Personalised professional learning

Today, there is a thought-provoking post from Edutopia: Why don’t we differentiate professional development?  Pauline Zdonek’s comments caught my attention:

As I prepare for another afternoon of district-provided professional development activities, I always make sure that I bring plenty of work to do (papers to grade, lesson planning, etc.)…the sad fact is that the majority of PDs I attend are repetitive, simplistic, or downright boring. I bring other work to do so that I don’t get irritated when I feel that my time is being so carelessly wasted.

“One-size-fits-all” professional learning does not work, and we have known that for many years through experience, anecdotal evidence and research.  This was a hot topic in the nineties and early two thousands!   In 1999, NCREL (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory) produced a toolkit Professional Development: learning from the best; in 2002, Dennis Sparks published Designing powerful professional development for teachers and principals for the National Staff Development Council, which produced a set of standards for meaningful professional learning.

What have we learnt?  How many colleagues have been “talked at”, in our beginning-of-the-year professional development sessions?

In 2014, AITSL (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership) produced Designing professional learning, a report to…

…help readers design, revise and evaluate high-quality professional learning by clarifying the elements of learning design that significantly increase participants’ learning outcomes and their use of those learning outcomes in classroom practice.

This report provides an excellent basis for developing robust and meaningful learning experiences.