3 Simple Ways to Personalize Professional Development

While schools and districts offer formal professional development, all too often such opportunities are focused on a topic that doesn’t quite fit individual teachers’ needs, or is too basic or advanced to be effective.

And, while teachers themselves also have the opportunity to learn on their own, some struggle to find the time in their busy schedules to participate in self-driven learning.

One option that you hear more about every day is personalized professional development, a term for taking charge of your own professional growth by seeking out anytime, anywhere learning experiences that meet YOUR individual professional needs.

For those looking for a place to start, we’ve gathered together three quick tips to get you started personalizing your personal development right away:

  1. Watch and/or Participate in a Twitter Chat
    Twitter chats can be great learning opportunities that provide up-to-date (even up-to-the-minute) information from fellow educators experiencing the same things you are. There’s a chat for nearly every education topic you can think of, you can participate from your couch, a soccer game or anywhere you have internet access, AND IT’S FREE.

    You can check out this education twitter chat calendar, and we’d also like to suggest @JaimeDonally’s chat on Wednesdays at 8pm CST focused on augmented and virtual reality—check it out at #ARVRinEDU.
  2. Join or Start a PLC (Professional Learning Community)
    PLC’s are an excellent opportunity for creating your own professional development, hone skills, and improve student outcomes through action research. There’s a ton of great information in this PLC-focused course on Atomic Learning to find out more.

    Looking for ideas on what others are doing? The educators at one of Oklahoma City Public Schools collaborated as a group to take their recent 1:1 initiative even further. They utilized the school's existing PLC page on Facebook to openly collaborate and easily share tips and resources they found interesting—including Atomic Learning’s courses on Classroom Management in 1:1 Classrooms, Supporting Gifted and Talented Learners, and others.

The Power of Student-Centered Learning

A recent Edudemic article listed "student-centered learning" as the top educational buzzword—that was gaining traction with school leaders and teachers alike.

The concept of student-centered learning is not new, per se (John Dewey and Carl Rogers have been active advocates), but if you aren't familiar with the concept, it revolves around the idea of encouraging and supporting students to determine the direction of instruction in the classroom. Instead of a teacher acting as a "Sage on the Stage" and lecturing from the front of the class, they act more as a facilitator. The result being a form of personalized learning that engages learners by focusing on their interests while building critical skills, such as communication and collaboration.

If you are looking for a wonderful example of student-centered learning in action, be sure to check out a TEDx talk by veteran teacher Shelley Wright. In it, she shares her experience of turning her classroom over to her students, and how it changed all their lives. 

Here's an excerpt of her talk:

“…I learned to believe in my students. To believe in what really deeply matters to them. And to remove whatever obstacles I can to try to make that happen. More importantly my students learned to believe in themselves. They learned that they can make a difference…

Our schools need to be places that set our kids’ hearts on fire [so] that they can figure out what they are passionate about. Where we give them opportunities to pursue it, and that we give them a place to make a difference now…

Our students will often exceed our expectations of them if we only give them the opportunity. ”