Celina Brennan

Personalized Professional Development Elements: Supporting the CCSS Transition

Personalized learning has proven effective for empowering students to monitor their learning, establish goals, and reflect on progress. As the the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have become a target of focus for educators, we must consider how we are embarking on this learning journey as adults. Providing a professional atmosphere for personalized learning is essential in supporting teachers through the CCSS transition.

Each educator brings forth a unique background based on professional style, years of experience, and depth of CCSS understanding. As learners embracing this educational mind-shift, we each inevitably need something different as we engage in trainings and conversations related to the CCSS. Our learning experiences should not be a one-size-fits-all approach. Nor should professional development send us into information overload. As learners, we should be inspired to interact with the knowledge and perspective of the CCSS in order to find our own place within the transition.

In designing professional development experiences to support the CCSS transition, the following elements serve as a productive means for providing a personalized learning approach for educators.

Instructional Strategies

  • Strategically and authentically employ a variety of research-based instructional strategies to support the CCSS that can be easily transferred into the classroom.
  • Allow educators the opportunity to experience the strategies from a learners' perspective.
  • Provide time for educators to analyze how these strategies can be a vehicle for the standards and content, how they could be utilized with a variety of age groups, and how they can be executed within the educators' current routines.

Integration and Infusion

  • Seamlessly bring together content areas, strategies, and skills.
  • Provide opportunities for adult learners to encounter natural connections among disciplines and concepts.
  • Develop curriculum mapping techniques that show the integration possible under essential questions and an overarching concept.
  • Establish professional development experiences that demonstrate the harmony between reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language.


  • Efficiently provide multiple opportunities for speaking and listening to coexist during the learning process.
  • Design conversation stems allowing educators to process through new thinking together.
  • Allow for authentic conversations to unfold so educators may accept the realities of change brought forth by the CCSS.
  • Recognize the importance of these skills within our classrooms and provide ample opportunities for educators to gain confidence in employing new strategies related to communication.


  • Genuinely engage adult learners in team-building activities that strengthen professional relationships and deepen understanding of divergent perspectives.
  • Create opportunities for diverse teams to work together on collaborative tasks strengthening the understanding, respect, and flexibility among preK–12 staff, providing the venue to embrace this initiative together.


  • Intentionally provide multiple opportunities for reflective practice.
  • Develop a routine for reflective thought throughout the learning process to allow educators time to analyze the CCSS, aiding in the authentic transfer of this learning.
  • Allow adult learners the opportunity to reflect on the footprint they can leave along the journey.
  • Empower educators to identify ways they can pass along learning, while directly implementing new information and skills into their own classrooms and buildings.

Goal Setting

  • Deliberately encourage individual and team goal setting.
  • Provide a platform for these goals to be developed, along with a foundation for them to take root.
  • Look into the future together and determine the direction of the learning journey.
  • Identify strengths to celebrate and challenges to overcome.
  • Establish a culture to support the progress and achievement of professional goals, positively impacting the growth of our educators and our students.

When we work in the field of education, we commit to the journey of life-long learning. Along this journey we are constantly faced with hurdles of change. As our society evolves, we find ourselves adjusting our educational practice to meet these demanding needs in the midst of change. The Common Core is providing educators with another opportunity to be learners as we adjust our mindset to match the expectations set by this new initiative. Educators are side-by-side through this new journey brought forth by the CCSS and should be provided an atmosphere to learn together, while having their personal learning needs met. These six elements can provide teams with a direction for developing effective personalized learning, affecting change from the inside-out.

Celina Brennan is a 3/4/5 multi-age teacher at Salnave Elementary School in the Cheney (Wash.) Public Schools district and recipient of Washington State ASCD's 2011 Outstanding Young Educator Award. She is a district leader in literacy and has opened her classroom to educators as a model of differentiated instruction that meets the social, emotional, and academic needs of all learners. Connect with Brennan on the ASCD EDge® social network and on her blog, written with her teaching partner Ann Ottmar.

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