Friday, May 5, 2017

Personal Professional Learning Redefines Thinking, Teaching, and Learning

Personal Professional Learning Redefines Thinking, Teaching, and Learning
by Susan Zanti, M.Ed. Secondary Instructional Coach, Loudoun County Public Schools, VA

Will need to come up with an image for the header...I can do that from any images you include..

Education and the way we teach have changed, no doubt about it. Are teachers keeping pace with the changes? Is professional learning known historically as professional development (PD), meeting teachers’ needs? PD used to be, “One size Fits All”, but we soon learned the futility of providing PD that teachers and administrators don’t find relevant for their school and the students in front of them. I, like many of you, have sat through professional development that was often laden with jargon and catchphrases, designed to give teachers the competitive edge. Competing with whom? Edge over who?

Teachers need only to compete with their own limits; growing and stretching every day, learning to leave their comfort zones, and redefining their thinking and teaching. Teachers today value collaboration. They know the power of collective efficacy, and working together to help kids be successful. How then, do we keep pace with our continuously changing learners? Where do we get the professional learning we need right here, right now? What if we change the focus and wording from professional development to professional learning.

Districts are seeing the value of social media as professional learning. They are looking at social media as a means to get daily professional learning and development, on their time, in the way they need. Educators are encouraged to use Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to reach out to others and share instructional strategies and best practices.

Teachers are connecting, communicating, collaborating on a global scale, seeking the expertise of others, owning their learning needs. Many experienced veteran teachers are embracing the integration of technology, and forward-thinking, future ready teaching, learning and thinking ahead with intentionality.

Right now, in our educational history, is the last time that educators who are in the classrooms and trenches with our youth, will be required to learn the technology skill set. Students today and going forward have savvy tech skills that they can, and do teach one another. Facilitating relationships with students and their learning is crucial if we are to keep pace with ever increasing needs of students, as their skills often surpass those of teachers. Teachers will remain life-long learners; however, never again will they be taken from no technology in teaching and learning, to where we are currently. Imagine the learning curve...Thinking ahead, the skill set will grow and develop, but here and now educators need professional learning that bridges the gap and grows with them.

Educators in every school and administration are being called upon to personalize and blend learning, they are encouraged to and supported in connecting to other educators globally, it is an exciting time! Research proven strategies press teaching and learning forward. Children will never again know life, let alone school, without technology. Teachers need professional learning at all stages, beginner, intermediate and veteran to meet these needs.

In schools everywhere, teachers and administrators are tapping into the best resource out there to develop teachers-other teachers! Teachers and teams are sharing their expertise via in-school, embedded professional learning. In personalizing learning for students, we must also rise to meet the ever-changing needs of our teachers. How are you getting your professional learning needs met?

Susan Zanti, M.Ed. Secondary Instructional Coach, Loudoun County Public Schools, VA


  1. Susan, thank-you for sharing your thoughts. I most definitely agree with you in that we grow as teachers when we learn from great teachers. Time to learn from others in our building is crucial, but how much more can we learn when we utilize technology to connect with other in our district/region? I really want to create a solution like this in my district.

    1. Hi, Erin,
      Many districts are using Google Hangouts or similar to really bring together teachers from across a district who typically are separated by physical boundaries. For example, my former district has three elementary schools, and all of the schools run on the same master schedule. Hangouts is a great way to bring together all 6th grade teachers, for example, across the district at a specific time each week in order to help propel that collegial connection and sharing!

  2. Hi, Susan! I enjoyed reading your post about the transformation of PD. I think many of our new teachers are coming to us more prepared to meaningfully tap into technology resources to enhance teaching and learning. However, as an elementary principal I interviewed many a young teaching candidate cite "PowerPoint" and "Smartboards" as a primary method of technology infusion. No talk of student engagement or agency or creation at all! I believe many of the higher ed systems that are preparing our newest teachers are not embracing the types of professional learning opportunities you describe in your post. I'm hoping K-12 can influence the higher educational systems to include these types of connected learning experiences for preservice teachers!

  3. Hi, Thank you for sharing your thoughts! This is a topic I wish more would take note of, building a network that supports personalized PD/PL is essential for the good of students and teachers, there is power in collective efficacy and student centered learning. Our teachers need PD/PL for the studetns in front of them, here and now!