When 21st Century education encourages students to work collaboratively, embrace technology, and develop digital literacy, why should professional learning be any different? Professional learning plays a vital function in creating and leading the modern classroom as teachers learn how to facilitate an entirely different type of learning environment - one in which the teacher shifts from owner to facilitator. In order for professional learning to effectively equip teachers, K-12 education needs a new approach.

Dr. Shawn K. Smith’s book, The New Agenda: Achieving Personalized Learning Through Digital Convergence presents a new model to personalize the professional learning experience. The book explores a framework for districts to approach personalized learning more systematically and thoughtfully by guiding districts through seven stages across five categories: Leadership, Instructional Models, Modern Curriculum, Digital Ecosystem, and Professional Learning. Districts begin with a self-assessment to determine their starting point and progress through the Framework on the path toward executing modern, personalized learning.

Constructed upon the fundamental principle that a school district must put forth actionable goals toward a unified vision for the modern classroom in order to achieve success at scale, the Digital Convergence Framework requires districts to approach professional learning systematically after considering critical components of the education system that impact learning, such as pedagogy and assessment models in a digital environment. Outlined below are some of the critical factors and benefits of implementing personalized professional learning through the Digital Convergence Framework.

Shawn Smith. The New Agenda: Achieving Personalized Learning Through Digital Convergence. Denver: Magnusson-Skor, 2017.

Infrastructure & Leadership Support

Dr. Smith explains in The New Agenda the importance of thoughtfully assembling “a cross-functional team to oversee professional learning” whose “ decisions align with all other projects and initiatives” as a first step in rolling out modern professional learning at scale so that the entire system is supported by a solid foundation. In addition to the Professional Learning Team, the district must equip school-based leadership such as principals so  that they can effectively assess teachers during instructional rounds. Principals who do not receive this education cannot assess the factors that drive cognitive rigor in a digital environment.

Peer Coaching

According to The New Agenda, instructional coaches “remove the silos that naturally exist in our school systems by offering support across departments.” Peer coaching gives instructional coaches a face-to-face forum for delivering knowledge, materials, at-the-elbow support and personal feedback from trusted colleagues who can guide some of the qualitative elements of a teacher’s personalized professional learning experience.

A Plan for Implementation & Management

Just as the progression of a district through the Digital Convergence Framework evolves non-linearly, when professional learning modules are simplified into manageable, yet interconnected components, teachers can progress through professional learning in their own ways and at their own speeds. The intersection of support from leadership, peer coaching, and metrics behind professional learning modules ultimately provides a forum for collaboration among teachers where meaningful inquiry takes place and teachers approach technology integration and adopting modern curricula with confidence and ownership in their work.

Focus on Teacher Proficiency

Teachers progress through professional learning modules in a stepwise fashion in The Digital Convergence Framework. Beginning with literacy, teachers focus on articulating their knowledge of modern classroom components.  Teachers then progress to fluency, where they begin to practice implementing their knowledge about creating and leading the modern classroom. Finally through practice, time, and experience with professional learning modules which reflect the vision of leadership and adhere to teachers’ personal path and pace, teachers achieve mastery. Creating measurable outcomes based on teachers’ personal performance allows them to progress from literacy to mastery in a stepwise fashion and grants the ability to easily track and compare their growth to the averages of their school and district, and the focus shifts from attendance in professional learning to teacher proficiency.