Now, more than ever, educators are held accountable for student success, and research has shown that teaching quality and school leadership are the most important factors in raising student achievement. That means if you want your students to succeed, you must help your teachers succeed as well. In order for teachers to guide their students to critical benchmarks, it is essential to provide them with continued education and professional development opportunities.
What Is Professional Development?
In order to improve education outcomes for students, teachers need to improve their teaching practices, learn how to apply different pedagogical approaches, and also boost their knowledge of the discipline. Professional development is the strategy schools and districts use to ensure that educators continue to strengthen their practice throughout their career, so they can, in turn, help students improve.
In most cases, effective professional development isn’t about attending seminars or lectures. Instead, it focuses on developmental activities that are embedded into the teacher’s job experience. This is often accomplished through workshops, conferences, coursework, research, books studies, and professional learning communities. The most effective professional development engages teams of teachers to focus on the needs of their students.
What Are Examples of Professional Development?
Educators often focus on instructional strategies during these opportunities to improve their skills. When embedded into the day-to-day activities of an educator, professional development activities often start with peer observations of the teachers or analysis of student work. Then, teachers may watch instructional demonstrations from other professionals. In other cases, they may collaborate with peers, collect feedback from observers, or sit down with a team for a problem-solving session. Depending on the program, teachers may also work directly with a mentor or engage in self-directed learning.
Why Does Embedded Professional Development Work?
Embedding professional development in day-to-day activities taps into the most effective types of adult pedagogy. Adults learn well when the instruction has a direct connection to their work—in the case of teachers, classroom improvements usually only come out of development activities directly related to the teacher’s discipline. Vague, one-size-fits-all approaches to development are not as effective. In addition, an embedded approach leverages reflective and guided activities to ensure that the teacher learns as much as possible. These approaches honor multiple intelligences and different learning styles, giving teachers the information they need to integrate and apply their training in the classroom.
Professional learning is an ongoing process throughout an educator’s career. For teachers and school and district leaders to be as effective as possible, they must be informed of current practices and continually expand their knowledge and skills to implement what is best for students. As a key component in preparing teachers for the changing classroom, thoughtful professional development provides rich opportunities for teachers to continually adjust and develop their teaching skills and subject matter knowledge.