Teaching is a profession that is constantly changing. There are new techniques, curriculums, policies, and procedures that are developed so students can learn and retain information better. The goal is to ensure they have the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful in life, and that is made possible through professional development for teachers.

Technology also plays a role in how students learn and teachers teach. Classrooms today are vastly different from classrooms 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even 5 years ago. When an individual attends college to obtain their teaching degree, they are often instructed in the latest methods and procedures. But when those change over time, teachers need to learn the new information. This is why professional development for teachers is so important for teachers.

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Effective Professional Development for Teachers

The role a teacher plays in a student’s life is an important one. Teachers spend sometimes 30 hours or more each week with the children in their classes. Whether that student attends a private institution or a public school, there is certain information they need to learn to be successful as they find their way into adulthood and into the workforce.

It’s not always easy being a teacher, and when faced with large classrooms and a variety of different student learning needs, finding an effective way to get them to understand and learn the material is important. Teachers being up to date on the latest studies and changes in teaching materials is imperative to ensure the learning success of students.

Teachers try to give students the ability to problem solve, master challenging content, be an effective communicator, know how to collaborate, and develop self-direction. Not every student learns these the same way and being able to adapt is a skill that will serve teachers well.

How the skills that are taught also changes over time with the development of technology and understanding of students’ and the world’s needs. Professional development is imperative for teachers to stay current with these new trends and give students the skills they need to be successful. But what is effective professional development for teachers?

Through a variety of studies and trial and error, it has been found that there are elements that need to be included for teachers to develop professionally. They include the following.

The Development Incorporates Active Learning

Most teachers learn new skills by taking a hands-on approach. By being involved in the design and teaching strategies, there is more opportunity for the teacher to be engaged and understand how their students will interact and learn the material.

Very rarely are classrooms lecture based in this day and age. They often incorporate a variety of different activities and technology to help students learn the required material. By allowing teachers to interact and learn in this manner, they have the skills and knowledge required to pass the information on to their students.

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The Professional Development for Teachers Is Collaborative

No one works well in isolation. Being able to share ideas and develop new solutions together creates a community and changes the culture and how teachers instruct their students in a positive manner. Collaborating impacts not only the grade level of the teacher but also the department, school, and the district. It’s beneficial for everyone involved, especially the students.

Teachers Have Coaching and Support

Having a coach or expert that a teacher can talk to while going through professional development is beneficial and ensures that they understand the material and are incorporating the curriculum in a way that will help students and the teacher succeed.

If the teacher has issues, having someone there to answer questions aids in the learning process. Since teachers are human, having a little extra help is beneficial, and an expert or coach is the best person to talk to about the process.

The Development Has Reflection and Feedback

Being able to become an expert in a practice involves knowing what is being done correctly and what could use a little work. By getting feedback, teachers are able to understand where their strengths and weaknesses are and make adjustments accordingly.

When it comes to reflection, this allows teachers the opportunity to decide if the way they presented the material was optimum. Being able to see how students react to the lesson is also a good way for them to reflect on their teaching and make changes so that students learn the information better.

Provides Models of Effective Practice

Being able to see how a lesson is supposed to be taught is helpful for teachers when learning new curriculum or teaching practices. It will help them develop and incorporate the lessons better in their daily instruction and give them best practices to strive for.

The Content Is Focused

Knowing exactly what a teacher is supposed to be teaching is incredibly helpful in a classroom context. By attending professional development for teachers that has a specific curriculum and supports teacher learning, teachers can ensure they are getting the most out of their development experience.

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Challenges with Professional Development for Teachers

It’s been proven that effective professional development has a positive impact on teachers and students in their classroom. However, finding the time, opportunities and funding to be able to further their skills and abilities are often problematic.

There are a variety of different challenges that can arise that impede professional development, including the inability to acquire needed curriculum materials (often due to funding constraints), a dysfunctional school culture, or policies that aren’t geared toward a consistent set of practices.

Overcoming these obstacles can be tough. Funding in some school settings is often limited, without the ability to be changed. Although studies and hands-on experience has shown that professional development for teachers is helpful and contributes to the success of students, it’s not always put into practice.

Policy Recommendations for the Future of Education

When it comes to ensuring that teachers get the professional development they need, there are certain policy changes or recommendations that need to occur. They include the following.

Standards Have to Be Adopted

Determining the best way to design, evaluate, and fund professional development will give a clearer picture of how effective and necessary the process is. It may also make it easier to implement the best practices.

Scrutinize and Change School Schedules and Use of Time for Professional Development

There’s no one better to help determine the needs of teachers than teachers. They are in the classroom every day and see firsthand how students are learning (or not learning) the material. Getting information from them is the best way to figure out how to give them the necessary skills to be successful.

Changing how teachers interact with one another and other professionals in the community is a good way to develop them professionally.

Develop Expert Teachers

Some people are better in certain subjects than others, and they can be great resources for those who are struggling. Encourage and support the learning environment of teachers by offering them peers and mentors to help them develop their professional skills.

Use Technology

Whether you love it or hate it, technology will continue to advance and play a role in students’ lives and how they learn. Embracing the change and the latest technology and giving teachers the opportunity to use it in their classroom is a great way to increase professional development for teachers.

It’s also important that teachers know how to use the technology effectively and efficiently, so invest in classes or other ways to teach teachers the best way to use this tool to help them in the classroom.

Provide the Funding for Professional Development

It’s tough when budgets get tighter and less money has to go further, but finding ways to fund opportunities for continuing education is a great investment for the future of the teachers and the students. Everyone is a winner when teachers have the opportunity to develop and learn new skills.

Funding Professional Development for Teachers

Funding is usually the biggest obstacle when it comes to getting teachers professional development. It’s not a secret in the U.S. that teachers’ salaries are often low and schools don’t have the resources they need to get the supplies required for students.

However, there are a variety of different grants and fellowships available for teachers to continue their education. Some of these include the following.

  • NEA Foundation Learning and Leadership Grants
  • Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program
  • McCarthey Dressman Teacher Development Grants
  • Fund for Teachers

The amounts offered vary with each grant, and teachers will have to put in an application and/or other materials to apply.

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Studies have shown that professional development for teachers is absolutely vital to give them the skills and knowledge they need to successfully teach and guide their students. Having a teacher be a lifelong learner will encourage them to pass that skill on to their students. With the field of education constantly changing, to use the most effective and efficient teaching methods, it’s important for teachers to stay up to date with the latest curriculum.

There are barriers that stand in the way of teachers being able to continue their education. While there are some grants available to overcome these issues, more can and should be done. The future of education and the world depends on teachers participating in and incorporating professional development into their classrooms.

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