How Effective Professional Development Improves Teacher Quality

What is Professional Development?

professional development
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Professional Development refers to any ongoing training that a teacher receives to improve in areas of deficiency, to gain new knowledge or insight in a particular area, or to be refreshed in a specific area as needed. Each state has varying requirements for professional development. Most states require a specific number of professional development hours over the course of a year or a period of several years.

Some specific professional development is mandatory on a yearly basis, but the bulk of professional development opportunities are optional. These optional professional development opportunities are often specific to grade level, subject area, etc. Effective teachers seek professional development opportunities that apply to them and will help improve the quality of education they will provide to their students.

The effectiveness of any professional development rests on how applicable it is to a teacher's situation. If the professional development does not resonate with a teacher, then it essentially becomes obsolete and a waste of their time.  Furthermore, a teacher must be given the resources to take what they have learned back to the classroom and apply it to their situation.  Professional development at its best can and will improve teacher quality.  Professional development should be designed with this goal in mind.

Ways Effective Professional Development Improves Teacher Quality

1. Effective professional development provides teachers with improved teaching tools. Any worthwhile professional development will provide teachers with something new.  Most teachers strive to improve every day and every year.  Good professional development challenges teachers and provides them with new and useful strategies that they can implement to boost student learning and educational outcomes.

 

2. Effective professional development is ongoing with direct support. One of the biggest problems with most professional development opportunities is that it only provides teachers with a snippet of what they need.   Teachers need more than just a workshop that lasts a few hours or a few days.  They need ongoing, direct support to maximize the effectiveness of the training and to successfully utilize what they have learned in their classroom.

3. Effective professional development is applicable.  Every teacher's situation is different. Their grade level, location (rural, suburban, urban), subject area, and a particular group of students often vary significantly.  Professional development must resonate with a teacher for it to be effective.  Not all professional development will benefit every teacher and their situation.  Teachers have to see a way they can use it in their classroom and believe that it will help student learning before they jump on board.

4. Effective professional development meets a teacher where they are and takes them where they need to go.  One of the biggest mistakes of professional development is that it is not personalized enough.  It does not account for individualism.

  Professional development should be intimate enough that teachers can ask questions when they do not understand something or move forward when they already know what is being taught.  Professional development is ineffective when it is taught above or below the level of their audience.

5. Effective professional development gives teachers answers to problems they have been trying to solve.  Teachers do struggle. They are continuously seeking answers and solutions to solve their problems. As a teacher, a new problem arises almost daily.  Even veteran teachers regularly find themselves in situations that they have not faced before.  Professional development must provide teachers with a solution to solve some of their most difficult challenges. Doing this will improve teacher quality and eventually student learning outcomes.