How to Individualize Professional Development Offerings

individualizeAs part of re-licensure requirements for the state of Minnesota, teachers must submit 125 clock hours of documented trainings.  The 125 hours must address six different areas of professional content. One of which is entitled, “Accommodation, Modification, and Adaptation of Curriculum, Materials, and Instruction”. [2] The aim of this requirement is to encourage teachers to differentiate instruction for their students.

The Minnesota Department of Education explains the intent of the objective this way – “applicants must include in their professional development activities which address accommodation, modification, and adaptation of curriculum, materials, and instruction to appropriately meet the needs of varied students in achieving graduation standards (i.e., differentiated instruction.)” [1] Along with the a new re-licensure requirements, teachers have been bombarded with Common Core curriculum demands, high-stakes testing preparation, and new forms of technology.

As the State of Minnesota has considered the unique needs of every student in the re-licensure requirements in an attempt to help students meet the new expectations, I am suggesting we consider the unique needs of every teacher while designing our professional development (PD) offerings, so that teachers, like the students, can successfully navigate the recent increases in responsibility and performance expectation.

How can we individualize our PD?
When a considering the individualization of a student’s learning experience, many teachers think about making accommodations or modifications to various aspects. [2]

Pacing – Teachers often provide students with breaks or change the timing of activities to support individual success. PD offerings could be accommodated to provide teachers with varying schedules and uncommon prep times with unique pacing so they may still participate.

Environment – Students may complete an activity outside the classroom, in a private area, or utilize an office space. Providing students with a different environment is intended to support the student’s focus and ultimate success. If modifications are considered for PD offerings, teacher may be able to engage in development activities with their grade-level in a classroom, as an individual at home, or while in the traditional library staff meeting environment. As the content of the PD is considered, so too should hte various environments in which the teachers could engage.

Presentation of Material – Teachers often create similar content presentations using varied medium. A book may be offered in print and audio formats, for example. When PD offerings are developed, consider offering the content in electronic print, video, and audio formats. Can the information be presented as a stand-alone webinar? Can the presentation from an outside provider be recorded for viewing by absentees or reviewed by grade-level teams during a future team meeting? Consider the methods by which your PD is presented to your teachers, just as teachers do for students.

Reinforcement and Follow-through – Students are often asked to share what they’ve learned through verbal explanations or paper-pencil assessments. Teachers may not need such formal follow-ups, but PD should include an element of post-experience reflection. Teachers may submit a statement of how they will be utilizing the content in practice via email or an anonymous electronic survey. Consider gathering information about the effectiveness, of not only the content, but the method and pacing of material.

Teachers are being asked to accommodate and modify the learning experience design to meet the unique needs of students. Changes to the pace of instruction, learning environment, method of presentation, and supportive follow-through help to ensure student engagement and success. The goal of this blog was to help those who design and implement PD offerings to teachers.

Consider accommodating to the logistical needs of your teachers. Consider where your teachers may engage in the PD experience. Consider utilizing various modes of delivery. Consider encouraging reflective follow-through and program evaluations. Most importantly, consider the individual teacher in the design and implementation of PD experiences.


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