Educators know that personalizing a student’s learning experience is critical in supporting each student to reach his or her full potential. The message is ubiquitous throughout the education space: personalizing learning has the power to improve educational outcomes, better prepare students for their futures, and create learning environments where students can receive tailored support and feedback.

Yet educator professional development rarely strays from dated methods of lecture-based presentations. Even though research shows that the “stand and deliver” form of teaching leads to less engagement and less genuine learning, many school districts and training institutes alike have been slow to update professional development programming. To adapt to the current best practices for teaching and learning that educators promote in the classroom, it is important to learn new skills in a way that aligns with this shift towards personalization.

On August 1, the Friday Institute for Education Innovation, based out of North Carolina State University, came to Boston to hold a three-day leadership summit for district principals and other school leaders. The Leading Schools Summit, brought together educators and school leaders from across the country for a personalized learning experience that drew from best practices in the education space, as well as the world of innovative tech startups. The result? Leaders left with actionable items to bring back to their districts, they developed a close network of other educators to problem solve with, and acquired a toolkit of technology applications, community building games, and frameworks to help drive change.

Planning professional development for your school district this fall? Read on for five tips to help you personalize your PD Programming:

1. Embrace A Design Thinking Mindset
Design thinking prioritizes a solutions-focused outlook. It encourages logic, imagination, reasoning, and exploring a variety possible outcomes that address the issue at hand. Whatstarted as a process used by creative designers working to meet the needs of clients in innovative ways has been adapted to meet the needs of businesses and now, K-12 educators.

2. Don’t be Afraid to Play

We know purposeful play is important for young students, but why not let adults join in on the fun. At Leading Schools, educators tested out OzoBots, a BreakoutEDU puzzle, Little Bits circuitry sets, and more. Incorporating elements of “play” can help re-energize a crowd, get people moving and thinking, and let educators try out some of the tools and educational toys that students are using in classrooms.

3. Visit Innovative Spaces
There’s a lot educators can learn from visiting cutting edge alternative schools and innovative office spaces. Leading Schools participants visited Google’s Cambridge, MA office as well as NuVu innovation school. After the visits they then convened to discuss what they learned from these visits. “I appreciated the brainstorm around how we could take things we saw at NuVu and Google back to our schools and how we can make out teacher-spaces more interactive and more fun.” explained a principal from Milford, MA.

4. Consider Unlocking Educator Potential with Micro-Credentials
Micro-credentials can allow teachers and administrators to seek out topics of interest and relevance to them, pursue specific leveled standards, and receive badges certifying completion. There are a variety of platforms and services for micro-credentialing in the K-12 space, but regardless of how districts decide to pursue the work, the benefits of early micro-credentialing pilots in schools across the country have been promising. Educators are able to specialize and become building experts in specific PD topics, which builds in-district leadership and allows educators to learn from each other.

5. Reflect and Refine Throughout the Day
We know it’s important to debrief with facilitators at the end of professional development programming to see what worked well and what needs to change. However, it’s also important to allow time for participant reflection throughout the day — both self-reflection and as a whole group. Building in activities that allow participants to reflect on how their own unique competencies are being built upon and their professional goals are being developed is invaluable. Not only does it allows facilitators to adjust the time being spent on various topics of interest, but it also ensures that participants are having designated time to process the material being covered and share feedback in the moment – which maximizes the value of the professional development session itself.