What Does Personalized Professional Development Mean to You?

Just like each student, every teacher is different as he or she is made up of an assortment of experiences, abilities, learning styles, and interests. Just as a 21st century classroom dictates a flexible instructional approach, teacher’s professional growth should command similar personalization and attention. As the education field works to prepare teachers for their numerous roles in schools, how do you individualize each teacher’s potential with purposeful, meaningful professional development?Most teachers want and need to heighten their practices through motivating and applicable workshops and opportunities. However, many teachers throughout our country share the opinion that professional development is more of an inconvenience than a benefit to their career. Many teachers are now pursuing various avenues for instructional improvement on their own, as schools and districts have been slow to let go of the traditional, one-size-fits-all style of professional development.

How are school districts changing PD practices?

School districts that are transitioning away from the customary design of professional development are tapping into social media sites and training outlets offered on line coupled with the implementation of professional learning communities (PLCs). Through present day technology, teachers can instantly share videos on YouTube, exchange lesson ideas on Pinterest, get immediate feedback on Twitter, find answers on educational blogs, and discover novel teaching tools on the web.

What are some guidelines for personalized PD?

According to education innovator Starr Sackstein, “PD should be treated the same as student learning is treated. It should be differentiated for all learners so that all learners get what they need”. Sackstein offers guidelines for implementing personalized PD tailored to engage all educators joined in the training.

Most importantly, Sackstein states, PD needs to align with the needs, interests, and goals of the participants as well as the student population being serviced. This can involve teacher surveys and discussions as well as an examination of student data from various sources within the school. Teachers should also be offered options in building their PD resume. No one likes to be forced to do things, and people are more likely to fully participate in an endeavor when they are given some authority in its planning and implementation.

What is gamification?

Gamification is becoming a popular catchword now in education and provides an avenue for more personalized PD. In this teacher-driven approach, teachers are employed in self-paced training through technology applications founded on game mechanics and design. Unlike the sit-and-get type workshops, gamification allows teachers to be active in their learning and development as they assume control over the direction and pace of their learning.  

What are digital badges?

Another newer technology offered for PD in education is a system of badges. Through this technique, teachers can earn badges, represented as icons, to show digital certification of certain competencies and achievements. This personalized professional learning method is sometimes referred to as micro-credentialing. According to Blattner and Abramovich, leaders in the study of micro-credentialing, “Badges can tell the story of a learner, mark achievements, and reflect a learner’s knowledge, skills, habits and learning pathways in more detail than what is possible with traditional assessments, like grades or certificates”. Badges are simple to share and display through a range of social media channels.  

During the 2012-2103 school year, Penn State University examined the application of digital badges for PD accomplishments with 100 science teachers. The study offered teachers the opportunity to interact with the content of their choice and they could transition through the material at their own pace. Through badges, teachers could digitally display their activity and accomplishment.  A review of reflective logs completed by teachers after they finished showed positive reactions from participants. They liked the components of the badges, which permitted them to display their activity. In addition, they enjoyed receiving immediate feedback from a specialist, and having the time to reflect on their accomplishments when they were done.

Is personalized PD possible?

Michael Fullan, a widely read scholar devoted to school change, tells us that schools working toward improvement need to envision professional development as a ‘cornerstone strategy’. With this in mind, purposeful PD is possible at the school level. If it’s guided by authentic data and moves toward continual, personal growth and change, professional learning is the most powerful means teachers can utilize to gain and develop new knowledge and skills necessary to meet the learning essentials of 21st century students.