Professional development is a structured form of professional learning that enables successful, up-to-date classrooms and supports teachers, helping them keep up with changing technologies and improve student learning. It’s essential for administrators and educators to partner with education technology providers who offer support throughout the entire implementation cycle.
- Support can include everything from product training to webinars and on-site workshops.
- These types of support offerings ensure that administrators and teachers get the professional development they need, including:
- industry insights
- best practices
- product how-tos, and
- up-to-date technology experience.
- Educators can then use what they’ve learned to offer more sophisticated and effective methods of teaching to their students, schools, and districts.
Your students deserve the best
Great teachers create successful classrooms full of engaged students. Informed, inspiring teachers are a school’s most influential factor when it comes to student achievement. So it’s absolutely critical to prioritize the training and support of educators, whether they’re seasoned and experienced, or brand new to education.
The best professional development addresses emerging technology tools and resources for the classroom in an ongoing, collaborative, experiential process. Because educational technology is constantly changing, keeping up with trends and best practices can be overwhelming for teachers. Professional development enables teachers to more efficiently maintain their own technological training while they constantly work to meet the needs of their students.
Professional development helps teachers, students, schools, and communities
Strong professional development programs help teachers improve their skills in planning classroom time, staying organized, evaluating students, developing curriculum, and handling the many other tasks on their plate. Ultimately, these improvements make teachers more efficient, so they have more time to focus on working with their students and becoming subject matter experts in the topics they teach.
Good professional development programs also target each teacher’s individual professional needs, helping them become better teachers by nurturing their unique talents, assisting them in gaining leadership skills, or encouraging them to deepen their knowledge in useful areas or develop into future school administrators. Well-implemented professional development benefits teachers, students, and schools, which ultimately benefits families and communities as well.
The best types of professional development programs:
- Incorporate active learning, engaging teachers in designing and practicing new teaching strategies. Interactive activities allow contextualized professional learning that connects teachers directly to their own students’ experiences.
- Focus on discipline-specific curriculum content, especially in areas like science, math, and literacy.
- Provide coaching and support from experts, sharing cutting-edge knowledge about best practices and assisting teachers based on their individual needs.
- Model effective practice, providing teachers with a clear vision of best practices through a wide variety of models, samples, examples, videos, etc.
- Encourage collaboration, so teachers can create positive communities and actively work to improve the culture in their department or school.
- Include new technologies, because your school can’t prepare students for the future if it’s relying on tools and technology from the past. Cutting-edge technology and 21st century skills are critical in today’s classrooms. Educators need to know how to use that technology so they can teach their students.
Administrators and policymakers can take the following actions to support and incentivize strong professional development programs:
- Create and uphold standards for professional development in your school or district, guiding the design, implementation, funding, and evaluation of professional learning provided to your educators.
- Conduct needs assessments identifying the areas of professional learning your educators need most.
- Increase opportunities for collaboration and professional learning, evaluating the use of time and resources, and encouraging participation in various types of coaching and professional learning.
- Select and support expert teachers to act as mentors for other educators throughout this process.
- Create and maintain a positive and inclusive learning environment, ensuring everyone has access to professional development.
Carefully designed and thoughtfully implemented professional development should be an essential element within the educational system, supporting both teachers and students with everything they need to learn and succeed in the 21st century. Professional learning should connect teachers with leadership opportunities, ensuring a healthy and comprehensive ecosystem of growth and development. When administrators invest in their teachers, they’re richly rewarded with a range of positive results within each classroom, across their school districts, and into the future.