What Is Teachers’ Professional Development?
Teacher’s professional development is any form of education for teachers that can enhance or improve their teaching or classroom environment. It is meant to improve the skills of teachers and, thereby, improve student outcomes. This education can be delivered in formal or informal settings. Formal settings include courses, conferences, seminars, workshops, and retreats. Informal settings include independent investigation or research, initiatives for peer learning or even staff room conversations with a colleague.
A professional educator should always be learning and growing his or her craft. They should always be on the lookout for new ideas or teaching strategies, ways to improve their skills, or new information that they can impart to their students to help them succeed.
Professional development is an essential requirement for all teachers. Some professional development workshops are an hour or two, while others may be a week long.
Why Is Teachers’ Professional Development Needed?
- It facilitates ongoing development for teachers: Education is an ever changing field. Hence, teachers must be lifelong learners to stay abreast of the new developments in their respective fields. This allows teachers to learn new teaching techniques, styles, and tips. It also facilitates their interaction with educators from other areas, which can improve their own teaching.
- It impacts student learning: It’s a given that good teachers mean better teaching. When teachers have access to learning opportunities and professional development resources, they are in a better position to become good teachers.
- It encourages the success of new teachers: Hands-on experience is very important for effective classroom teaching. Teachers spend their whole careers developing new skills in response to the challenges they encounter in the classroom. But, new teachers have not had the same chance to build their own resources. Professional development can help new teachers develop the skills they need to perform better in the classroom. This shapes their career-long learning.
- It promotes a growth mindset: Teacher professional development encourages teachers to be active participants in their own learning. It ensures that students and teachers alike are eager to learn.
- It makes them feel valued: The providing of learning opportunities for your teachers signals to them that the school community values their work and wants them to grow and progress further. A lack of professional development resources for teachers signals the opposite and puts more stress on teachers to develop their skills on their own.
Aiding Teachers’ Professional Development
Personalized learning works for teachers just as in the case of students. A Professional Development Plan sets out individual learning goals for educators on a short- and/or long term basis, and lays out clear steps for achieving them.
Individualize the plans for teachers based on:
- The subject(s) they teach
- The age range of their students
- Their current level of satisfaction
- Where they want to move in the future
- What they need to learn to make that happen
Making Available the Right Resources
Ensure that the teachers have the access to the right resources by:
- Encouraging and helping them to join a professional journal, read educational blogs online, or read literature on education.
- Sponsoring them to participate in educational conferences or workshops, or attend online seminars.
- Making them join a group, either online or off. These groups will be a great source of information and inspiration. One can learn a lot from other professionals having more experience.
- Creating an atmosphere where they have the time and inclination to observe other teachers. These teachers can be a great source of knowledge. One can learn from them a new strategy of teaching or some classroom behavior management plan that one can then implement.
- Once they have improved, encourage and allow them to share their knowledge with others. That way they can contribute back to their profession, and others will benefit from it like they did in the first place.
Elements of Effective Professional Development
The features of effective professional development are that it:
- Is content focused: Focuses on teaching strategies associated with specific curriculum content that supports teacher learning within their classroom contexts.
- Incorporates active learning utilizing adult learning theory: Facilitates hands-on experience in the design and practice of new teaching strategies. Teachers often participate in the same style of learning they are designing for their students, using real examples of curriculum, student work, and instruction.
- Supports collaboration, typically in job-embedded contexts: Creates space for teachers to share ideas and collaborate in their learning, often in job-embedded contexts that relate new instructional strategies to teachers’ students and classrooms. By working collaboratively, teachers can create communities that positively change the culture and instruction of their entire grade level, department, school, and/or school district.
- Uses models and modelling of effective practice: Curricular models and modelling of instruction gives teachers a clear vision of what best practices look like. These models can include lesson plans, unit plans, sample student work, observations of peer teachers, and video or written cases of accomplished teaching.
- Provides coaching and expert support: This involves the sharing of expertise about content and practice focused directly on teachers’ individual needs. Experts may do this via one-on-one coaching in the classroom, as facilitators of group workshops, or as remote mentors using technology. The coaches could be from universities or professional development organizations.
- Offers opportunities for feedback and reflection: There should be built-in time for teachers to think about, receive input on, and make changes to their practice by facilitating reflection and soliciting feedback. Feedback can be on lesson plans, demonstration lessons, or videos of teacher instruction. This can be done in the context of a coaching session or workshop, and also among peers.
- Is of sustained duration: Teachers need adequate time to learn, practice, implement, and reflect upon new strategies. Learning should happen over weeks, months, or even academic years, rather than in short, one-off workshops.
Well-designed and implemented professional development initiatives and programs are an essential component of a comprehensive system of teaching and learning that supports teachers and students to improve and enhance the knowledge, skills, and competencies they need to survive and thrive in the 21st century. To ensure a this, professional learning should link to their experiences in preparation and induction, as well as to teaching standards and evaluation. It should also be a bridge to leadership opportunities focused on the growth and development of teachers.
Call to Action
Butterfly Fields is constantly engaged in enhancing the skills and competencies of its employees. We can share with you our experiences in this area and how we keep our employees motivated to engage in learning continually and improve their professional work. Get in touch with us to initiate this discussion.