school and district organization and instruction. 

Cohort Based

NISL’s cohort-based model builds a network among peers to tackle common issues and share best practices. Participants need to be able to share challenges and weaknesses in order to address them, and NISL’s cohort-based learning provides the opportunity to build the necessary trust. Beyond the extensively researched curriculum, participants often point to the cohort of peers that they have developed as one of the most powerful aspects of NISL. While it is increasingly common to recognize that teachers have been “on an island” in their classrooms, school and district leaders are even more isolated, and have even more to gain by developing real connections with their peers.

Extended Learning

Too much of the current support for school leaders is delivered in sit-and-go sessions over the summer or stand-alone online modules. These initiatives may “check the box” for the provision of a minimum number of PD hours, but they do not move the needle on skills development, much less student performance. NISL is designed to transform leaders and the schools they lead, and research has shown that this takes time. It takes opportunities to delve deeply into topics, to apply that learning and to reflect.

Quality Faculty

NCEE’s research has shown that top-performing systems hire top-quality educators. But they don’t stop there. They continue to invest in their ongoing professional learning and leverage those with more experience to support those earlier in their careers.

NCEE faculty have years of experience leading schools, districts, and even state departments of education. Most have advanced degrees or their equivalent. All NCEE faculty have gone through rigorous training and certification. NCEE has created NCEE University, an internal college to provide our staff with deep exposure to the latest research in leadership and education. All faculty go through ongoing observations and periodic recertification. NCEE has also developed an internal career ladder that emulates those of top-performing education systems, where clear thresholds for advancement are set out and those at the upper tiers are charged with ensuring the continued improvement of practice and advancement of other faculty.


NCEE Portal diagnostic instruments and tools build the capacity of districts and schools for continuous improvement and ongoing sustainability of practices. The NCEE Portal provides the structure and key indicators for reviewing participants’ individual leadership strengths and needs, as well as to develop a deep understanding of the systems they lead. Participants collect data and use it to conduct baseline and ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of policies and practices of school systems. Together, these resources allow for a comprehensive view of a school as a system, including leadership competencies, standards, curriculum, instruction, assessments, learning context, professional development, time management, team building and moral culture.

The NCEE Portal also provides continuous access to curriculum, including handouts, videos and readings. The Portal tools allow participants to not only consume research, but to interact with it, by annotating text and videos and sharing annotations with peers and facilitators.

Questions? Next Steps?

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Supports for EDP Graduates

NISL Applied Plus

NISL Applied PlusExplore the concepts from the NISL program in greater depth with an emphasis on application. Learn more…

Teaching for Effective Learning

NISL Applied PlusExtend NISL’s approach to learning to the classroom through the direct development of teachers. Learn more…

Supports for Districts

High-Performance DistrictsDrive organizational and operational change at the superintendent level or in district leadership teams. Learn more…

Supports for Partners

Partner SupportsNCEE offers a suite of complimentary supports for past and current participants of our professional learning programs. Learn more…