Personalized Learning - It Isn't Just for Kids Anymore

You cannot pick up a professional journal without reading a title on personalized learning. Personalized learning is a term that is used to describe the optimal way of teaching and learning; providing our learners with options for creating their learning.

What about our educators?   As educational leaders, do we meet the needs of our teachers and educational specialists? Do we personalize their professional learning options? Do we help our teachers take a holistic reflection of their strengths, areas of need and their interests?

Goal Setting and Implementation

As part of the new law that delineates teacher evaluation – AchieveNJ - setting professional goals is the first step of the school year.  How do I assess my personal areas of concern and how do I, as an educator, determine what professional development I need to reach my goals. In addition, how do I successfully infuse my new skill set into my practice and create evidence of learning?

These are questions that educators are struggling with as we are about to begin another school year.

So, how do we provide our staff with meaningful, personalized professional development to take them beyond the how-to’s? 

First, we need to work with our teachers to set personalized goals and help to design their learning.

They need to work with administration to develop opportunities for professional learning and then to identify how the professional learning impacts teaching and learning in their classrooms. Teachers are motivated because they selected the topics based on their need and understand what they need to learn. They want to strengthen their practice by creating a path to success designed for themselves.

Teachers need to take dip stick readings periodically to reflect on their progress toward their goals and to identify additional resources that are necessary for success.  Just as we provide benchmark assessments for our students in similar courses, teachers may create benchmark assessments for their personal goals.

Wider Supports

Our district is committed to providing opportunities and options for professional learning during scheduled onsite meeting times. In our commitment to improving teaching and learning, options for professional learning include online, on-demand and face to face opportunities. Additionally, we encourage teachers to find workshops out of the district and to create networks with other educators.

The Office of Innovation in the New Jersey State Department of Education, recently created an excellent resource schools where educational leaders and educators may join a community of districts to share their innovative practices, to network and to expand their knowledge bases. Why reinvent the wheel? This venue of sharing creates multiple on-demand opportunities to learn from other educators and to collaborate on projects.

The challenge is for district leaders to provide the adequate time, guidance and funds needed for educators to reflect on their practice, assess their professional learning needs and to develop a personalized path to grow as educators.

Marianthe Williams has been a district level administrator supporting teaching and learning with technology and professional learning for the past 15 years. Most recently, she has supported the River Dell Regional School District in the implementation of their one-to-one computing initiative which is about to enter its ninth year at the high school. In addition, she supports technology infusion into the middle school’s learner-centered environment. Williams created an elite team of technology turnkey teacher trainers within each discipline who provide ongoing, personalized options through face- to-face, on-demand and flipped professional learning opportunities to their colleagues. She is active in several state and local technology director associations and she currently serves on the technology committee for the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.

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