Personalized Professional Learning
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.
In the Words of District Leaders
“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?”
“When we start offering a wide variety of choice, each option feels like something educators have to do. So we have laughingly called it, ‘you have to learn how to manage the buffet.’ You can’t go and eat everything. How we make our adults smart about what they consume and what they need to consume, in respect to their own professional learning?”
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 an area they want to develop in. This can mean virtual/augmented reality, growth mindset, or even teaching with Minecraft; tailoring PD to teachers’ individuals 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.
Check out the following research-based resources for more information about personalized professional learning:
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.
Offer Personalized Supports – This topic page of The Learning Accelerator’s Blended & Personalized Learning at Work website offers 20 specific strategies on how to align professional learning to teacher needs, and also allow them to take ownership of their learning and make choices around content, path, pace, and place.