6 Takeaways for Providing Virtual PD that is Personalized and Differentiated

For this first module in my EDTC 6104 course I am looking at ISTE Coaching standard 3, specifically indicator 4. The focus of this indicator is on how coaches can provide support to educators that is both personalized and differentiated in order to improve student learning. This indicator stood out to me because as a coach and educator I have had to find ways to provide support to fellow educators while living in a global pandemic. Not only have I had to provide support or professional development (PD) but I have also attended many PD opportunities all virtually. This has made me start to ask the following questions;

What are the best strategies for modeling personalization and differentiation when providing PD for educators? What are the best strategies to engage educators when providing PD virtually and still model what we hope to see in their classrooms? How can we build community and relationships and provide something that they can take back to their own classrooms?

As I began to research my questions and reflect on my own PD practices I came to realize that certain things are still needed whether the PD is in person or virtual. So here are my 6 takeaways for providing PD that is personalized and differentiated.

No matter the circumstance it is important to have clear objectives for any PD. Participants need to know what the PD is about and what they can expect to learn. Having clear objectives allows for participants to better engage in the learning because they have a clear understanding and vision of what they are going to learn about and how they are going to get there. This can lead to deeper discussions and more active participation from everyone involved.

As the facilitator it is always important to practice going through the PD before delivering it to participants. This allows for a smoother presentation and also allows the facilitator to make any needed adjustments. I often find that when I go through my presentations ahead of time as if I am delivering the PD, I am able to see where my timing might be off, places where topics or ideas jump around and places that might need additional information or even support during the presentation. I also find that I feel more confident in my presentation the more I practice ahead of time. However no matter how many times I’ve practiced there always seems to be something unexpected that happens, especially when dealing with technology which brings me to my next takeaway.

No matter how many times I may have practiced using the technology, something always seems to happen, so It is important to lean into these mishaps. As a facilitator the more I can model my own flexibility and adaptability during PD the more likely it will be for participants to be okay with these things happening in their own classrooms. Participants need to know that it is okay when these things happen and that they are most likely going to happen. It is how we react and respond that makes or breaks us. So modeling this resilience will help others develop their own resilience when it comes to using new tools and resources with their students.

Just like students need to know why they are learning something and how it is relevant, so to do participants. It is important for any professional learning experience to be relevant for the participants. Having concrete examples from a variety of disciplines will help participants see how the topic is relevant in their own classrooms and how they can apply the learning. Not only can these examples be provided by the facilitator but it is even better when participants are able to provide these examples for the group. So leave space in the discussion for participants to bring in their own experiences and ideas. Learning is a shared experience and thus we as participants need to be able to learn from each other.

Some of my best experiences participating in PD have been when the facilitator follows up with me afterward to see if I still have questions or how things are going implementing my learning. This may not always be feasible depending on the size of your group but if you can I recommend it. We are all missing that face to face connection and reaching out afterward is one way to start to build a connection. Try to make the follow-up personalized to each participant, if you had an exit survey use the information from that to ask follow-up questions of each participant. Not only does this keep the PD going but it can help establish relationships with participants and make the coaching even better. When participants feel like they were heard and listened to it often makes them feel more comfortable sharing their experiences. So yes it may take time but it will support a more collaborative and trusting coaching relationship in the end.

Participants will have more fun when they see the facilitator having fun. So be sure to relax and enjoy yourself. Let participants see you laugh and having fun, even when things may not go smoothly. This can help put participants at ease and also shows your vulnerability at the same time. Allow time at the end to celebrate the successes and for participants to ask questions. This should feel natural and be a positive experience. When we model the ability to have fun it sets us up for a more successful learning experience and can build trust with participants. This modeling also helps participants see this as something that they can do in their own classrooms and who doesn’t want to help create classrooms that are fun.

These are just some of the takeaways that I have come up with while providing and attending PD virtually during this pandemic. Through all of this I am continuing to learn, reflect  and grow in my own practice. I would love to hear your reflections or takeaways on providing professional development virtually in the comments below.


ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2020, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Johnson, K. (2016, June 28). 5 Things Teachers Want from PD, and How Coaching and Collaboration Can Deliver Them—If Implementation Improves—EdSurge News. EdSurge. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-06-28-5-things-teachers-want-from-pd-and-how-coaching-and-collaboration-can-deliver-them-if-implementation-improves

Joseph, M. X. (2020, April 19). 3 Ways to Mentor from a Distance. https://techinnovation.live/2020/04/19/3-ways-to-mentor-from-a-distance/

Joseph, M. X. (2020, April 29). Strategies for Virtual Professional Development. TechLearningMagazine. https://www.techlearning.com/news/strategies-for-virtual-professional-development

O’Leary, W. (2017, February 23). 5 Best Practices for Personalized Professional Development. https://blog.edmentum.com/5-best-practices-personalized-professional-development

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