Importance of Effective Teacher Training

Why Effective Teacher Training is Key to Teaching Success

A great teacher is critical to student achievement. So, how does a teacher become great? Just like the training required for any specialized profession, teachers must train. They must train before they enter the classroom, and they must receive ongoing training even as they work in the classroom. From college with certification coursework to student teaching to ongoing professional development (PD), teachers are continuously training during their career.

All this training gives new teachers the greatest chance of success as well as sustain veteran teachers as they meet new challenges in education.  When this training does not happen, there is a risk that teachers may leave the profession early. The other concern is that when training is insufficient, students will suffer.

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College Preparation Teacher Programs

Group of women at teacher training
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Most teachers get their first education training at college by taking courses that meet state or local certification teaching requirements. These teacher preparation courses are designed to provide those interested in education with the background information they will need in the classroom.  All teacher preparation programs will include coursework that reviews educational initiatives such as the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), No Child Left Behind (NCLB). There will be coursework that familiarizes new teachers with educational terms such as Individualized Education Program (IEP), response to intervention (RTI), and English Learner (EL). Academic subject-specific training is generally organized by grade level. There is a focus on literacy and numeracy in early childhood and elementary school coursework. Those teachers interested in middle or secondary school will receive intensive training in an academic discipline. All teacher preparation programs offer classroom management strategies and information on student cognitive development and learning styles. Coursework may not end after four years. Many states require advanced degrees for teachers in education or a specific subject once they have been in the classroom for several years.

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Student Teaching

Teacher training includes a student teaching internship as part of college coursework. The number of weeks for this training depends on school and state requirements. Student teaching follows the gradual release of responsibility (“You do, we do, I do”) model with a trained mentor teacher supervisor.  This internship allows the student teacher to experience all the responsibilities of being a teacher. Student teachers develop lesson plans and a variety of assessments that measure student learning.  Student teachers correct homework, tests, and performance-based assessments. There may be different opportunities for communicating with families to strengthen the school-home connection. Placing the student teacher in the classroom allows for important hands-on training in classroom dynamics and classroom management.

Another benefit of participating in a student teaching program is the network of professionals that a teacher will meet during the internship. Student teaching offers an opportunity to gather recommendations from these professionals for use in job applications. Many schools hire their student teachers, While student teachers are not paid during the internship, the benefits of this hands-on training are incalculable. The success of this kind of training lies in the program’s systematic procedures. These must be a way to evaluate the readiness of teacher candidates to progress in the program and to enter the teaching profession.

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Alternative Certification

Some states face teacher shortages, particularly in the areas of science and math. One way that some districts have dealt with these shortages is by providing a fast track towards teacher certification for experienced individuals who come directly from the workforce bringing their skill sets with them. A shortage of teachers is particularly true for courses in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). While these alternative certification teachers candidates already have academic degrees in specific subject areas, they receive training in educational law and classroom management.

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Professional Development

Once teachers are employed by a school system, they receive more training in the form of professional development (PD). Ideally, PD is designed to be ongoing, relevant and collaborative with an opportunity for feedback or reflection. There are many different forms of this kind of training, from state-mandated safety training to subject-specific training by grade level. Many districts offer PD several times during the year. Districts may use PD in order to meet educational initiatives. For example, a middle school 1:1 laptop initiative would require PD to train staff to be familiar with digital platforms and programs. Other districts may target PD based on a review of data. For example, if the data from elementary student shows a weakness in numeracy skills, PD can be organized to train teachers on strategies that address these weaknesses. There are other districts that require teachers to organize their own PD program by reading and reflecting on a book or connecting with other educators through social media. This form of individual PD can address the needs of secondary teachers who teach a “singleton” (ex: Italian I, AP Physics)  and who could benefit from connecting with teachers outside the district for support. Peer to peer PD is increasing as districts tap into the pool of talent in their teaching staff. For example, a teacher who is an expert in data analysis of students scores using Excel spreadsheets can share his or her expertise with other teachers.

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Microteaching

Educational researcher John Hattie in his book “Visible Learning for Teachers," ​puts microteaching in his top five effects on student learning and achievement. Microteaching is a reflective process during which a lesson is viewed, by peers or by recording, to review a teacher’s performance in the classroom.​

One approach has a teacher review video footage (post lesson) for self-evaluation. This technique allows a teacher to see what worked, which strategies worked or fell short to identify weaknesses. Other methods may be in the form of regular peer feedback without the concern of evaluation.  A critical quality of the participants of microteaching sessions is their ability to give and to receive constructive feedback. All participants in this form of intensive training, teacher and viewers alike,  must have an open mind to meet teaching-learning goals. There is a benefit to including this form of training during the student teaching experience, where student-teachers could deliver mini-lessons to a small group of students, and then engaging in a post-discussion about the lessons. Hattie refers to microteaching as one approach with ‘observable truths.’ The benefits can increase teacher confidence and work to develop a collegial atmosphere of support with empathy and equanimity.