Professional Development Overview
Professional development is not just something that is important for teachers. It is important for all those involved in education from the support staff right up to the administrators. Professional development that includes participants from support, teaching and administration at the same time can help to bridge the divisions between groups. When differing groups work together, there is a greater chance for understanding each others work and also for forging bonds between the groups to work towards a common purpose. Developing a culture of continuous learning and modeling the use of personal learning networks will be key to engaging students and the community. Below we focus on professional development for teachers; on the page following, we talk about professional development for administrators.
Professional Development for Teachers
Quality teachers can be one of the greatest determinants of student achievement. Teacher’s education, ability, and experience account for more variation in student achievement than all other factors. Studies have found that 40 to 90 percent of the difference in student test scores can be attributed to teacher quality (Darling-Hammond and Ball, Teaching for High Standards: What Policymakers Need to Know and Be Able to Do). What’s more, teachers are under more pressure than ever to perform, help students produce high test scores, and demonstrate effectiveness in the classroom. Knowing the subject matter, understanding how students learn, and practicing effective teaching methods translate into greater student achievement. Therefore, it is vitally important that teachers be well prepared when they begin teaching and that they continue to improve their knowledge and skills throughout their careers.
NCLB requires all students to meet specific standards. As a result, teachers, districts and schools are being held accountable for student’s performance. If all students are to have a chance at success, then they must have teachers who know how to help them meet these standards. Unfortunately, many teachers are not properly trained, skilled or equipped to confront some of the challenges that are presented in the 21st century classroom. Teachers are often given new technologies or new initiatives but never given the time or resources to utilize and implement them into their classrooms. Accountability measures are requiring more of teachers. Teachers, therefore, need more support to meet the demands of the new system and they need tools to meet higher expectations. It is vital for all 21st century teachers to receive proper and quality professional development.
Additionally, NCLB is asking for a higher percentage of teachers to receive quality professional development.The law encourages partnerships between districts and schools of education and defines high quality professional development programs as those that are “sustained, intensive, and classroom-focused…and are not one-day or short-term workshops or conferences” (Elementary and Secondary Education Act). While NCLB says these characteristics are required “in order to have a positive and lasting impact on classroom instruction and the teacher’s performance in the classroom” (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) information on how to make that happen is hard to find.
Yet, despite the difficulty of finding specific methods for professional development; There are several resources that can help districts, schools and educators take the correct steps toward better and more effective professional development.
Characteristics of Quality Professional Development
- Continuous learning, not a one-time seminar
- Focused on improving classroom practice and increasing student learning
- Embedded in the daily work of teaching, not relegated to special occasions or separated from the learning needs of students
- Centered on crucial teaching and learning activities—planning lessons, evaluating student work, and developing curriculum
- Cultivated in a culture of collegiality that involves sharing knowledge and experience on the same student improvement objectives
- Supported by modeling and coaching that teaches problem solving techniques
- Based on investigation of practice through case study, analysis, and professional discourse
Professional Development Roles
| Federal Government
Professional Development Resources
- Educator's Professional Development: Online database of conferences and workshops around the world.
- Professional Development for Educators Library of Congress: The Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program provides primary source-based staff development to teachers across the country.
- LeaningForward.org: Networking and Professional Development Resource for educators.
- Teacher Online Education: Provides educators with online graduate courses for professional development, continuing education, and recertification needs.
- Professional Development Institute: Offers online courses for k-12 educators. You can earn graduate-level credit or continuing education credit.
- Canter Online Teacher Training and Education Courses: Canter is partnered with accredited universities to offer graduate crediting for distance learning.
- National Science Teachers Association Professional Development: Resources and seminars for professional development.
- Professional Development from 21st Century Schools: Regional workshops, online courses, and on-site professional development topics for educators.
- For some useful resources on Professional development for data-driven improvement, see eSchool News Links.
Next up, see Professional Development for Administrators