Three Ways to Jumpstart Personalized Professional Learning
In the prior two posts of this series, we circled several themes that surfaced under the duress of 2020. Then we turned our attention toward reopening schools with intention by heading back to our campuses with a new mindset for improving the relationships within the learning community at large. Now the stage is set for us to discuss the more inspiring part of our work: reimagining our schools and districts for a learner-centered experience.
When we released the Future Ready Schools® (FRS) guide, Planning for High-Quality Remote Learning, we surfaced the most pressing concerns around supporting learning outside traditional classrooms and highlighted best practices aligned with the gears of the FRS Framework.
Given that the learning landscape continues to shift, we are heeding the calls for additional supports and guidance to further nurture progress against the prevailing winds of factors beyond our control.
From Professional Development to Personalized Professional Learning
Since inception, FRS has worked to shift the narrative from “professional development” (PD) to “professional learning.” The below chart focuses on the FRS philosophy for “Personalized Professional Learning” to empower administrators, teachers, and support staff members to negotiate change and maximize the most valuable resource: time. Our hope is that education leaders can stay optimistic about the future of their schools and districts as they find on-ramps to create a more learner-centered experience for all. This starts with your team!
When we consider the lift required of administrators to shift from the “all-hands” staff meeting to a more modern “personalized professional learning” experience, the perceived effort may keep us in the same PD routine with which we’re all too familiar. As stated before from the FRS Framework, FRS leaders remove the barriers of geography and time for professional learning and provide educators with increased opportunities to:
- engage in professional learning communities both in person and/or digitally;
- participate in peer-to-peer lesson design and sharing;
- benefit from peer-to-peer coaching; and
- better analyze, purpose, and leverage data and assessment for individual learning outcomes.
Here is what the shift from PD to personalized professional learning can look like:
|Professional Development||Personalized Professional Learning|
|The team gathers synchronously in the same place at the same time on set calendar days (with or without early release).||The team gathers to share findings and encourage each other as a team, but team members work independently as their schedule and energy affords, convening when the team decides it’s beneficial.|
|Teachers work independently to create instructional activities and plan content for their curriculum maps.||Teachers audition their work and solicit feedback from peers to enrich the quality of their instructional design as well as shift to modern approaches and models.|
|Administrators observe teachers for compliance with a standard rubric as a guide for effective teaching, regardless of the sample lesson.||Peer teachers observe each other knowing the context of a lesson and the temperament of students to provide feedback to improve a project or series of instructional activities for better outcomes.|
|Administrators prescribe collective change across the teaching staff, with one-size-fits-all adjustments to practice, while utilizing hours-based accountability.||Peer teachers gather in their professional learning communities to share data analysis and codesign tailored interventions for immediate deployment with targeted students.|
An objective place to start is with the resources you already have: committed and talented education professionals.
Using the Tool to Teach the Tool
If your school or district lacked a dedicated learning management system (LMS) before the pandemic, it’s all but certain that one has been implemented since. Even districts with optional participation invested heavily in making the LMS the locus of instructional interaction over the past two school years. But what about designing, delivering, and reflecting upon your professional learning? Has your school or district shifted away from emailing links to online documents and slides and sequenced professional learning in your LMS?
Using your LMS for professional learning prompts an expedient shift away from the all-hands staff meeting due to the incumbent familiarity of your largest group of users: the teaching staff. It also builds empathy for remote learning and understanding as administrators (and lead teachers) assume the role of instructor and staff members are enrolled as students in professional learning cohorts delivered through the district LMS. But the most valuable gain comes from introducing an asynchronous learning structure into the professional learning culture of your district.
In addition to repurposing place and time restrictions for your staff members, there are other gains enjoyed by school and district leaders who have implemented well-designed asynchronous professional learning in their LMS, including the following:
- The LMS inherently offers tracking and data analytics for users giving administrators insight into how staff members are engaging with topics.
- Professional learning content can be aligned easily with the formal educator evaluation rubrics adopted locally or provided by state education agencies.
- A teacher mastery of the LMS from a teacher’s own practice enables the promotion of “distributed leadership” as teachers share lateral approaches (versus top-down approaches) from administrators.
With the above gains in place, the stage is set for administrators to see professional learning through a competency-based lens.
Finally, all of the above is much more easily repeated across the school year and the observation cycles than if executed in the traditional manner. In many ways, making the shift from PD to personalized professional learning is the gift that keeps on giving.
And don’t forget …
… recovered time; targeted growth; distributed leadership; and a culture with a boosted sense of purpose and morale. These are all desired things that come about when professional learning becomes personalized for our staff.