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Should Professional Development Follow the Trend of Personalized Learning?

Should Professional Development Follow the Trend of Personalized Learning?

It's no secret that many teachers across the nation feel as if professional development is more of a chore than it is an enriching experience that benefits his or her career.

"Since the time is often mandated, why not make it effective?" asks Education Week's Starr Sackstein.

According to Sackstein, current professional development too frequently only meets the needs of a few teachers and turns off the rest for a variety of reasons.

For one, she argues that professional development often lacks money and resources, hindering its ability to be greatly effective. She also cites a culture of disengagement that makes it hard for staff to get on board.

Professional development, she says, often fails because of the existence of "...a culture of non-compliance and disinterest from a staff who has largely disengaged for an extended period of time. 'I've been teaching for 15 years and I've seldom participated in positive learning experiences that enrich my practice. So why bother now?'"

In order for professional development to act as a truly effective tool for teachers to use and take seriously, Sackstein argues that

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.

For this to be possible, Sackstein offers a list of suggestions that would begin to personalize the PD experience for all educators participating.

First and foremost, she says effective PD has to be designed by analyzing the needs of the staff being trained.

"Set goals that are in line with staff's and students' needs—you can do this by polling the staff about their needs, analyzing those needs and then providing opportunities that support those needs. There may be time to offer options based on goals set from observations," she said.

PD programs should offer as many choices as possible so that teachers are not forced to learn the same thing at the same time, which creates a faculty meeting effect instead of a valuable learning experience.

Through different choices, staff should have access to a variety of PD options, ranging from Twitter sessions to edcamp-inspired break out sessions. Staff should also have the ability to work with colleagues they don't traditionally, and the ability to provide feedback wherever possible.

Finally, "[r]emember that learning should be fun. Make an effort to engage your learners in a way that will keep them interested. Read the room, if something isn't working, don't be afraid to abandon it."

Read Sackstein's full post here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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