Personalizing Professional Learning: Strategies for Fostering a Climate of Professional Development

District Administration, August 2016 | Go to article overview

Personalizing Professional Learning: Strategies for Fostering a Climate of Professional Development


A District Administration Web Seminar Digest * Originally presented on June 23, 2016

Professional development is a key component of any district, but what takes professional learning to the next level of engagement and effectiveness is being able to differentiate and personalize professional growth for each teacher or administrator. In the recent Personalized Professional Learning Survey sponsored by Performance Matters (formerly Truenorthlogic), over 500 educators from around the country shared their insights on best practices and challenges for creating a personalized professional learning climate in their school districts.

In this web seminar, presenters discussed the findings of the survey, and how the District School Board of Pasco County in Florida is attaining its vision to support 21st century professional learning by providing differentiated professional development and coaching, focused on enhancing teaching practice to maximize student achievement.

CALLIE TURK

Founding Principal Intersections in Education Consulting

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Performance Matters (formerly Truenorthlogic) is hosting a yearlong conversation about personalized professional learning, and we hope you'll engage with us. In the fall of 2015, we sponsored a survey of teachers and principals to gauge how districts are doing with building personalized professional learning climates and moving from compliance to connection in teaching professional development. This survey was conducted by Intersections in Education Consulting and was sent to about 8,000 teachers and leaders in all 50 states.

Once we had the national survey results, we divided them into four regions of the country. We observed trends with how each region has implemented various practices, policies and online tools, as well as the degree to which educators trust the process and their confidence in their leaders who manage the process.

The survey asked respondents to consider a list of potential obstacles and to rate the degree to which each one makes it difficult to create a personalized professional learning environment that addresses each individual teacher's specific learning needs. And one of those obstacles is: "My district hasn't put forth a clear way for teachers to measure their professional growth and success." This is viewed as at least a minor obstacle by 54 percent of teachers and 65 percent of principals.

Things get even more interesting when we look at how the lack of measures might create conditions that impact the trust that teachers have in the process. The problem is that without clear measures to aim for, teachers may actually have less trust that the evaluation--a foundational data point for determining your professional growth goal--is reliable.

Policies that make a difference

Moving to the planning phase, once a teacher has a firm understanding of his or her professional growth goals, a professional learning plan can be created to outline how they will master new skills. The survey results indicate that requiring professional learning plans may, in fact, lead more teachers to create them.

Another policy that may make a difference as you work to create a more personalized professional learning climate is the frequency with which you evaluate your tenured teachers. According to the respondents in our survey, evaluating tenured teachers every year may boost principals' ability to make a meaningful difference in the professional lives of their teachers.

We asked, "To what extent does this statement reflect your experience in your current position: 'My school district uses the results from teacher evaluation to personalize teacher professional development.'" Only 25 percent of teachers report that their school often or always uses the results from teacher evaluations to personalize PD compared with only about half of principals. So that's not very many, but you can also see there's a gap in perception between teachers and principals. …

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