Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency

A year of Inquiry Based Learning: one district's story of Differentiated PD

Thanks to Lesa Heschke, Alta-Aurelia Teacher Leader, who provided this story.

Several years ago while taking part in learning about differentiated instruction models for the classroom, our district provided a school license to access and use as a resource. Rachel Langenhorst, an instructor on, had a webinar which was about differentiated professional development. As a district, we were able to get involved in professional development that was inquiry-based and collaborative through the learning of AIW. There were a few districts that were doing book studies and professional development that were designed and led by classroom teachers. We began using teachers as PLC leaders for AIW and inquiry based learning and then reconnected with what Rachel Langenhorst had presented and the opportunity to work with Jaymie Randel, Prairie Lakes AEA Coaching Coordinator.

Prairie Lakes AEA hosted a session on Differentiated PD Learning. Differentiated learning based on teacher choice and the three principles of high quality professional development is the published description of our in-district PD. The key words taken from this are differentiated learning, teacher choice, and high quality professional development. The differentiated learning was based on teacher choice of a content/topic focused on an inquiry question written by their group and then reflected on throughout the school year. Focus questions helped to summarize what learning occurred and how that learning was transferred to the classroom. The action words that led the learning were PLAN, DO, and REFLECT.

Professional development days this year were very different.  We all were able to offer suggestions for topics we would like to spend time studying.  After hearing more about the almost twenty ideas, we formed small groups for whichever topic in which we were most interested.  It's so fun to hear about what everyone is learning and how they are taking their PD back into their classrooms to impact student success.  The hope is that we continue to use this model for years to come because there are a lot of topics that can help improve all educators in the district.  

Our Differentiated PD learning ended with an afternoon of sharing out in groups that were made up of members from various other differentiated PD groups. The learning that was shared was reflective of how student achievement was impacted, why it matters for our students, and what classroom practice(s) will continue as a result of their learning. 


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