Importance of Continuing Education for Teachers

  (Updated July 7, 2022)
Tracy Bruno & Andrew Passinger
Tracy Bruno & Andrew Passinger
Tracy Bruno: Chief of Middle Schools; M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision | Andrew Passinger: Middle-Senior High School Assistant Principal/Pandemic Coordinator; M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction, Gifted Certification
‘Continuing education’ written on a chalkboard.

Anyone in the education field understands that in order to be successful, they must keep up with the times and trends; this often means continuing education in different ways. Whether it’s understanding the roles of the newest acronyms or paying attention to the politics of the career, it is significant to maintain current knowledge about the field.

Why is it Important to Continue Your Education as a Teacher?

No matter how solid a teacher might be in pedagogy, they can always become better. Multiple professional development opportunities exist to enhance lesson planning, building assessments, refining instruction, and giving students the chance to better understand content in the most depth is of utmost importance.

Education can be seen as a living, breathing entity, something that grows over time and changes as generations of students pass through the halls of our schools. As educators, we must continue to hone our skills to keep up with the changing demands of teaching and the change in learning styles our students will exhibit. The importance of education to teachers runs deep on a personal level.

The use of technology in schools has created a warp speed of change in the education system. To keep up with this change, teachers and administrators should continue to learn. When we experience professional growth and an expanse in knowledge, our students will benefit.  We became teachers to inspire, grow, and expose our students to new experiences that will make them better thinkers and citizens. If we constantly ask our students to challenge themselves and learn new things, shouldn’t we model that learning for them?

Whether it is formal in nature, through the pursuit of degrees or credits required to maintain certification, or informal, through professional development and individual skill development research, continuing one’s education creates benefits for everyone involved.

While the concept of “lifelong learning” is consistently thrown around in education, in order to be the best version of a classroom teacher, this is a true goal for which one must strive.

Ways to Continue Your Education

Now more than ever, numerous opportunities exist for educators to continue their education. Free resources exist for individual and informal learning. Whether it is state certified websites or simply private companies, instructors can take advantage in order to improve their craft. They range from online videos to group forums.

Higher Education

If teachers want to formally improve their classroom skills, there are still multiple options. The traditional ways are through university or college classes, which will provide credits toward another degree or certification. Educators can select those based upon their individual certification or reach for an area outside of their comfort zones. These opportunities range from online courses to in-person programs.

Advancing your career through higher education is a great way to continue your personal journey of growth. We often get so caught up in the routine of school, that we rarely have time to expand our minds and think of new perspectives or gain insight into the latest educational research. We get up, go to work, come home, continue to work, and go to bed. Sound familiar?

The great thing about graduate school is that you have so many pathways and options. The other significant advantage is that taking classes requires you to unplug from your regular routine to study new or unfamiliar material. Continuing education courses will provide different degrees, endorsements, and certifications teachers need to advance in their careers and open up many opportunities for educators.

You may think to yourself, “I will never leave the classroom, so I have no need to go back to school.” I thought the same thing at one point early on in my career. You never know when someone may tap you on the shoulder for a leadership position. Even if you have no desire to ever leave the classroom (which is perfectly acceptable), many districts will give you higher pay if you have a certain number of graduate hours.

It is not just about your career though. As you take classes and experience different professors and classmates, you will expand your knowledge and educational exposure to new ideas. This will benefit the students in your classroom.

Conferences

Conferences are a beneficial way to improve classroom instruction and assessment without a major time commitment. Sometimes offered for a single day, conferences allow for networking, which is advantageous itself, or overnight occasions that focus on a plethora of different theories and applications. These multiple-day conferences provide in-depth and personalized choices that allow instructors to take a deep-dive into content.

Professional Development

Professional development takes varying forms, from in-house presentations at individual schools to local networking within intermediate units throughout each state. These experiences are both digital and in-person. Specific content for professional development can be sought out by individuals or schools.

Many administrators provide school-wide professional development based on an initiative. There are many professional development examples focused on:

Think about seeking out your own professional development opportunities as well. You could find something you want to learn about individually or you could find an offering for a group of educators at your school. Teachers often worry about their schools finding the money to pay for professional development, but many schools and districts have Title II funds set aside for this very purpose.

I suggest finding professional development that you would like to attend, request the funds from your school or district, and then create a plan that would allow you to come back and train others. This approach will be very attractive to the people that approve professional development funds because they see it as getting more for the money.

How did COVID Affect Teachers Continuing their Education?

More programs are offered virtually for educators, which makes it much easier to access professional development and certification procedures.

Higher Education

20 years ago, if you considered advancing your career through graduate school, it meant long hours of in-person class at a college campus after work. Many educators had to drive lengthy distances to get to campuses and would not arrive back home until late at night.

Technology had to be used to reach all students during the pandemic. Remote or virtual learning became the norm. As we have emerged from the height of the pandemic, K-12 and higher education kept some of the technological practices in place. Universities now offer online classes for an entire certification, licensure program, or degree.

Cohorts of students meet with professors virtually instead of spending hours on the road driving back and forth between home and campus. Many times, assignments are given at the beginning of the course so graduate students can complete them on their own time. Textbooks or other reading materials can be ordered online and arrive at your house in a few days.

The self-paced college course is much more convenient than traditional in-person courses because students can move at their own pace and complete assignments on their own time. The ability to submit assignments and discussion modules online allows other students in the class to give feedback to one another.

Some colleges have gone so far as to allow graduate students to obtain degrees, such as a masters or doctorate, and certifications without even attending classes online or in-person. Students are able to sign up and submit evidence that aligns with their course of study. Once the articles are reviewed by a panel of professors, the student has a virtual meeting to answer questions about the evidence. If the student successfully completes these requirements, they are awarded the degree or certification. The cost of this option is drastically reduced because there are no materials to buy and no regular classes that a professor must facilitate.

Professional Development

The pandemic has allowed for reflection about teaching strategies and created an avenue to improve upon those strategies. This created a strong movement toward a desire to learn more. School districts scrambled to schedule more learning opportunities for teachers so that they could adjust a more a comfortable teaching style.

One advantage of the pandemic showed a stronger collaboration among generations of teachers. Veterans of the education field were leaning on younger teachers who had the digital background knowledge to guide them through the transition; at the same time, these newer teachers were relying on the veteran strategies to help them achieve higher-level instruction. Rather than close classroom doors, it opened them up to several possibilities for advancement.

Additional Benefits of Continued Education for Teachers

While the focus may be on how to become the best version of an educator, additional benefits exist from a teacher continuing education other than deeper knowledge and innovative teaching approaches.

Most local education agencies use contract negotiations to create tiers for salary adjustments, and with continued education teachers can combine their learning with steps toward a higher pay scale. With traditionally low pay scales for educators, this combination has only positive effects.

Another advantage that continued education creates is the opportunity for promotion or advancement. Building one’s resume may open up more chances to transition into new positions. For example, training to become a grant writer within a school district can be a great career movement. If an educator is thinking about moving into an administrator level, multiple pathways are open for that type of change.

Another impactful position may be as a curriculum director, which is currently trending. Earning a master’s or higher in curriculum and development not only promotes a deeper comprehension of content in connection with assessment and instruction, but will provide the confidence to interview for these potential openings.

Besides dedicating time to become a better educator, there are no disadvantages toward advancing one’s career through formal and informal courses and professional development. Working one’s way through graduate programs will create a stronger potential for a teacher to move from being to good to being top-notch.

Looking for a graduate program? Check out our 190+ available masters, doctorates, endorsements, and certifications to advance your career today!

*Updated July 2022
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