From Harry Potter to new headteachers, the annual American Educational Research Association conference had it all. Adi Bloom reports
Personalised learning should apply to teachers as much as pupils, according to academics.
Sara Bubb and Peter Earley, of the Institute of Education in London, told an international gathering of researchers in New York last month that teachers need to be given the same individual attention in their professional development as pupils receive during lessons.
The academics observed 38 primary and secondary schools over 20 months. In many schools, they found that professional development was synonymous with "a day off" or an imposed burden.
But they believe these attitudes are not inevitable: "We must not underestimate the importance of how engaged or motivated staff are in the learning process. In the same way that there is talk of personalising learning for pupils, there must be the equivalent notion for the school workforce."
Proper leadership of the programmes was vital. "Professional development does not just happen," the researchers said. "It has to be managed and led, and done so effectively, ensuring it has a positive impact."
Teachers, nonetheless, want to feel they can influence their own training. One school leader told the researchers she often had doubts about the usefulness of external courses that teachers ask to attend. "But I agree, to keep them happy - which is an important consideration," she commented.
Many teachers want to be certain that training will ultimately benefit pupils and will be genuinely useful, the report states. One primary asked pupils to complete a questionnaire about various elements of school life. It revealed that fewer than half thought their classmates behaved well, leading to a staff-training day on behaviour management.
Teachers also want to feel their learning and development is as important as that of pupils. The most effective schools provide shelves to store resources, links to useful websites and even dedicated rooms for staff learning.
Equally, staff resent being corralled into whole-day training sessions. Professional development was most effective when it took place during early-morning, after-school or half-day sessions.
"Hearts and minds have to be won," the researchers said.