6 Ways to Boost Your Professional Learning

thinking woman
Close up portrait of a young african american woman looking out window when working on laptop

Social media, professional learning communities, and collaborative authoring environments have expanded learning opportunities. Developing productive personal learning habits can accelerate your career and extend your impact. Following are six tips that might just change your life.

Log questions, blog answers. When someone asks you a tough question and you don’t feel like you have an adequate answer, write it down. Turn it into a writing prompt and open a Google Doc. As you work through your own thinking on the subject you’ll find the serendipity of online life delivers answers. Keeping good questions in front of you focuses your awareness and learning.

A couple of recent examples include:

Make connections, test implications. If you have an active learning life, you’re reading and listening to great content all day. When you read something that causes you to think different, open a doc and create a prompt, share it on social media and invite your friends to comment.

Recent examples include:

Build a learning project. Pick a couple topics to learn about every year. Build a table of contents for big questions and open a doc for each. Add it to your learning plan (yes, like students, professionals should have a personal learning plan).

Some topics we took on over the last year include

Build a learning campaign. Pick a big learning project–a world changing topic– and invite colleagues to join you in mounting a campaign to illuminate the path forward.  

Three years ago, the Smart Cities blog series was initiated as a personal learning project to catalog innovations in learning in America’s great cities. After three dozen blogs we developed early observations which teed up writing prompts for more than 60 experts. The personal learning project turned into a crowdsourced campaign. A year later Smart Cities That Work for Everyone was published.

We used the same formula to write Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning. Using Nellie Mae’s student-centered learning framework, over 100 blogs on from 70 contributors informed our parenting journey.  

Following the hunch that educator development could be guided by micro-credentialing, we invited EdLeaders to contribute to Preparing Leaders for Deeper Learning.

Share what others are learning. When we take an interest in what others are learning — and share it — we catalyze both their growth and our own. When you meet someone new, ask questions that get at the heart of what they love to learn, what they love to do, and what some of their coolest experiences are.

A recent example is a dinner story retold: Drop Everything and Sail the World. Meeting with an analytics expert inspired a post on Helping Teachers and Schools Run Experiments. A call with an assistant superintendent was summarized Elected Board Urges Innovation in Denver.

Find something beautiful everyday. Take a picture and post it on Instagram (while you’re at it, follow us on Instagram — @getting_smart). Add the good ones to Pinterest or share them on Facebook. You’ll find that a little positive pressure to find some beauty in everyday life make you lift your chin and look around more often.

For more, check out:

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Discover the latest in learning innovations

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.