How might professional learning be tailored to the way people like to learn and work?

We learn and work the way we like to, naturally, as individual. Why do organizations insist on treating all adult learners the same way?

Photo of Kevin Jarrett
4 1

Written by

As I sit in my hotel room about to embark on the annual two-day teaching & learning adventure known as the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) convention, I wonder about the tens of thousands of people about to descend on Atlantic City in search of improved professional practice. I'm part of the show, doing a few of workshops and helping out in our first-ever Makerspace, but I have to admit, I'm not looking forward to my "sit and get" (in my case, "stand and deliver") workshops.


Because no matter what you do, and how well you prepare, every audience is going to be made up of learners with different needs, wants, levels of experience and ways they like to learn and work. As the session leader, it's my job to make sure they all go home happy. Good luck with that, as they say!

This past summer, I had the opportunity to attend the Critical Skills Program at Antioch University. Specifically, the Level 1 Institute. One of the first things we did as learners was identify our position on the "personality compass," which I'd never heard of before. Understanding these groupings made a huge difference in how we worked together in teams and even individually. 

What if professional learning embraced personality and work styles in meaningful ways as part of planning and delivery? 

Full disclosure: I'm running a workshop on Friday afternoon with a colleague here and we're using the Personality Compass for groupings. I'll report back!



Join the conversation:

Photo of Chris Good

Kevin I love this personality compass idea - and the understanding that we are all different learners with different needs - and different ways for implementing what we learn. What might a PD program look like that allows each individual to point their compass towards their own "True North"

Photo of Kevin Jarrett

Hi Chris, though my experience with this tool *IS* limited, I can envision schools using this or similar personality / style assessors to help inform professional learning. It's a culture thing, and that's the rub - for it to work to its full potential, everyone has to be on board. In our session there were a couple of folks who seemed not to like or agree with the assessment. Understandable. Percentage-wise, though, it was the vast majority. Imagining an entire school where that level of buy-in was evident, clearly, people would approach professional learning with a new lens, one that is grounded in how they relate to and work with others. Since we don't work in isolation, this seems like it would pay immediate dividends. People would understand themselves better, their peers better, their administrators better ... win, win, win.

So it's more of a culture thing than a PD thing, but anyway.

There are many of these kinds of diagnostics out there, districts would need to choose and adopt carefully. There's a real risk of such an initiative being perceived as fluff. But if our experience yesterday (and my experience personally) is any indication, when everyone is on board, the results are pretty impressive.

So if an admin is thinking about making this sort of thing part of a PD plan to really change their culture, and they are willing to commit the resources and mental energy to ensure it is understood, supported and implemented with fidelity, the rest, honestly - will take care of itself.


View all comments