The Power of Personalized Professional Development

Traditional professional development just isn't enough for today's teachers. We need a personalized system!
"Personalized professional development is built on the same pillars as personalized learning for students and allows each educator to create a goal-driven, measurable, well-documented plan to improve their practice and drive student achievement."

Professional development is supposed to be about constantly improving each teacher’s practice in ways that benefit both learners and the educators themselves. Just about every school or district has some sort of program to help their faculties meet these expectations, but few in-house PD systems are truly effective. That’s because traditional professional development is built on mindsets and pedagogy that we already know don’t work for students in the classroom.


When most schools or districts plan PD, they’re generally inviting some sort of a speaker to come and present information to a large group of teachers gathered in a high school cafeteria or gym. These speakers are incredibly knowledgeable and often presenting game-changing approaches, but the very shape of the learning experience creates obstacles for so many of the professional learners in the room.

If you imagine teachers at professional development sessions as students, the problem becomes even more obvious. Would we ever keep a group of students one room for the majority of the day and have them listen to one speaker present a huge amount of information in a single session? No way! We know definitively that most students can’t learn effectively that way. And yet, it’s how PD is done the vast majority of the time due to the difficulties of planning truly engaging sessions and financial limitations on the administrators and PD coordinators who plan them.

If we’re to reform this system to make professional development more powerful for teachers and, by extension, their students, we need to embrace a personalized PD model. Personalized professional development is built on the same pillars as personalized learning for students and allows each educator to create a goal-driven, measurable, well-documented plan to improve their practice and drive student achievement. Like personalized learning, personalized PD invites teachers to leverage their own skills, interests, existing strengths and intellectual curiosity to discover an individualized path to professional growth.

In a personalized PD system, teachers are empowered to identify and attend learning sessions that are relevant to them, their practice and their students. Rather than sitting in one-size-fits-all direct instruction sessions, each educator can cherry pick from classes, workshops, and hands-on learning experiences that will specifically help them improve in targeted ways that are relevant to their grade-level, subject area, personality and teaching approach. Instead of being limited to the professional learning that PD coaches and district administrators identify for them, educators can become masters of their own professional development in a way that builds authenticity, engagement, and buy-in.

Managing a personalized PD system at the district level may sound a little chimeric at first, since a single building of teachers could potentially be attending hundreds of different professional learning experiences, but modern technology actually makes the process quite straightforward. Using a LMS (learning management system) like the ones used by many students around the country, individual teachers can work with their PD coaches to create relevant, high-level professional goals and identify the kind of training, workshops or other learning experiences they might need to achieve those goals. Then, teachers are allowed to use the internet, professional publications, and the course catalogues of local learning institutions to create their own, individualized path to achieving those goals.

After each learning experience or PD session, teachers can upload documents to the LMS to demonstrate their attendance to each learning experience and reflect on takeaways from the experience that they can apply directly to their classroom. In this way, a personalized PD system ensures teachers are truly thinking about improving and evolving their practice, rather than sitting there in a district-wide PD session with one eye on the speaker and the other on the clock.

Personalized PD is indisputably the way of the future. To learn more, download our personalized PD eBook "Fostering a Culture of Lifelong Learning" from the Resource Library!