Faculty professional development is a critical cog in the wheel of annual school initiatives. We send cohorts of teachers off to AP training or the Stanley King Counseling Institute; we bring in a consultant to revamp our schedule and teach us how to teach in the new block rotation; we read a book on brain-based learning and report back monthly on how it’s changing our class routine. But the proverbial wheel only has so many cogs, and every wheel’s cogs are different. That’s why we’re giving up the faculty theme at One Schoolhouse this year.
Our three-year buildup to the personalization of our pedagogy was done on the annual faculty theme model – starting with the student-teacher relationship, then formative assessment, and finally student agency. But now that we know what we know about personalized learning, I sure would do it differently. You see, each one of us has different strengths—what Robert Brooks calls our islands of competence—and different growth goals. These starting points, unique to each teacher, are antithetical to the annual theme approach to school-wide professional development. One-size-fits-most PD is also the opposite of what we believe about learning: namely, that it should be personalized to the learner’s strengths and goals. So now we walk our talk. What does it mean to personalize professional learning for teachers?
We start with establishing the baseline expectations for course design/delivery and teacher competencies, clearly communicated in an open-ended rubric format so that teachers can both evaluate whether they meet baseline expectations and set a trajectory for their growth over the summer course refresh and the yearlong course facilitation. We give teachers time and space—including access to resources and one-on-one support—to reflect, reimagine, and redesign. As they refresh and then deliver their courses, they share milestones, measure progress, and process through challenges—all at the pace and scope that we agreed to when we set their personal plan for the year. Because the professional learning experience is designed backwards from what the teachers need and choose to do to improve their courses, they are energized by the efficiency and relevance of the model. And guess what? The wheels are spinning smoothly!
Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)