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North Carolina Leader Describes Personalized Professional Learning for Staff

Personalizing professional learning for teachers and principals is essential to building a more coherent, data-driven and feedback-based school system, according to the three presenters at a Friday conference session titled “How to Personalize Professional Learning for Teachers and Principals.”

The panelists shared the lessons they’ve learned on their jobs as school system leaders and offered several illustrative examples of personalized staff training.

One of the three presenters, Brian Kingsley, chief academic officer of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina, described a problem he has identified in every school system where he has worked and the strategies these districts used for elevating the efficiency of professional learning.

The other presenters were Sean Dusek, superintendent in Soldotna, Alaska, and Tim Hanson, superintendent in Warren Township, Ind.

As someone who has worked in different school districts over the years, Kingsley said the biggest problem of professional learning was a lack of coherence in the school system.

“Understanding the role of coaching is critical to professional learning,” he said.

In one place he worked, school leaders applied the strategies that IKEA uses to sell furniture, catering their sales techniques to customers’ needs. Similarly, school systems ought to customize professional learning based on the individual needs of teachers and principals.

The guiding questions for superintendents to think about “What’s the current reality?” and “Are we meeting their needs?” Kingsley said. Being on board with teachers and principals, he said, is critical for gathering high-quality and exact feedback. This subsequently will help to align the strategies being used.

Kingsley said a big mistake he learned from his years of experience serving in different districts is leading by tools rather than learning what aspects of information staff need to effectively use the tools.

For superintendents, he said, focusing on the feedback of evaluation and effective communication with teachers are key aspects of providing a meaningful and fruitful professional learning experience to teachers and principals.

(Yingjie Wang is a graduate student in journalism at USC’s Annenberg School and an intern with AASA’s Conference Daily Online.)

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