how professional learning opportunities increase engagement

How Professional Learning Opportunities Increase Engagement

How effective are your district’s in-service days at advancing the professional growth of faculty and staff? Can teachers implement their new learning in the classroom, and do days dedicated to professional development (PD) improve student outcomes? It can be challenging to quantify the impact of in-service days, but understanding how professional learning opportunities increase engagement is the first step to enhancing PD effectiveness.

Teachers often are not satisfied with the professional learning opportunities offered by their districts. It’s not that they don’t want to learn; traditional PD just doesn’t always provide what is needed to motivate and engage learners. One-size-fits-all programs do not take into consideration each educator's position and experience, and the sessions usually take educators away from their classrooms where they want and need to be.

Districts can increase engagement, making PD programs more effective by offering professional learning opportunities that meet the unique needs of each teacher. By making PD opportunities available when and where educators can engage, school leaders can put them on a learning path that will enable them to grow professionally and improve instruction for better student outcomes.

Why Traditional PD Fails to Engage

The NEA and the Leaning Forward Professional Learning Association surveyed more than 6,300 teachers on their perceptions of the PD opportunities offered in their schools. While educators acknowledge that schools are committed to PD, they say that teachers, for the most part, are not involved in decisions made about their own learning. Many believe that school leaders do not consider an educator’s background, experience, and learning needs when planning PD programs. Additionally, respondents say that they are not given adequate time to practice and apply new learning in the classroom.

According to the US Department of Education, job-embedded PD, which enables teachers to implement new learning in their classrooms as they learn each day, “is clearly tied to improving instruction in multiple ways.” Yet, PD sessions traditionally take teachers out of their classrooms.

What Educators Need to Truly Engage with PD

Self-Determination Theory,” Ryan and Deci’s classic study on intrinsic motivation, holds that people are naturally self-motivated, curious, and eager to learn and master new skills. However, unmet psychological needs will diminish motivation. Ryan and Deci identify three things necessary to engage learners: a sense of competence, a sense of autonomy, and a sense of community.

How Professional Learning Opportunities Increase Engagement

Adult learning theory presumes that adults are self-directed and motivated when given learning opportunities that align with their needs and wants. Learning offered in small units targeting discrete skills is better internalized, and when learners can put new skills and knowledge to work in real-world situations, the learning becomes part of their knowledge base. By applying new knowledge and skills to their teaching, educators will quickly see the connection between their learning and their students’ progress, building a sense of competence.

To engage with their PD, teachers need to feel like they have control over their learning and career growth. This autonomy is critical. Rather than being directed to attend PD sessions that may or may not be relevant to them, they must be involved in PD planning and have choices in their learning. They are best positioned to know which lessons and learning paths will make them better educators and help them achieve their career goals.

Learning must also be available when and where teachers can engage. While daily, incremental learning is optimal, it is not practical to pull educators out of the classroom more than a few times a year for PD. Learning opportunities that can be accessed on demand will better engage teachers.

While PD must be individualized so it is relevant, districts need to create a culture of learning that encourages individuals to share their progress with their peers and engage in collaborative learning. The need to be part of a community is fundamental to being human.

Meeting all these needs within a PD program is a heavy ask, but technological advances make it possible.

Offer Personalized Professional Learning Opportunities with MobileMind

Traditional PD is synchronous, meaning everyone learns at the same time. At schools across the country, teachers and staff regularly gather in the school auditorium for PowerPoint presentations or form groups in the cafeteria for grade-level workshops. Depending on the goals, these PD sessions can be effective, but they lack the personalization necessary to engage learners and drive professional growth.

Asynchronous learning, which once meant correspondence courses, has taken off with the advent of the internet. Asynchronous learners move through a syllabus at their own pace. This way, they can slow down when they are confused or speed up when they are already familiar with the material. Modern PD programs integrate asynchronous and synchronous learning. MobileMind, a cloud-based learning hub, brings all PD activities into one space.

Educators Will Better Engage with PD That Meets Their Needs

With MobileMind, school leaders can create lessons and learning paths that meet the needs of the district’s faculty, and they can set goals and track individual and group progress toward those goals. Educators may choose the best learning paths for their positions and career stages. Learning will be relevant and actionable. As they come to understand new ideas and concepts and develop new competencies, teachers can put their new knowledge and skills into practice in their classrooms.

MobileMind lessons are accessible from a browser extension and a mobile app. Teachers can engage with their PD during free moments during the school day or outside of school when they have spare time. Even a few minutes waiting to pick up a food order or time spent on public transportation can be productive and help further the learner’s progress through a learning path.

It may sound like a lonely pursuit, with each faculty member pursuing different objectives at different times, but MobileMind helps create a community of learners with gamification. Everyone is awarded badges and positions on a leaderboard so colleagues can engage in friendly competition with their peers and offer encouragement. Microcredentials further incentivize by documenting a learner’s mastery of knowledge and skills.


Modern approaches to PD are more engaging than traditional programs. The integration of asynchronous and synchronous learning in the MobileMind hub provides learners with what they need: the ability to gain competence through self-paced learning, the autonomy to select a path relevant to their position, and a community of learners that encourages professional growth and fun. A district’s PD program will be more effective as teachers become more engaged.

Most professional development programs only specialize in one thing. MobileMind offers personalized, activity-based learning with reporting and tracking. Fun digital badges upon courses completed give teachers immediate takeaways to use in the classroom. Schedule a call with MobileMind or request a demo to differentiate the PD that your teachers want and need.