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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 Staff

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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Heather's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

So I would think this would be a common question. I am a teacher looking to improve my project learning abilities at a charter school interested in improving project learning programs. You list the why but not the HOW. You talk about teachers learning by doing, but I see no workshops or in-services offered. I must have missed it? I see lots of articles to read and stuff to "do", but I want to learn by interacting with people, being the student, and asking questions as I go. What have you got for me??? Thanks, Heather

Diane Demee-Benoit's picture
Diane Demee-Benoit
Former Director of Outreach at Edutopia

Staff comment:

Heather,
I don't know where to begin! What grade do you teach? Here are some things to consider:

Edutopia's Project-Based Learning Module Go through this module as a self-paced workshop on project learning. There are downloadable presentations for staff development and a great resources page.

An Online Resource for PBL

A Place for PBL: Envision Schools Project Exchange

Migdalia Benitez-Drouet's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Teacher development is essential for our students' success. Teachers should attend professional developments in order to keep up-to-date with new trends in education. It is important to learn new methods, techniques and strategies so we can be better equipped to face all challenges.

Sara L's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Ongoing professional development allows for teachers to inform themselves and essentially others about new developments in education. With all of the emphasis on holding teachers responsible and making sure that we are educated on the newest developments, why are there so few professional development classes? I know that it costs the school district money to send teachers, but is that not worth having the most educated professionals? For something that is so important, it seems to be somewhat on the back burner.

Fifi's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Sara,

In which state do you teach? Here, in Pennsylvania, all teachers must meet ACT 48 credit requirements. We must attend so many hours of professional development classes within a five year period in order to retain our certificate. This is forcing our schools to offer more opportunities for teachers to attend conferences, or to have speakers come to our schools. There are also websites where we can take free lessons that count towards our ACT 48 credits. You can try the following site if you are interested: http://pa.professionaleducation.org/
Like you said, it is ironic that parents, the community, even our political figures, they all stress the importance of a good education. They all recommend our kids to go to school in order to "become somebody". Yet, who is assuring that the teachers are well educated too?

Cunningham's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

At my school professional days are offered twice a year. However, they rarely seem relevant/effective. For a year we will focus on something, i.e. Habits of the Mind, and then move on to something else. This constant shift in attention gives the teachers little time to implement and discuss using new strategies before a new program is thrown at us. I am interested in knowing what other schools do in regards to professional development offerings and follow-through.

Chris's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Teacher development is important to being an effective teacher. With so many dynamics in education; staying on top of the latest research and best practices is so important. Expectations and standards seem to be on a continuum. They are always increasing. To keep up with the daily challenges educators face, professional development can increase self-efficacy and pedagogy. Professional development opportunities can allow teachers to make informed decisions in the best interest of their students. I think the best place to start with professional development might be in reflecting honestly on weaknesses and pursuing opportunities to find support.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Teachers are professionals who one want what is best for the students and two want to make learning engaging so the concept sticks in the long term memory. Experiencing the learning not only engages the child but also bring the learning into ownership. Teachers must teach the context information to students such as reading, writing, math, science and soon it will be physical education and music on the standarized testing. So we can not always make everything students learn relevant to them but we can make the learning more relevant. This means we must know our students; background information, culture they are being raised in and about their family lives. Taking a few minutes to build relationships also gives teachers the window into a child's life to make the learning relevant.
When teachers participate in development they are gaining insite into new creative ideas to make the learning relevant to the students'. Teachers work together to come up with and plan what is best for the students'. How can I teach geometry to a goup of kids? How can I make this spelling lesson engaging? Looking at indivual teaching goals and building goals and as a team how are we going to accomplish them? What can others teach me and how can I share something with others?

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