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Aurora Institute

A Personalized Learning Approach to Professional Development at Education Achievement Authority

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Kristen Vogt

Issue(s): State Policy, Create Enabling Conditions for Competency-Based Education, Issues in Practice, Support Professional Learning

kristen vogt
Kristen Vogt

The Education Achievement Authority of Michigan calls the academic model employed at their schools “student-centered learning.” Perhaps their professional development for teachers—the subject of the latest Next Gen Tools brief—could be categorized as “teacher-centered professional learning.”

EAA joins the growing list of school districts and charter organizations that are reimagining professional learning for educators, as my colleague Stef Blouin blogged about last week—she was drawing on the personalized, self-directed, ongoing, collaborative, and embedded professional development at Matchbook Learning, Intrinsic Schools, Alpha Public Schools, and Horry County Schools. USC Hybrid High’s Oliver Sicat offered his perspective of personalized professional development in his recent blog at

As I mentioned last week in a post about pre-service teacher preparation, there are few teachers who have been trained to work in personalized learning schools. So professional learning for personalized learning takes on a critical importance for teachers to be successful in these new kinds of schools.

Teacher with students

EAA uses the same principles of learning it applies in its schools to the professional learning of its teachers. To help teachers in its blended, mastery-based, personalized classrooms, EAA delivers a professional development course through the Buzz platform (next week, we will publish a Next Gen Tools brief on Buzz, detailing how EAA partnered with Agilix and School Improvement Network to develop the personalized learning platform).have been trained to work in personalized learning schools. So professional learning for personalized learning takes on a critical importance for teachers to be successful in these new kinds of schools.

This approach not only provides the content to help teachers facilitate a student-centered learning environment, it walks them through the online, personalized learning playlist in the same way a student experiences it. As Mary Esselman, the Deputy Chancellor of EAA, says,

“We put them right in our platform as a student, paralleling what students are going through. This is absolutely critical, because it develops habit of mind around a blended model.”

Furthermore, EAA’s schools are all turnaround schools—they were among the lowest performing in Michigan before the turnaround model was implemented—which means many students have a lot of catching up to do. The professional learning experience positions teachers to help students take advantage of the mastery-based model: to make as much progress as their pace—and the support and instruction they receive from their teachers—will allow.

The ongoing Next Gen Tools series describes the innovations that breakthrough model developers—in K-12 and higher ed—need to create in order to make their completely redesigned academic and organizational models function effectively. View all published briefs in the series in the EDUCAUSE library.

Kristen Vogt, knowledge management officer for NGLC, makes lessons, strategies and outcomes from NGLC grantee projects available to a wider audience. Kristen previously at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation in Princeton, NJ. Kristen also has past experience in student and academic affairs in higher education, in particular with first-year transition programs and student support. Kristen earned a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Notre Dame, an M.A. in Higher Education from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in College Student Personnel from the University of Maryland.