Start Early. Start well.

February 09, 2023

Bite-Sized Learning: An Innovative New Approach to Professional Development

Boy and Buffett Institute logoThe Buffett Institute decided to revamp PD for All at the request of early childhood professionals, who asked for learning content that is bite-sized and convenient, personalized for teachers of various developmental spans, and focused on building strong relationships with families.


By Cama Charlet 

Early childhood educators are not immune to the teacher shortage crisis facing elementary and secondary teachers in Nebraska and beyond. School districts and child care facilities are struggling to staff classrooms, substitute teachers are hard to find, and some of the teachers that remain are experiencing burnout. Educators are working at maximum capacity. As an institute that prioritizes the well-being of early childhood professionals, we want to be responsive to the needs of the workforce—and that’s why we decided to revamp our Professional Development for All (PD for All) offerings for 2022-23.   

One year ago, staff members from the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska invited early childhood professionals from Omaha to participate in a roundtable discussion about their professional development needs. Emerging from our conversations with 25 early educators were some clear themes. Participants asked explicitly for learning content that is bite-sized and convenient. They asked us to personalize learning for teachers of various developmental spans and to provide continuity of content from birth through Grade 3. And overwhelmingly, participants asked for content about building more impactful relationships with the families they serve.   

Cama CharletCama Charlet

Members of the Professional Learning team at the Institute walked away from these discussions with a clear focus for the upcoming year: We would offer bite-sized opportunities for early childhood professionals to nurture the relationships they have with the families of the children they serve. To learn more about this approach, watch the 2022-23 PD for All overview video.   

Bite-sized learning, also known as "microlearning,” is digital learning delivered in small pieces. Bite-sized learning was developed to meet the needs of the 21st-century professional by providing quality instruction in formats that may more easily support continual development. Buchem and Hamelmann (2010) wrote that “microlearning can be described as a ‘pragmatic innovation’ to lifelong learning. It is pragmatic, because it is congruent with current information and communication patterns and can be easily adapted to support individual learning needs, especially within informal learning contexts. It is innovative because it offers a new way of designing and organizing learning.” This new bite-sized approach allows for more flexibility, facilitates self-directed learning, and encourages learners to become co-producers of the content through participation in social media communication.   

In response to the asks of early childhood educators, this year’s Professional Development for All theme is “Building and Sustaining Powerful Partnerships With Families.” When a teacher has caring relationships with family members, the links between the home and the early care and education setting help children feel safe and comfortable and allow family members to become more effective advocates for their children. Over time, these strengthened partnerships can help to reduce the impact of opportunity gaps so that children can reach their full potential.   

Over the course of this year, in collaboration with early educators and families, we will create content focused on trust-building, sustaining trust, and strategies for overcoming barriers to building relationships. We will provide opportunities for early educators to learn from one another. At the conclusion of this year’s PD for All offerings, we will learn together about the important role community before- and after-school programs play in widening the circle of supportive relationships for young children.    

The Buffett Institute is offering three PD for All sessions between now and July. Each session will include: 

  • A short video overview of a topic related to building powerful partnerships with families  
  • Two hourlong Twitter chats, where early educators and primary caregivers can dive deeper into the topic through back-and-forth conversation, sharing strategies, and learning from each other 
  • Infographics on our social media channels for those interested in reviewing and sharing quick tips  
  • A concluding email summarizing the session’s activities, links to the video and Twitter chats, and a list of additional resources for those who want to continue their learning 

We’re excited to offer an innovative way for educators and community members to learn and grow. Join us:  

Cama Charlet is the associate director of professional learning at the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, where she oversees professional learning initiatives that aim to promote quality, continuity, and equity in early care and education, birth through Grade 3.  

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