As teachers, we are consistently reminded that every learner is different. The same rings true for teachers. Every teacher is as unique as the students in his/her classroom. Each teacher has a different history, set of skills and preference in how they learn best. Every year, a teacher is faced with a new and challenging set of students, all with distinct needs.

Many schools are finally beginning to realize teachers need individualized learning opportunities. Below are 5 ways that schools can personalize Professional Development to be more relevant, making use of 21st century skills.

Create a structured plan for PD

Ensure that your school has a written, structured professional learning plan. This can be, either a weekly or monthly plan. This is perhaps the most important step. Utilize the data and input of teachers to help create a strategic professional learning plan. Include topics that are relevant and allow teachers to take charge of their own PD. Let teachers give their input on the topics covered in the learning sessions. This promotes engagement of teachers and increases their interest. By participating in the creation of the Professional Learning Plan, teachers feel a sense of ownership and pride in their professional learning.

Set a structured time

Often the biggest excuse for teachers is, they do not have the time for professional learning (PL). Schedule a set time for PL, so it becomes an expectation of all stakeholders. Research shows us that on average, it takes about 66 days before a new behaviour becomes a habit. Teachers understand the importance of structured classroom routines. The same structure is important for their PL. Setting a structured time is the first step in taking control and personalizing professional learning. Teachers have to make the commitment to open their minds and develop their skills.

Using data to inform Professional Development

There has been a huge push to use data to inform learning in many school systems globally. Who says that the data collected can only be used to inform student learning? Schools can pull data from across all areas of the school to help identify the needs of the school and the teachers. This can help with recommending courses and resources for professional learning and development.

Use the experts in your schools

Workshops are not a one size fits all and it is important for schools to realize this. Schools should offer a choice of learning, which cater to the needs and interests of the staff. There is no hard and fast rule that the experts running sessions have to come from a source outside of the school. Each school has teachers who are experts in certain areas and fields. Look for pockets of best practice. Create opportunities for teachers to learn from each other. Use technology to enhance and support professional learning. There are a wide variety of platforms that encourage teacher collaboration and development from around the world. Experts in subject areas are available at the click of a mouse, with social networks, webinars, Edmodo Communities and Online Learning opportunities.

Create partnerships

Offer professional learning budgets that can subsidize and encourage teachers to participate in learning programmes outside of school hours. In the UAE, there are several options for teachers to return to school to upgrade their credentials. Seek out partnerships with universities and other institutions of higher education. Zayed University in Abu Dhabi is currently offering a very good Masters in Education programme. There are also online programmes that offer teacher certification in as little as 9 months. Contact us if you would like recommendations: email, info@teachuae.com.

By Chassie Selouane

Chassie Selouane has a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre & Education, a Master’s of Education Degree – Curriculum Instruction with a Specialization in ESl. Chassie is the Director of Learning at SAIS-Dubai.

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