Can you imagine a school district in-service that teachers look forward to attending? Is it possible that PD days can include engaging personalized sessions, food and music, hands-on relevant learning—and some fun? Yes!
We’ve all been there—Sitting in an auditorium full of educators listening to a speaker as they read their slideshow word for word. I am hopeful that professional development is shifting. Educational leaders and school systems are reconsidering how they plan and implement professional learning in schools.
The Future Ready Schools initiative is one way that personalized professional learning is being leveraged in schools. Their framework includes 7 gears:
- Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
- Use of Space and Time
- Robust Infrastructure
- Data and Privacy
- Community Partnerships
- Personalized Professional Learning
- Budget and Resources
Within the Personalized Professional Learning gear, there are four elements for schools to navigate.
Element 1: Shared Ownership and Responsibility for Professional Growth
Questions to Consider: How do educators take responsibility for their learning? Are there opportunities for teachers to create, join, and sustain professional networks both within and outside of the district?
Element in Action: Social media can be a powerful tool for professional learning. Members of our district recently joined with educators from two other area districts to form a network of learners looking to increase innovative practices for teachers and students. The Beaver County Innovation and Learning Consortium (@BeaverCountyILC) embarked on a shared professional development model this year, which included face-to-face PD days as well a Voxer chat around The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. Questions were posted each week providing an “anytime you need it” personalized professional learning option for educators.
Ideas to Explore:
- Start a school district hashtag (like #RobbinsvilleK12 , #GoCrickets or #VikingPrideP3) or host a regular district Twitter Chat. Teachers can use these opportunities to follow what’s happening in their districts and build a collaborative learning network.
- Plan an EdCamp as a way for educators to pursue new learning in areas that interest them. Check out https://www.edcamp.org/ to learn how to organize an EdCamp or find out where one is happening near you.
Element 2: 21st Century Skill Set
What are 21st Century skills? This term is synonymous with critical skills for learners, forward-facing dispositions, and future ready skills.
These are the skills that we know our students need to be successful in school, career, and beyond. Let’s build capacity for these in our students and our teachers.
Questions to Consider: How do we embed formal and informal ways for teachers to develop 21st Century skills? What professional learning format/structures/networks can support the exploration of 21st Century skills?
Element in Action: In the Hopewell Area School District, we promote STEAM learning and Maker opportunities K-12. We encourage risk-taking and promote creativity in our students, but if our professional learning for teachers doesn’t reflect that, then there’s a disconnect. This year our PD days included the pasta and marshmallow tower challenge, a scavenger hunt, and a design thinking exercise with Extraordinaires where teachers worked in teams to select a character, design for them, and present to the group in a creative way. Design teams used 21st Century skills like creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills to complete the challenge.
Ideas to Explore:
- Establish personal learning networks (PLNs) in your school or district with a focus on the 4 C’s. Carve out time for PLNs to meet as a part of the professional learning plan.
Element 3: Diverse Opportunities for Learning through Technology
Technology is changing at such a rapid pace! One size fits all professional learning can’t possibly meet the needs of every educator. Nor can one presenter have all the knowledge needed to lead professional learning around technology.
Questions to Consider:
How might we design professional learning around technology that is differentiated? In what ways can technology be used as the conduit for new learning?
Strategy to Try: We asked our teachers—what tech tool can YOU share with others to enhance their classroom instruction tomorrow? Dozens of teachers responded with innovative ideas and new tools. We created a matrix of over 40 tech-related sessions over the course of a professional learning day. With a hashtag #P3TechFest, we ditched the traditional in-service model in favor of a teacher-driven, hands-on day of learning with tech at the epicenter. Teachers led sessions on Google Classroom, Nearpod, and Twitter. They explored Common Sense Education and experienced virtual reality. The day provided options for every grade level, subject area, and level of experience to learn through technology.
Ideas to Explore:
- Digital Badging is one idea that districts are exploring for personalized professional learning. Check out Advancing K-12 EdTech’s Playbook and video tutorials on badging.
Element 4: Broad-based, Participative Evaluation aligned to Vision for Digital Learning
Personalized professional learning should include both face-to-face dialogue for educators as well as options for digital learning. It should promote self-paced learning and collaboration. With a focus on personal goal-setting and self-assessment teachers can pursue learning opportunities align to the district vision.
Questions to Consider: How does my district provide digital structures that encourage and empower educators to personalize their professional learning?
Strategy in Action: One of our innovative high school teachers decided that her differentiated supervision project would focus on badging for students. As students pursued their passions and earned badges, she explored the idea of digital badging as an instructional and assessment practice. With the ability to pilot this on a smaller scale, she was able to consider implementation with all of her students next year.
Ideas to Explore:
- Review the district assessment plan for students to consider ways that students are measured beyond standardized tests. In turn, reflect on the teacher evaluation system to consider the diverse sources of data that can represent the growth and development of professional educators.
School districts need to move beyond the traditional “sit and get” professional development of the past and consider ways to remove the boundaries of space and time when it comes to learning. Teachers who are “future ready” need opportunities to collaborate, learn, and share on their own terms. The Future Ready Framework can guide districts as their focus on developing personalized professional learning for future-ready educators.