This week’s post is by Jean Garrity, Assistant Director at the Institute. 

Were you ever asked to attend a workshop about a subject you already knew a lot about?  Have you ever wondered how you could use what you just learned in a workshop with your students?  Moving toward a system of personalized learning requires a retooling of our current educational workforce as well as our approach to professional development.  Educators need to be facilitators of learning, rather than owners of content. The role of the educator is changing, and the old model of “sit and get” professional development is not able to provide the results educators need to be successful in a personalized learning environment.

We know that by personalizing learning for each student, we can capitalize on student strengths and preferred modes of learning, while addressing individual student needs as they occur.  Why not do the same for our educators?  How powerful could professional development be if we engaged educators in their own personalized learning?

Rather than bringing groups of educators together for a face-to-face workshop with pre-determined, generalized objectives, personalized professional development is based on a clear set of standards educators need to be proficient in to be successful.   Pre-assessment data that identifies strengths, weaknesses, and learning preferences in relation to these standards and other special areas of learning are compiled into individual learner profiles.  These profiles serve as the foundation for the development of learning plans, created by the educators themselves, often in conjunction with a learning coach. This personalized professional development can take place anytime – anywhere, and can truly meet the learning needs of the individual educator.

How is personalized professional development good for educators?  In a personalized professional development system, educators are able to focus on their greatest areas of need and key areas for growth, working on only those areas that they need most.    Learning is personalized to educator learning preferences and styles.  Perhaps most importantly, educators learn first-hand what it is like to learn in a personalized learning environment.

We know personalized learning will not replace an educator’s professional judgment, guidance, relationship skills or knowledge of students and motivation.  We also know, however, that educators need to engage in professional development in order to build the skill sets necessary to effectively facilitate learning in a personalized environment.