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Customize Professional Learning Plans with Institute Builder

Customize Professional Learning Plans with Institute Builder

March 27, 2023
To borrow the words from the original Star Trek, Hampton Township School District has "boldly gone where no one has gone before" with Eduplanet21's Professional Learning Institutes. They wanted to customize the content to align with their vision, mission, and newly developed strategic plan. Dr. Jacquelyn Removcik, Assistant to the Superintendent, and Dr. John Thornton, Director of Student Services, shared their story with us.

Review, Reflect, Refocus

Like many schools and districts, the time following the immediate needs of the pandemic provided Hampton Township School District in Allison Park, Pennsylvania, the desire and need to review, reflect, and refocus. This need led them to bring together a group of parents, community members, partners, board members, teachers, and administrators to develop their Portrait of a Talbot


This team collaboratively refocused its vision and mission on the core competencies all students should possess to succeed in school and life. The six competencies that make up their Portrait of a Talbot are Communication, Learner's Mindset, Collaboration, Empathy, Critical Thinking, and Perseverance. 


The District's Strategic Plan was created as the foundation for developing the skills, knowledge, and dispositions students need to succeed in a rapidly changing world. They envisioned these as their Pillars for Success: Learning, Tradition, and Community. The nine areas​​ of the Strategic plan align the District's goals and objectives with the needs and demands of the 21st century.

Pillars for Success


This comprehensive strategic planning process included community surveys, guest speakers, full-day meetings, and ​​human-centered design work. 

North Star for Professional Learning

The 2022-2023 school year has served as a "soft launch" of this strategic plan. They began using the Competencies and Pillars as their North Star, and their planning was more intentional. As they thought about Professional Learning, they wanted to ensure that teachers received professional development aligned with the Pillars. 


Teachers at Hampton Township have fourteen​​ of their professional learning hours for asynchronous learning. Just like students, they know their teachers have different learning needs and "gaps" to fill in terms of their professional growth and how they could best use those hours. 


Hampton Township has an "all access" pass to the PLUS Professional Learning Institutes, meaning they have all of the content Eduplanet21 offers in their "library." And since Dr. Removcik and Dr. Thornton were familiar with most of the content and authors, they knew there was a great fit with many of the Pillars. They also knew that within an institute, some content might​​ fit with one Pillar, and some may fit with another.


So they had to think - what is possible?

1. Review the Professional Learning Content

The first thing they did was familiarize themselves with some of the newer content - or the content they had not viewed in a while. They divided this work up so that it was a smooth lift for both of them. Then they came together with a comprehensive view of what was available.

2. Align the Content to the Pillars

The next step was to map it out - and align the available content to the appropriate​​ Pillar. Here is an example of one of the Pillars and the content that aligned:


HTSD Future-Driven Learning Institute:

At Hampton Township School District, we are dedicated to providing learning opportunities for a constantly changing future. Learners engage in authentic, real-world experiences integrated with high-quality academics. We prepare students with the skills and competencies necessary to be successful in their futures.

The Learning Paths (mini-courses) from the Institutes that are included in this Institute are:

  • HTSD Future-Driven Learning Welcome (5 min.), Custom Welcome
  • Planning Student-Driven Research K-12 (3.5 hrs), Boosting Student Motivation Institute
  • UbDⓇ - 5 Stage 2: Performance Tasks (~1.25 hrs), UbD Institute
  • Habits of Mind 7: Assessing How We Value Dispositions (2.75 hrs), Habits of Mind Institute
  • Habits of Mind 8: Assessing with Checklists and Conferences (~1.75 hrs), Habits of Mind Institute
  • Habits of Mind 9: Assessing with Journals and Portfolios (~2.25 hrs), Habits of Mind Institute
  • UbDⓇ - 2 Stage 1: Transfer Goals and Understandings (~3 hrs), UbD Institute
  • UbDⓇ - 3 Stage 1: Essential Questions, Knowledge, and Skills (2 hrs), UbD Institute

As you can see from this list, Hampton pulled from three different PLUS Institutes to provide a well-rounded approach to their Pillar. This provides for aligned professional development and demonstrates, in practical terms, how the content supports the Pillars.

3. Align the Content in the Platform

This sounds more challenging than it is. Because Hampton Township subscribes to all the content, each Institute's Learning Paths were already available. They created new Institutes for each of the Pillars they had content for and then were able to use the Learning Path Alignment "drag and drop" feature to build the content for each Institute.

4. Set Expectations (Or Don't)

Often, we find that schools and districts prescribe the order and timeline for completion with our PLUS Institutes. Hampton Township had a different approach. They enrolled all of the teachers in all of the Institutes, so they could:

  1. Have voice and choice.
  2. See what topics aligned to which Pillar.
  3. Understand the time commitment for each of the Learning paths.
  4. Compare the content available with their professional learning goals.

In fact, at the start of every Institute, this sentence is bolded and in large font:


For this Institute, the learning paths do not need to be completed in sequence. Rather, you can choose the learning path that best aligns with your professional goals! 

5. Communicate and Implement

Finally, they communicated the availability of the content with their building administrators, so they could, in turn, share the resources with their teachers. Since teachers have set their own professional goals and are responsible for monitoring their progress with the goals, they can utilize the content that helps them achieve their goals successfully. 

Impact of the PLUS Institute Authors/Experts

When asked how having the PLUS Content had an impact on their planning for personalized professional learning for the teachers, Dr. Removcik and Dr. Thornton saw three key benefits:

  1. The content genuinely aligned with their competencies and provided a variety of validated approaches for teachers to consider.
  2. When they reviewed the content, it helped them flush out the Pillars themselves.
  3. The content offers concrete and practical strategies for teachers to implement in their classrooms.

What's next for their Customized Professional Learning Plans?


As mentioned earlier, this school year was considered a soft launch. For 2023-2024 they expect to communicate and promote the HTSD Institutes more broadly and anticipate seeing more and more interest. We also talked with Dr. Removcik and Dr. Thornton about what else is possible with Institute Builder to enhance what they have already set up, such as:


Customizing the Current Institutes:


Hampton hopes to add more personalization to their content, including videos and pictures with students to "show and tell" what the competencies mean to them.


Creating New Institutes:


Down the road, Hampton may consider creating their own Institutes to support some of the Pillars and competencies where more content is needed. 


This blog began with a statement that Hampton Township has "boldly gone where no one has gone before," - which is true. When Eduplanet21 first launched Institute Builder, we saw many opportunities for schools and districts to customize learning for their teachers, and Hampton Township's innovative approach shows what is possible! 


To talk with a member of the Eduplanet21 team about our Curriculum Planner, supported by the PLUS Professional Learning Institutes, please request a meeting! 


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