Differentiating for Adult Learners

School Library Connection is pleased to collaborate with ALA President Julie Todaro and her school library group Task Force to provide access to a selection of key professional development articles aligned with essential professional competencies for school librarians. We’ll be posting at least one article every work day between now and April 15. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns.

Competency 7: Professional Community for Teachers and Staff

“Professional Learners. Differentiating for Adult Learners” by Melissa P. Johnston. School Library Connection, May 2016.

This issue’s focus on differentiating to address the needs of learners got me thinking that in the case of providing professional development, we have to differentiate for our adult learners as well. In looking back at the columns from this past year, we have talked about a variety of strategies you can utilize when working with adult learners, but I was just reading a new study that finds that the attention span of the average adult has now dropped to about eight seconds (Gracey 2016). After just eight seconds, teachers are going to be chatting with their neighbor, texting, checking emails, and/or looking at their social media feeds instead of paying attention to you. So how do you hold the attention of teachers in a professional development session?

Differentiate for the Needs of Your Learners

Differentiated instruction refers to a “systematic approach to planning curriculum and instruction for academically diverse learners” (Tomlinson and Eidson, 2003, 3). Differentiated instruction is based on the assumptions that students differ in their learning styles, needs, strengths, and abilities, and that classroom activities should be adapted to meet these differences. Differentiated instruction involves giving learners a range of ways of accessing instruction and assessment; interacting and participating in the global classroom; demonstrating and expressing what they learn; and understanding and taking in information (Powell and Kusuma-Powell 2011). We all know that these are best practices when it comes to teaching our students, but why does it seem that professional development for teachers is still a “one-size fits all” experience? Continue reading “Differentiating for Adult Learners”