Keys to Improving Teacher Professional Development

Kathryn Starke
Kathryn Starke
Professional development expert; MA in literacy and culture

Why Professional Development is important for teachers

Education is an ever-changing industry, and teachers are the change agents. Therefore, it is imperative for new and experienced teachers to have ongoing professional development (PD) opportunities. Regular PD provides teachers with tools that will help them continue to better their craft. Professional development opportunities are often based on the most current research in education, as well as best practices for instruction. They help teachers explore new curriculum resources and expand upon their knowledge in content, child development, learning styles, and pedagogy. PD is available in many forms, such as a conference or seminar, to an online learning experience or a collaborative session with colleagues. Effective professional development for teachers increases student achievement and engagement.

21st Century Learning and the Importance of Learning Educational Trends

There are constantly new trends created and implemented in education that focus on teaching and learning. PD is necessary for teachers to feel confident and competent in the implementation of something new in their classrooms. 21st century learning has been at the forefront of the most recent trends when it comes to preparing children for college and career readiness. The 4 Cs are evident in every educational trend today: Communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration are skills that students will need throughout their educational career and in the work force. Technology tools that enhance the classroom learning experience for teachers and students continue to emerge and often require training. Not only are teachers planning lessons in language arts, math, science, and social studies, they are asked to incorporate tools including Chromebooks, the promethium board, or digital applications like coding in their instruction.

Keeping Up with the Latest Education Trends

The growth mindset is another current educational trend which focuses on teaching students of all ages the power of perseverance. New acronyms always surface in education and often become the latest trend. SEL, PBL, and STEAM are a few examples. Social and emotional learning (SEL) focuses on empathy, building relationships, and social awareness. Problem based learning, or project-based learning (PBL), uses inquiry, questioning, and problem-solving skills as the basis of instruction. STEAM promotes the use of science, technology, engineering, art, and music in the classroom. STREAM reminds us that none of these subjects can be done without reading. Virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) will also become more common in classrooms sooner rather than later.

Professional development is never ending and continues to evolve in format. In addition to face to face or in-person PD presentations, learning can also take place through a webinar, module, or professional book club. A professional learning community is another example of professional development. Sometimes the best PD a teacher can get is from a colleague down the hall. Instructional coaches, reading specialists, and math specialists often develop a PD plan to support the varying levels of educators in their buildings. PD should be differentiated for teachers just like classroom instruction is differentiated for students. Personalized professional development, ranging from one-on-one feedback sessions to modeling and co-teaching, are powerful ways to grow and improve as an educator. The best professional development is ongoing, collaborative, relevant, informative, and inspirational.

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