Personalized and Job-embedded Professional Learning

It is the beginning of a new year and the second semester of school. At the beginning of January I bought a brand new calendar for school and started color coding all important dates, you know, like public holidays, mid-winter break and spring break. Unlike previous years, this time when I marked out the dates for Professional Development, I didn’t register the usual frustration. I’m actually quite excited for our PD this year as it is quite different from years past.

As I have been investigating the role of a coach as a professional learning facilitator (ISTE coaching standard 5,) all the readings agree that effective professional development enhances teacher practice which in turn improves student achievement. According to the standard, coaches provide professional learning for educators and leaders to use technology to advance teaching and learning

I began my inquiry by asking how coaches can build teacher capacity and confidence to use technology. I thought that maybe having a scaffolded scope and sequence of professional development might help teachers take risks with integrating technology. But as I searched for readings to back up my idea, I became more interested in two aspects of professional development that led me to tweak my question. My question is now: How can coaches design professional development so that teachers build capacity and confidence to use technology and enhance student learning experiences? And my answer is, by making professional development personalized and job-embedded.

Make it personal(ized)

Personalized PD effectively supports teacher’s use of technology in the classroom

Personalized professional development gives teachers the autonomy to choose both the content and format of professional development. A paper by Liao, Y-C., et al published in (Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education,) refers to studies by Lawless & Pellegrino (2007,) as well as Potter & Rockinson‐Szapkiw (2012,) which show that if teachers do not think that professional development is useful and supportive to address their professional learning needs, they are less likely to implement the technology integration ideas into their practice. Consequently, they advise that “giving teachers choice and more options in PD is more likely to support teachers’ use of technology in classrooms effectively.” (Lio, Y-C. 2017).

Personalized PD contributes to a culture of learning 

Pat Phillips’ article in Edsurge (2017), Personalizing Professional Development for Teachers, by Teachers, describes how the Bismark School District addressed the need for personalizing professional development by inviting teachers into the process of designing PD. Their experience showed: 

  • Working collaboratively with teachers in planning and designing PD workshops leverages the collective wisdom of all teachers. 
  • Understanding individual teachers’ zone of proximal development allows teachers to take relevant, meaningful steps to implement technology in their classrooms. 
  • Flexibility in both time and manner (choices of synchronous and asynchronous) met each teacher’s personal goals and needs. 
  • Maintaining accountability by using an instrument like the Personal Goal Tracker (which they designed for their particular needs) helps teachers track their progress. Regular feedback protocols and revision loops also help teachers stay goal-focused and on track. 

Another interesting article highlighting the positive influences of personalized PD is Making PD More Meaningful through Personalizationby A.J. Canlé (2020.) He suggests that administrators can reinvigorate professional development by acting as catalysts for teachers to create their own opportunities for learning.

Personalized PD gives teachers voice and choice

Jennifer Gonzalez’ post, OMG Becky. PD is getting so much better!, (2018) offers many ways to personalize the learning experience for teachers. She writes, “Lately (2018) it has seemed that this is a really sucky time to be a teacher, but I’ll tell you, if there’s one thing that is actually getting better about teaching, I’m pleasantly surprised to say that thing is professional development.” 

On a side-note: It makes me smile to think that in 2018 Jennifer Gonzalez felt it was “a sucky time to be a teacher?” I wonder what she thinks about being a teacher in 2021? personally, I’m loving it. What a way to launch everyone into the deep-end of blended learning! And guess what? Most teachers are figuring it all out.

If you are looking for a varied and valuable personalized PD, have a look at Gonzalez’ post. She offers nine models for personalizing professional development and provides links to many great resources for each. 

Make it job-embedded

Job-embedded: a definition

The following info-graphic is my attempt to pull out all the outcomes of job-embedded PD. The definition has been compiled from definitions from other educators such as Darling-Hammond by Croft A., et al. for an paper in The Learning Forward Journal, titled Job-Embedded Professional Development: What It Is, Who Is Responsible, and How to Get It Done Well.

Job-embedded PD is collaborative and increases teacher confidence 

Instructional coaches working 1:1 with teachers in the classroom or small professional learning communities (PLCs) within a division can focus PD on specific grade level skills content and resources which will directly improve the learning experience and achievement of students. When working directly with a coach or within a PLC, teachers collaborate on new strategies, reflect together on the highs and lows of practice, model best practices and share expertise in a collegial, relevent and timely manner.

Job-embedded PD is authentic

In another Learning Forward article, Forge a Commitment to Authentic Professional Learning, former Untited States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, writes that in order to improve student achievement, “we need to acknowledge teachers as learners, use student and teacher needs to direct professional learning, invest in whole-community growth, and make professional development a leadership priority.” (Duncan, 2011.)

Duncan argues that there is plenty of ‘lousy’ professional development and calls for PD that is ‘rigorous’, ‘meaningful’, and that ‘values teachers as professionals’ who shouldn’t be subject to ‘one size fits all’ PD. He also states that learning communities which are led by teachers lead to greater transparency and accountability, and motivation. “When faced with powerful information about their students’ learning, teachers, as learners themselves, are compelled to do something with what they’ve learned. They take the data they have from student performance and look for ways to improve. They insist on knowing which strategies work and which ones don’t. They are not afraid of expanding their knowledge and skills by sharing their experiences or considering alternatives that have the potential to improve their practice, such as reading a book or an article, discussing a problem online with a connected community, taking a class, and so forth.” (Duncan, 2011.)

Some ideas for personalized, job-embedded PD that teachers can access with or without a coach


Read 7 Things you should know about digital badges, from Educause, then decide if you would like to start collecting. Obviously for your badge-hunt to be considered effective PD, you should choose Micro-credentials that will enhance your teaching practice.


And the list goes on and on. I feel like I have just skimmed the surface of personalized PD. Coaches have a smorgasbord of wonderful PD opportunities to offer teachers. If you have enjoyed a relevent, effective professional development session that you have been able to use in the classroom successfully, please share it by replying to this post.


7 Things You Should Know About Digital Badges. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2021, from

Canle, A. J. (2020, August 03). Making PD More Meaningful Through Personalization. Retrieved January 25, 2021, from

Croft, A., Coggshall, J., Ph.D., Dolan, M., Ed.D, Powers, E., & Killion, J. (2010, April). Job-Embedded Professional Development: What It Is, Who Is Responsible, and How to Get It Done Well. Retrieved January 24, 2021, from

Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., & Gardner, M. (2017, June 05). Effective Teacher Professional Development. Retrieved January 25, 2021, from

Gonzalez, J. (2020, October 12). OMG Becky. PD is Getting So Much Better!! Retrieved January 25, 2021, from

ISTE Standards for Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved January 25, 2021, from

Liao, Y-C., Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A., Karlin, M., Glazewski, K., & Brush, T. (2017). Supporting change in teacher practice: Examining shifts of teachers’ professional development preferences and needs for technology integration. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 17(4).

Phillips, P. (2018, December 27). ​Personalizing Professional Development For Teachers, By Teachers – EdSurge News. Retrieved January 25, 2021, from

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