Monday, February 17, 2014

Personalizing Professional Development

I recall seeing a recent Facebook post by ASCD asking teachers to finish the sentence: Professional development should be…. Not surprisingly, relevant and personalized were top responses. At some point, each of us has sat through a well-intentioned and/or even brilliant PD experience wondering, What does this have to do with me and when can I get back to work?

As an administrator, I have been guilty of creating such situations for teachers despite intention to do otherwise. This time around, my colleague and I vowed to get it right. For our upcoming professional development day, we decided to let teachers control their own experiences and to structure them around personalized growth goals. Here’s a summary of our approach:

Personalized Growth Plans
A differentiated PD experience begins with a constructive and teacher-oriented growth plan for each person. Instead of rating tables, we used standard domains to generate reflection and goal setting by both teachers and administrators. Using a professional growth plan template, teachers reflected on their performance within each domain and identified target goals. We then met with each teacher to review his or her goals, contributing our target goals for teachers based on our observations as well. These goals then formed the cornerstones for observations and professional development.

PD Day Proposals
Using a Google form, we had teachers submit proposals for their personalized learning day. The following questions comprised the form:
  • Identify the target domain: professional responsibilities; planning & preparation; teaching; or class environment.
  • From your professional growth plan, list the goal to which your experience will correspond.
  • Describe the professional development experience in which you would like to participate.
  • Where will the experience take place?
  • Will you work collaboratively or independently?
  • Describe the task outcome (the deliverable from your experience). For example, will you be generating scheduling paradigms, producing integrated units, writing up a reflection from a school visit or workshop?
  • Would you like additional suggestions for experience?

As teachers submitted proposals, we were able to synthesize the data in a spreadsheet and sort by various items, such as those working within the same domain or toward the same goal, to suggest collaborations where appropriate.

Though the PD day is still on the horizon, we are all set with everyone having a plan for his or her learning. Here’s a sample of the variety:
  • groups traveling to various schools to observe other practices in action
  • scheduling brainstorming and analysis; discussions with another school with similar scheduling goals
  • robotics workshop
  • technology workshops
  • professional article writing
  • book reading and revision of planning based on learning

As the experience wraps, teachers will share their learning in faculty meetings over the next few weeks. I will post a follow up with teacher feedback from the experience. Our hope is that teachers will not only feel the experience is relevant, but that through the process, they will feel validated. Further, in our goal to provide differentiated experiences to students, this form of personalized PD may prove beneficial as a model to those learning how to implement different paths in the classroom.


  1. Hi Tiffany:
    My company, Freshi Media provides PD for K-12 teachers with our online academy, This would fall under your "technology workshops" bullet point above - each teacher leaves our PD training having MADE something original, be it an animation, short film, comic book, video game or script. I'd like to learn if there is a way we might work together.

  2. I am so enamored with this approach! It's so respectful and professional. Looking forwarded to reading about the feedback from teachers.

    1. Thank you! We just sent out a Google form for teacher reflection, so sharing to come soon.

    2. Just posted the feedback. Overall very positive and some great ideas for next time!