Why Is Teacher Development Important?: Because Students Deserve the Best | Edutopia
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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Why Is Teacher Development Important?: Because Students Deserve the Best

Teacher-preparation programs provide educators-to-be with the tools, mentors, and hands-on experience they'll need once they begin their career.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team
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Great teachers help create great students. In fact, research shows that an inspiring and informed teacher is the most important school-related factor influencing student achievement, so it is critical to pay close attention to how we train and support both new and experienced educators.

The best teacher-preparation programs emphasize subject-matter mastery and provide many opportunities for student teachers to spend time in real classrooms under the supervision of an experienced mentor. Just as professionals in medicine, architecture, and law have opportunities to learn through examining case studies, learning best practices, and participating in internships, exemplary teacher-preparation programs allow teacher candidates the time to apply their learning of theory in the context of teaching in a real classroom.

Many colleges and universities are revamping their education schools to include an emphasis on content knowledge, increased use of educational technologies, creation of professional-development schools, and innovative training programs aimed at career switchers and students who prefer to earn a degree online.

Teacher-Induction Programs

Support for beginning teachers is often uneven and inadequate. Even if well prepared, new teachers often are assigned to the most challenging schools and classes with little supervision and support. Nearly half of all teachers leave the profession in their first five years, so more attention must be paid to providing them with early and adequate support, especially if they are assigned to demanding school environments.

Mentoring and coaching from veteran colleagues is critical to the successful development of a new teacher. Great induction programs create opportunities for novice teachers to learn from best practices and analyze and reflect on their teaching.

Ongoing Professional Development

It is critical for veteran teachers to have ongoing and regular opportunities to learn from each other. Ongoing professional development keeps teachers up-to-date on new research on how children learn, emerging technology tools for the classroom, new curriculum resources, and more. The best professional development is ongoing, experiential, collaborative, and connected to and derived from working with students and understanding their culture. Return to our Teacher Development page to learn more.

Teacher Development Overview

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Mindy's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Education is key to everyone! Isn't is amazing how everthing comes down to how well informed we are? Thanks for the advice!

Shannon Featherstone's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As a relatively new teacher, this is my third year, I agree that new teachers need a support system their first few years teaching. It is crucial that the program provide a mentor, observations and activities that require reflection. Unfortunately, some teacher-induction programs are overloaded with paperwork, which only makes a new teacher's job that much more difficult. Having the opportunity to talk to and collaborate with a veteran teacher is a key component in a first year teacher's success.

Billy D. Jefferson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I would like to add that professional development for teachers and educators in general needs to be standardized. You cant have teachers and educators following different standards.

Hiawatha 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Something that is very rarley covered ,(and certainly not a part of the training in teacher development) is cultural competency. We speak about the "achievement gaps" in our education system and yet when you look into the schools (and the profession) you find a glaring lack of educators of color
in our schools and positions of leadership. This could easily be due to the difference in cultures(codes) that influence the teaching profession. The dominant culture continues to strive for assimilation instead of integration. We are different and we have different ways of reaching common goals. I'm sure this is one of those "elephants in the room" but let's look at it. Please look at "Teaching Other People's Children" by Lisa Delpit. She tells us why so many people of color leave the profession and I hope you agree that we need them.

Jeanna Kleinhelter's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have been a mentor teacher the past couple of years. I have been teaching for eleven years, and was approached by my administration and asked if I would be interested in becoming a mentor. I hesitated, but when I found out that we would go through an accredited course that walked us through what the standards were for beginning teachers to complete their first two years of teaching, I was thrilled. I am from Indiana and our teachers are required to go through a two year program of mentoring. The program definitely has benefits (mentor preparation), but I agree with Shannon Featherstone that the paperwork caused an incredible amount of stress. The program starts off with mega support to the new teacher. The first year has no paper requirements. This first is meant for observing, collaborating, and just getting their feet wet. My new teacher spent a lot of time with me. Our school system builds in several working days for the mentors and new teachers. This was great. I wish I would have had this as a new teacher. Since I had gone through the mentoring course I new exactly how to prepare my new teacher for their second year. The second year they had to complete an extremely detailed portfolio with an incredible amount of reflection. To me, it was a great idea, and since I had to do a modified portfolio in my mentor course I knew exactly how to help my new teacher. However, again, I thought it was overly redundant and the new teacher did not have time with all the other obligation (teaching), to do this with complete dedication. I found myself helping my new teacher cut corners just to keep him from getting too stressed. I found that the portfolio was not a true reflection of my new teacher, but a portfolio written soley because of requirement. This defeats the purpose. New teachers need guidance, opportunity to observe,and time built in for professional development that promotes the desire to learn instead of just get by. I just got through reading a chapter from What Keeps Teachers Going by Sonia Nieto, and she discussed the need for teachers to have faith in themselves, colleagues, and the next generation of teachers. She questioned many teachers about what keeps them teaching and one teacher by the name of Anita Preer stated, "What keeps me going is having a student teacher every year. That is what really keeps me going because I am able to recapture in this new person the idealism that I started with." I read this and felt the same about the teacher I was mentoring. However, if we continue to stress out these new teachers their idealism fades quickly. I wish we could come up with a program that motivated these new teachers and preserves their hope and idealism of public school system.

Ronald Fischman's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I assume that the author of this post is an administrator. A real teacher knows that teacher induction is successful when it makes us more flexible in the classroom and at home thinking about being in the classroom. As we should have all learned from the failure of NCLB, a teacher/administrator/class system needs to agree upon goals and outcomes, and then figure out flexible ways of getting each child moving on the path to that outcome.
I do not believe in best practices. I do believe in best preparation, which includes equipping the teacher with insight to recognize teachable moments, to rescue elegant lessons designed lovingly at home that are not clicking in real time, and to perceive the classroom through the eyes of each student so as to reach that student.

An appropriate induction program inspires teachers to leadership, it does not grind them between the millstones of puerile "standards."

Betty Ray's picture
Betty Ray
Director of Programming and Innovation

Hi Ronald and others -

It's not clear whether Billy is an administrator or a spammer. Lately we've seen a rash of people posting random and somewhat disjointed responses, with links to external sites that have nothing to do with education. I deleted this link in Billy's post and have been deleting a number of them throughout the rest of the site.

We will be launching a new layout for our article comments in the months to come which should hopefully remove the ability for spammers to post here.

Thanks for your patience!

Betty Ray
Community Manager

Katje Lehrman's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a life-long learner who has spent her summer vacation reading voraciously about what is going on in education. I've followed the 'experts' and whenever possible, consulted with them.
But, just like instruction for students, professional development needs to be designed according to the needs of teachers.
In the past 22 years, I have participated in PD's that challenged my thinking, introduced new concepts and strategies, and made me feel supported as an educator.
Sadly, I am now attending far more PD's that are conducted by people who were poorly prepared, insufficiently knowledgeable about 'their' subject matter, and all too often patronizing. These PD's are often mandated by the school district, or by an administrator who has thirteen hours of time to fill during the Tuesday slot.
If people truly wish to see better, more well-prepared teachers than they need to respect our intelligence and collaborate with us on PD.

Carly Madsen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Novice to Expert Teacher

I have been teaching Kindergarten for five years at Crystal River Elementary School in Carbondale, Colorado. I am currently a grad student at Walden University. I am working towards receiving my degree in Reading and Literacy. This past week in my course we were asked to reflect on what helps a professional teacher move along the spectrum of being a novice teacher to an expert teacher. I am committed to being a life long learner. Teacher development is a crucial part to moving towards being an expert teacher. I was fortunate to have excellent mentors while doing my student teaching and during my first year in my own classroom. I believe that my mentors helped shape me (in a small way) into the teacher I am today. Professional development opportunities allow me to give my students the best resources and practices to become proficient in learning. I am still deciding with myself if one can ever be considered truly expert? I think we can obtain expert qualities and practice expert ways of teaching, but to become fully an expert contradicts with the idea of teachers being life long learners.

Michelle's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a second year teacher and a graduate student at Walden University. As previously mentioned by Carly, this week we are talking about the transformation from novice teachers to expert teachers and the necessary steps a novice teacher must take to reach the expert level. I have been fortunate enough to work with veteran colleagues who have been extremely supportive and taught (and continue to teach) me valuable lessons that I never learned in college. However, as this article mentions (and days like today remind me) no matter how much preparation and support a new teacher has, there are still many challenging obstacles for new teachers to overcome. I believe there are expert teachers, I believe that I know many teachers who have reached the expert level, and I believe that one day I will be an expert as well. For now my goal is to have less bad days and more good ones. Unfortunately I can certainly see why many new teachers leave the profession, but I can also see the joy in teaching. I also have faith that one day I will be thrilled and relieved that I chose this profession.

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