One Size Fits One – a conundrum

In our previous blog we mentioned the significant investment in teacher professional development ($8 billion in just 50 of the largest school districts). This is far larger than most people realized and does not include the approximate 10 percent of teachers’ time in development activities on or off campus.

Another conventional way to waste money is the OSFA (One Size Fits All) approach to professional development. OSFA is a money pit where good money follows bad or more appropriately, bad money drives out good.

How OSFA works: A problem is identified and a “solution” purchased. It’s such a great idea that it is mandated and implemented across the board. That way every teacher gets the same high quality professional learning, which means every kid in every classroom benefits, right?


This OSFA implementation is a massive leap in logic – it assumes every single teacher needs the exact same professional development; assumes every single school is facing the exact same issues; assumes that, despite very different contexts and student populations, every single school requires the exact same solution.

Furthermore, the OSFA approach is what we do to kids as well. The rationale is just as erroneous, with off-the-shelf curricula, curriculum pacing guides, and test practice worksheets given out to all kids in all classes, based on the assumption that every child needs exactly the same.

Look at it this way: with the same curriculum taught to the same standardized method and measured in the same ways is much like saying they all need the exact same prescription glasses. Our kids and teachers are not clones.

For leaders the key message is: One size fits ONE. Or perhaps a few.

Many of your people already have the skills; target each professional learning opportunity to those who need it most, just as you need them to target those students who need the most support.

The most logical and coherent approach is imbued in one word: Personalize. As in, don’t clone!

Personalize learning through each layer of edusystem. Begin with assessing each person’s needs and aspirations and establish who exactly needs to learn this right now. Only then roll out professional learning opportunities to teachers who actually need the skills – you can save a fortune right there!!

Also, evaluate other layers of the edusystem to isolate barriers to change in practice. One solution in isolation may be doomed to fail without shifting other pieces of the system to make it work.

To summarize, we need to personalize, customize, and individualize continually. There’s no shortcut for this, and it’s the only thing that makes sense for the investment in developing and growing our people, be they kids or adults.

One size fits One.