Personalized Professional Learning - Challenge Map

Personalized Professional Learning

Personalized Professional Learning

The Challenge

Traditional teacher professional development (PD) offerings – such as lecture presentations on centrally selected topics – do not meet the needs of all educators. Educators’ professional learning needs vary depending on their skill and experience level, the subjects and grades they teach, and the individual needs of their students; however, it is challenging for districts to provide personalized PD. When trying to personalize professional learning, some districts find it difficult to determine how to provide educators the right amount of choice, how to suggest PD with the most potential for impact, and how to help teachers be savvy consumers of professional learning. Online offerings exist but it can be difficult to vet the quality. For educators who are accustomed to traditional forms of PD and related incentives such as credit hours, districts need to build buy-in around the shift to personalized professional learning.

Challenge Stats


Staff from rural districts responded this challenge is widespread


Staff from rural districts responded this challenge is urgent


Respondents reported their schools or districts have made progress on this challenge

Ideas from the Field

  • Some districts offer tuition reimbursement or stipends for teachers to pursue training or coursework at local institutions of higher education.
  • Micro-credentialing is another approach used by a number of districts that allows teachers to select areas they want to develop in. This can mean credentials in virtual/augmented reality, growth mindset, or even teaching with Minecraft; tailoring PD to teachers’ individual goals and interests is both nuanced and largely limitless.
  • In traditional professional development structures, many districts are providing educators with at least some choice when it comes to selecting sessions, as well as allowing them to contribute ideas towards areas of interest/future sessions.

In the Words of District Staff

With new information and policy decisions arriving much more frequently in the context of COVID-19, we need to inform and train staff as quickly as possible.
Instructional coach
Spring 2020

“How do you provide staff development to meet the needs of the rookies and also the experts?”

“When we try to provide a variety of ways for teachers to learn, we do hit a bunch of challenges. Our teachers work really hard day to day, so when they go home at night, they want to be with their families. We've tried to figure out, how do we embed that learning as a part of the work that they do? How do you do that without sacrificing classroom time?”

“Through our Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) work, [I’ve] really extended my definition of personalized professional learning. What's most important is that [educators] are engaged in the work in a way that adds their voice to it, and in a way that they're personally involved in.”


Micro-credentials - From Digital Promise, Micro-credentials provide educators with competency-based recognition for the skills they learn throughout their careers.

Making Professional Learning Count - This study provides an in-depth exploration of teachers’ attitudes toward professional development and competency-based micro-credentials.

Competency-Based Micro-Credentials for Educators: Powerful Lessons from Two Years in the Field - From Teaching Matters, this report details the promise of competency-based professional development, coupled with micro-credentials, by examining three recent experiences with this growing way to meet school systems’ needs.

Learning Forward Professional Learning Standards - From Learning Forward, the Standards for Professional Learning outlines the characteristics of professional learning that lead to effective teaching practices, supportive leadership, and improved student results.

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