At KnowledgeWorks, we believe good thought leadership and policy must be grounded in best practices from the field. That is why, when creating the district conditions for scaling personalized learning, we spoke with over 35 district leaders who were having success transforming their traditional systems to a personalized learning environment. Because we recognize the absolute importance of teaching in a personalized learning system, we set out to determine how these conditions impacted teachers’ practice. The result of discussions with over 80 practitioners teaching in these personalized environments resulted in “The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers.”
Professional development, as defined in the district conditions:
Each district should offer a job-embedded professional development program that aligns with the district’s vision for teaching and learning and to student needs. The professional development program should foster a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement while leveraging technology that creates a customized experience for each teacher that is available at any place and time.
As you might expect, professional development was the most talked-about condition during our conversations with teachers. While many we talked to lead the implementation of personalized learning in their districts, few received professional development dedicated to implementing this transformation. Instead, many teachers took charge of their own development through independent research and visiting personalized learning schools, returning to their own schools and districts to share what they learned with colleagues.
Just as a personalized learning system provides customized supports to students, teachers and leaders should be engaged in identifying their needs and creating their own development activities. A variety of approaches to professional development were raised during the interviews including coaching, teacher-to-teacher and teacher-to-leader collaboration and interest-based learning communities. It is important to encourage continuous improvement through professional development by creating customized pathways aligned to professional teaching competencies. These competencies should also align to the districts vision for teaching and learning.