Personalized Learning for Professional Development

Jacqueline GoodburnBlog, Professional Development, Tech Better

In This Post:

  • Ways to improve your professional development days by including personalized teacher learning!
  • The importance of useful, relevant professional development.
  • Specific suggestions on how to include teacher voice and choice in professional learning.

Professional development often becomes the running joke when teachers get together. They comment on how the speakers had great ideas, and then the speakers were gone when they had questions. Teachers laugh about how the presenter doesn’t have credibility because they haven’t taught long or at all, they don’t know our students, community, etc. They lament that sometimes what is offered just doesn’t match their needs.

We must listen to their voices. Personalized learning is not just good for students, it’s great for teachers!

Personalized learning is not just good for students, it's great for teachers! Click To Tweet

If we challenge our teachers to reach the student who appears to be disengaged, then we must be willing to see these jokes and comments as feedback for improvement. After all, there’s a kernel of truth at the bottom of their jokes.

If we accept that information is neutral and is our guide, then we must design professional learning that responds to this feedback. Yes, there will be some mandatory topics that require all of us in the same room on the same page occasionally. But this is not an excuse not to use the rest of your learning days less effectively.

We all want a successful school. It’s time for administrators and teachers to partner on effective use of learning time.

Here’s how you can do it! Let’s move those obstacles.

Get teacher feedback on professional development.

I don’t hear those comments, but absenteeism is high on learning days and only about half of our teachers fill out the feedback tool. Well, that’s information already, isn’t it?

If you aren’t hearing from the teachers, it’s time to start the conversation. Look for your admin-faculty partnerships and open a dialogue. Seek out your grade level reps, department heads, association leadership, and other teacher leaders. Listen with an information neutral lens. Give them a voice!

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But I don’t have a budget for professional development!

You don’t need a great budget when you have amazing talent! Getting to know your teachers and their respective talents is essential. Your shining stars may not realize they are unique because they have wonderful autonomy in their classrooms.

Terrific teachers may not see their skills as special because these skills are rooted in who they are as people. It is our job as their colleagues to recognize their light and offer them a wider audience for their talents. Once you find these pockets of magic, you must create a path for all teachers and their students to experience it.

I cannot ask my teachers to do one more thing. They are maxed out!

Teachers accept many responsibilities. Shared leadership such as this does not mean that teachers do their work and then some of the administration’s work!

You can honor your talented educators who are willing to share by offering release time for prepping and planning the session for their colleagues. Another option is to pay a small stipend for their work. Or better yet, you can ask them what they most want as an honorarium for their time!

How do I set up these professional development opportunities?

There are so many tools out there to help organize your teacher presenters for your faculty!

You can offer a menu day, which is easily arranged using a tool like or a series of Google forms. Develop a tic-tac-toe board of activities from which people can choose. Create a passport, and teachers can travel through various activities, receiving stamps along the way to show their learning. Use an LMS tool, such as Google Classroom, to create self-paced learning environment with a choice of topics, and a “work when you want” opportunity for learning.

Give them a choice!

Once you’re ready, offer your faculty the chance to create their own learning paths. Suggest topics they would like to explore for improving their class experiences for students, but provide the voice and choice they need. Give them personalized learning!

It’s time to ask our teachers what they need, partner with them, and create the changes and improvements that we all seek!


Jacqueline is currently the Director of Staff Development at Burgettstown Area School District. We are a “Small town with a Big Heart!” I earned degrees and credentials from Penn State University, Robert Morris University, and Duquesne University. I spent ten years working in social services before transitioning to education. My belief is in servant leadership, and I strive to support our teachers through professional development that offers choice in timing, topic, and delivery as well as opportunities for teacher to teacher training. In order for our teachers to shine, they must be at their best, so I also run Mindful Moments groups and other wellness activities that keep us connected. I believe that our teachers are the most important component in learning, and my role is to offer strategies and support so our students have the very best practitioners working with them.