Guest Post: Burnt Out! Teachers Identify Need for More Flexible and On-Demand Professional Learning

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Guest Post: Burnt Out! Teachers Identify Need for More Flexible and On-Demand Professional Learning

This guest blog post comes from our friends at D2L, a global learning innovation company.

Many U.S. school districts are facing a crisis: How do we balance teacher burnout with the ongoing need to build teacher capacity for learning recovery and beyond? New research helps answer that question.

As AASA has identified, education leaders face an imperative of student-centered redesign toward equity, and this must include enabling teachers in every classroom. The good news is that the emergency pivot to virtual schooling in many districts opened educators to new methods, and this provides a unique opportunity to redesign professional learning to be more timely and flexible and (re)build teacher capacity.

To better understand these educator experiences and interests, AASA partner D2L recently commissioned a national survey of some 1,000 district administrators and teachers. 

The recently released research identified growing teacher interest in professional learning that is ongoing, on-demand, online and targeted. However, teachers reported that they currently have limited access to frequent and personalized learning at their districts, which likely helps explain why only 20% of teachers identified strong satisfaction with their district-provided professional learning opportunities.

Other key findings include the following professional learning views:

  • Frequent, Ongoing. While 94% of surveyed educators agree that ongoing professional learning is important to a teacher’s effectiveness, only 36% expect their district to provide such timely professional learning. 82% were satisfied if they expected that professional learning will be made available to them more frequently than once a month — “on a more regular, ongoing basis,” but that satisfaction drops to 43% for those who expected availability only “once or twice each semester.” 
  • Online, On-Demand.71% identified interest in professional learning that is online, on-demand with 55% indicating their interest increased from pre-pandemic. In contrast, only 18% indicated strong current interest in online live professional learning.
  • Personalized. While 91% identified interest in personalized professional learning, there remains a gap as only 20% of respondents reported increased availability for targeted professional learning and 24% reported decreased or no availability since before the pandemic.
  • Time Flexible. 82% of district administrators cited “teacher time as a barrier to online professional learning,” compared to only 48% of teachers identifying time challenges, suggesting that teachers may be more willing to commit their time to flexible learning options than administrators expect.

What does this mean for school districts? Changes in practice during the pandemic have provided an opportunity to grow innovative professional learning methods and formats. These emerging practices are of increasing teacher interest and often better aligned to effective research-based practice including coherence, embedding in instruction, sustained duration, professional learning community, and feedback and reflection. 

These findings can also inform changes to our policies, programs, and partnerships needed to modernize teacher professional learning at this critical time in our K-12 public schools. 

For additional survey findings, research alignment and district recommendations, review the full research report “How the Pandemic Has (Re)Shaped K-12 Teacher Professional Learning” or contact D2L Senior Director Mark Schneiderman. D2L is a learning technology partner supporting our collective mission to reach every learner, including through D2L’s Brightspace learning management system as a hub to personalize both student and educator learning.