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Why Teachers Deserve Personalized Professional Learning

We’ve all been there. Sitting in a half-day professional learning that is either not relevant to our current job, or worse, presented at too high or too low a level to be useful. Teachers often personalize learning for students to ensure that each child gets exactly what they need…however when it comes to them, why isn’t the same care provided? Take a look below for common barriers and their solutions.

  • Direct instruction seems easier- It may seem easier to provide direct instruction but while this may be efficient, it is not often effective.

  • Lack of knowledge about the learning needs of adults - Differing from pedagogy, adult learning theory (andragogy) tells us that teachers need opportunities that are job-relevant as well as an understanding of why they need to learn about the topic. Both the purpose of what they are learning and the direct impact of the learning must be well established. One of the best ways to meet these goals is through personalized professional learning (PPL).

  • Failure to engage stakeholders in the planning - There are many ways to authentically engage your team in planning, preparation, and presenting. One easy entry point is to survey your team to find out what they want and need. You can ask what is working, what they want more of, what they want less of, topics of interest, and their goals. Another option is to engage a committee to represent all stakeholder voices. Additionally, your staff has expertise they can provide. When you utilize their talent, it communicates respect and creates understanding, buy-in, and trust.

  • Lack of understanding about what personalization looks like - In both pre-service training and beyond, many have not experienced personalization and therefore do not know how to deliver it. In effective PPL, learners have control over at least one of these conditions: Time, Pace, Path, or Place.

  • Time: Offer multiple times to better meet individual schedules including before school, during the day, and after school. You may also want to offer multiple modalities including synchronous and asynchronous events.

  • Pace: Adjust the pace of learning to meet individual needs. EX: Select from 4 one-hour sessions, OR 2 two-hour sessions; OR 1 four-hour session. These sessions hold the same content but are delivered in different intervals.

  • Path: You can create a menu of options and place them in pathways, as you would at a conference. Teachers may select from a single path and complete all offerings, or you can allow them to mix and match.

  • Place: As the pandemic taught us, learners do not have to be in their classroom/school/district office to learn. You can provide options in multiple locations including virtually.

PPL honors the tenets of andrological practice by creating experiences that take into account each person’s specific strengths, interests, learning styles, and other preferences. When adults feel respected and are provided with multiple avenues to success, they learn more and are better able to apply their knowledge, which is ultimately what we hope to gain from all professional learning!

One great tool that allows control over one or more of the above conditions is a learning playlist. As a bonus, your teachers may already be familiar with this tool. Apply the same design structures as you would with student playlists. Some great resources include:

Playlists: A Path to Personalizing Learning – Dr. Catlin Tucker


Creating Playlists, Projects and Anchor Activities - Blended Learning

Choice Menus -Explanation and templates

Soup, Salad, Entrée or Dessert? Learning Menus Support Student Choice in Middle School

Personalized Learning Plans

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