Why is Professional Development Important for Teachers?
Teachers often make or break the education system. Their proficiency and pedagogy determine the future of young minds. However, school systems worldwide are changing with the evolution of the Internet and technology in education. Teachers and educators must continually update their skills and knowledge. As you will see in the course of this article, there are various benefits and positive outcomes associated with the professional development of teachers. Let us begin with a look at the meaning and scope of professional development for educators.
What is Professional Development for Teachers?
Professional development for teachers and education professionals involves continual learning to improve skills and pedagogy, as well as researching new ways to boost student outcomes. Like doctors in medicine, pilots in aviation, and soldiers in defence, academics is also a field where teachers must keep updating their knowledge and track current developments in their subject and methods – to grow and evolve as a professional.
Learning for teachers can happen in formal or informal settings. Formal settings include conferences, workshops, seminars, retreats, and courses. Informal settings for learning are the opportunities for independent research, peer learning initiatives, and discussing pedagogical challenges with colleagues.
Benefits of Professional Development for Teachers
School leaders, administrators, students, and teachers – everyone in an education ecosystem stands to benefit from the professional development of teachers. Here’s a look at the most prominent benefits of a training and development initiative for teachers:
- Improves the Quality of Education: When educational institutions invest in improving the pedagogical knowledge and skills of their teachers – it boosts the quality of education offered by the school. Teachers feel motivated to tackle new challenges and apply their learning to become better at their jobs.
- Increase in Salary: Adding new skills to their portfolio helps teachers achieve higher salaries and expanded responsibilities in their institutions. All schools and colleges are willing to pay more to highly skilled teachers.
- Updated Skills & Resume: In the education industry, recruiters spend less than ten seconds perusing a resume. In such cases, teachers who have developed unique skills through professional development programs will get noticed – and those with a smaller skillset may not be selected. Professional development helps teachers find better jobs and boosts their chances for selection.
- Burnout & Turnover in Teaching: Most professionals who join the teaching field change their career paths within five years. The high turnover in teaching professionals is due to the lack of personnel, poor funding, and classroom management issues leading to burnout. Professional development helps teachers find intelligent solutions to day-to-day problems and motivates them to build new skills to better deal with such matters.
- Educators Learn New & Better Ways to Teach: Teachers who have been through professional development programs can find new and innovative teaching methods. They can tailor their approach to suit students with special needs and leverage technology to create more immersive learning experiences.
- Collaborate with Other Professionals: Professional development programs enable teachers to collaborate with their peers. When teachers from different backgrounds come together to learn something new, they share ideas, experiences, and opinions – that expands horizons for everyone. Various professional development programs involve brainstorming sessions, group discussions, and team projects that allow participating teachers to collaborate.
- Developing a Deeper Understanding of the Subject Matter: Professional development programs can help teachers update their knowledge of the subject matter and add new skills to their portfolios. They also allow teachers to refresh their memories and find innovative ways of applying their new skills in their existing pedagogies.
- Teachers Learn Better Organisation Skills: In modern education, organisation skills are as essential for teachers as technology skills and subject matter expertise. They must be able to complete their administrative paperwork, plan their lessons, and offer extra support to students throughout the term. Professional development courses help teachers learn better organisation skills and enable them to multitask efficiently.
Creating an Effective Professional Development Plan
The experts at Extramarks have helped numerous elite Indian institutions develop professional development programs for teachers and school leaders. We believe that there are seven vital elements to an effective professional development plan:
- Skill Development: Every professional development program must be focused on developing a specific skill or a set of skills for teachers. Many teachers face unique classroom management challenges and may appreciate the opportunity to develop skills they can use.
- Active Learning: Active learning is a pedagogical technique of engaging students in the learning process by actively involving them in the learning process. Similarly, professional development programs for teacher should allow them to participate actively, stimulate their thinking, and enable them to apply their creativity.
- Collaboration: Professionals learn best when working with their peers. An effective professional development program should allow teachers to work together in groups, share experiences, and brainstorm new ideas.
- Content-Focused: Effective professional development programs are focused on building content knowledge or subject-matter expertise for teachers. Teachers should feel more confident in their subject and instruction methods at the end of a professional development program.
- Support & Coaching: Professional development programs succeed only when they are followed up with peer support and coaching for teachers. Schools that encourage peer collaboration among teachers often witness improvements in teacher practice and student outcomes.
- Long-Term & Short-Term Goals: The first step for developing a training program for teachers is to determine the long-term and short-term goals of the teachers involved. Set a target that will benefit the teachers and the institution. During the training program, revisit these goals to monitor the progress and make changes as needed.
- Assessment & Evaluation: No training program is complete without proper assessment and evaluation. Teachers who complete the professional development program can showcase their new skills while assessing students. The participants should also be allowed to evaluate the program and share feedback for future programs.
Types of Professional Development Opportunities for Teachers
- Workshops & Conferences
Teaching workshops and conferences are in-person events where teachers from different backgrounds are invited to share their knowledge, brainstorm new ideas, and share experiences with each other. Typically, these events are for one day and focused on one subject, level of education, or instructional style.
- Attending a statistics workshop where teachers explore new teaching techniques to deliver different statistical models.
- Participating in an educational technology conference to find new technological solutions to classroom management challenges.
- Joining a conference focused on improving instruction for grammar concepts and reading
- Online Courses
Online courses allow teachers to learn and expand their skills without putting their job and other commitments on hold. Online courses are self-paced, flexible, and affordable, so they are popular for professional development for teachers.
Some examples of popular websites offering online courses are:
- Coursera: Coursera offers online courses from the top universities and organisations worldwide. Teachers can choose from courses focused on pedagogy, subject matter, or education technology.
- The Teacher’s Academy: An online learning platform exclusively for teachers. Courses on the Teacher’s Academy are recognised by Act 48 and Continuing Education credits.
- Canvas NetworkEdX: They offer free online courses and professional development programs for teachers. Most of their courses are created by universities and colleges.
- FutureLearn: An online platform dedicated to developing future-ready skills in teachers and educators. Their courses are tailored to suit the teachers’ development needs.
- PBS Learning Media: PBS Learning Media is a well-known name in online professional development for teachers. They can choose a facilitated and self-paced course on diverse topics.
Like online courses, webinars offer teachers more flexibility and a customised learning experience than in-person professional development programs.
Some examples of webinars for teachers are:
- Extramarks Elevate: A thought leadership webinar series on education and technology for educationists, academicians, technocrats, young achievers, and other stakeholders to share their experiences and views on developments and trends in the fields of education and technology. Learn More About Extramarks Elevate
- Technology Integration: A webinar that offers new ideas about incorporating edtech in the classroom, including demonstrations of specific tools and strategies.
- Assessment Techniques: Extramarks conducts webinars for educators in our partner institutions to help them explore AI-enabled assessment methods and strategies.
- New Curriculum Adoption: Webinars can help teachers understand and implement the details more effectively every time the curriculum is updated.
Teachers must read as much as possible to keep their minds sharp, their knowledge updated, and their career growth on the right path. Several books are written about the art of instruction, classroom management, and adapting to new learning styles. Teachers can form a book club or a staff library where such books and resources are collected – and educators can refer to them for professional development.
Some examples of such books are:
- How to Differentiate Instruction in Academically Diverse Classrooms, by Carol Ann Tomlinson
- Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters, by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst
- Teaching With the Brain in Mind, Revised 2nd Edition, by Eric Jensen
- Teach Like a PIRATE: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator, by Dave Burgess
- Peer Observation & Collaboration
Peer collaboration is essential for all professionals to succeed. Teachers, too, can benefit from observing other teachers, sharing experiences, and brainstorming new ideas with their colleagues. Peer observation and collaboration help new teachers who can learn much by working alongside experienced teachers.
Examples of this technique are:
- A peer observation program where teachers visit each other’s classrooms to observe and offer feedback.
- Grade-level team meetings to discuss classroom management strategies and effective teaching techniques
- Joining a professional learning community (PLC) focused on a specific subject area or teaching approach.
- Graduate Programs & Degrees
Teachers can pursue graduate programs and degrees focused on their subject, instruction methodologies, and teaching expertise. It can help with continual professional development for teachers and also enrich their resume with worthy qualifications.
Some examples of graduate programs and degrees out there are:
- Pre and Primary Teacher Training
- Ed. Management & Administration
- Post Graduate Diploma in Education & Teaching
- VOLT (Virtual Online Teaching)
- In-School Coaching & Mentoring
In-school coaching and mentoring involve experienced teachers providing guidance and mentorship to new teachers to help them navigate common classroom challenges at the beginning of their careers.
Some examples are:
- Veteran teachers offering mentorship and advice to new teachers for classroom management
- School leaders, principals, and instructional coaches offer one-on-one coaching sessions to teachers who want to improve their instruction methods.
- Peer mentorship programs wherein teachers work together to learn from each other and enhance their teaching skills
- Social Media & Communities
Having a community empowers teachers to learn more, find solutions to challenging classroom situations, and seek better learning resources for their students. They can find communities and teacher’s groups on social media.
Some examples are:
- Reddit: Teachers can form subreddits for like-minded educators or join groups like r/Teachers, r/teaching, and r/education.
- WeAreTeachers: This community is a large online teacher’s group that provides various resources for lesson plans, classroom management, and professional development.
- LinkedIn: As the world’s largest professional network, LinkedIn has several thriving communities of teachers, enabling them to build a network and seek better professional development.
- Twitter: Several hashtags like #edchat, #edtech, and #education help teachers connect and interact.
Overcoming Common Challenges
Teachers often face challenges during professional development. Here’s a look at some of the most common challenges faced by teachers and their solutions:
- Time Constraint
The Challenge: Teachers have busy schedules, and finding extra time to focus on professional development is complex.
- Offer teachers flexible professional development options and time management tips to help them allocate the required time for professional development.
- Teachers should be allowed to explore flexible learning opportunities like online courses, webinars, and self-paced professional development programs.
- Start with time management programs to help teachers understand how to allocate their time, complete their tasks more efficiently and find the time they need for professional development.
- Lack of Resources
The Challenge: Financial constraints can limit educators’ access to high-quality professional development resources.
- Suggest accessible and affordable resources and allow teachers to win grants.
- Make open educational resources, free online courses, and educational blogs available to teachers.
- Inform teachers of grants, scholarships, and funding opportunities to support continual professional development for teachers.
- Resistance to Change
The Challenge: Embracing new teaching techniques or classroom management strategies may be met with resistance from teachers.
- Develop strategies for overcoming resistance to change before the change is implemented.
- When introducing the change, share success stories and case studies about the positive impact of the change, highlighting the benefits of innovation.
- Foster open dialogue and collaboration among educators. Address concerns wherever they arise and allow everyone to share their opinions freely.
- Offer training with hands-on experience with the new practices to allow the teachers to experience the benefits first-hand.
- Ensure appropriate support and mentorship during the transition to help teachers navigate the change.
- Limited Support
The Challenge: Some teachers lack access to mentors or reliable support systems during their professional development journey.
- Encourage external support from online communities, volunteers, and school leaders.
- Establish mentorship programs within your school, town, or district by pairing experienced educators with newcomers.
- Promote online platforms, forums, or social media groups for teachers to share their views and ideas and seek advice.
- Encourage participation in professional learning communities (PLCs) that can support, mentor, and collaborate with teachers who need professional development.
- Assessment Burden
The Challenge: Assessing the impact of professional development programs needs significant administrative effort.
- Devise streamlined assessment methods
- Use formative assessments to find valuable insights into teaching practices without overwhelming educators with grading work.
- Use self-assessment and peer assessment techniques to promote reflection and collaborative learning.
- Automate data collection and analysis, encourage digital tools and templates and reduce administrative workload.
Future Trends in Professional Development for Teachers
The future of professional development for teachers lies in digital technology. Emerging technology, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, can help the education industry develop better avenues of professional development for teachers.
- Microlearning: Short modules focused on specific topics can create an easy-to-process learning experience for busy teachers. Microlearning is best delivered on digital platforms.
- Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR): Creating immersive experiences for teacher training and classroom situations.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI): Personalised learning pathways and data-driven insights for professional development
- Hybrid Models: Modern professional development programs require a hybrid approach, a blend of online and in-person learning for higher flexibility, better reception and effectiveness.
Last Updated on February 28, 2024