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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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Bannon's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Veteran teachers routinely and consistently ignore tech integration thanks to administrators who think buying a few impressive pieces of hardware are enough to "shame" their teachers into using them. Tech use at this level is unsustainable and a good teacher would be out of their mind to buy in to it. So they rightly stick with what they have, what they know and what they themselves can get up and running with a little spit and paperclips, knowing their administrators would never have the cash to sustain a real technology plan. In this regard, they are better off with low-tech tools. Smart teachers don't see any upside to the "bells and whistles" of technology because there isn't one if you have to spend endless hours learning to re-image a hard-drive because your IT Dept doesn't exist or your video clip won't play in class because its the wrong format and you look like a fool in front of your students.
Nevertheless these same teachers have lots of technology at home.

Kara's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that mentor teachers are a vital asset to every new teacher in the building. I work in a district with a teacher - induction program required of all new teachers. We attend a 5 day workshop on new teaching strategies and how to impliment them in the classroom. We are then paired with a mentor teacher, who we meet with a few times a month, and who come and observe lessons, and offer suggestions and motivation. Mentors are very valuable at keeping new teachers "grounded" and offer a foundation for which new teachers can grow. Your mentor sure seemed to help you out, as I am sure many others have stories just like yours, and are greatful as well for the help they received from their mentor teachers and other teacher - induction programs.

Nancy Elliott's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe that teachers never really reach the expert stage because if we are true teachers then we are learning every day. We learn from our students, our colleagues,staff development classes, etc..., but because we continue to learn, we are never truly an expert.Yes, some may be close to that level, but because of changes in our curriculum, our state standards, our technology, new strategies, etc...we continue to learn "tricks of our trade." I have been teaching for 25 years, and I would hate to ever think that I would be at the point where I would not want to learn new things to benefit my students and myself.
Nancy Elliott
Loganville, Georgia

Kimberly Martinez's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As a new teacher, I am grateful that I was assigned a wonderful mentor teacher. She has provided me with such great support and encouragement throughout this year. Luckily, my mentor is no longer a classroom teacher, she teaches basic studies as she is also our Literacy Coach. My first day of school she made sure she was in my room as my kindergarten students arrived knowing that this day would be very difficult for them as well as myself. I can't even imagine what my day would have been like if she wasn't able to help me. As I think ahead to next year, I can only hope that she will be able to assist me with all of her knowledge and resources that she has provided thus far.

My district is currently creating a a New Teacher Forum which will allow the New Teachers and administrators to meet and discuss and content and pedagogical skills. It's comforting to know that my district is aware of the overwhelming feeling a novice teacher may feel and I respect all the administrators for their support and help as they watch me grow as an educator.

Kimberly Martinez's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Ongoing professional development is very important. I am fairly new to this field, and since I graduated in 2005, which realistically hasn't been that long, I can see the changes that have occurred. No matter if you are a novice teacher or expert teacher, education is continuously changing and as Sonia Nieto mentioned we are life long learners. As long as we are teachers we need to learn new strategies and ideas that we can incorporate into our classrooms.

Lori Bell's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I had to post that I completely agree with Lauren's observations regarding technology and the seasoned teacher. Recently at my school Promethean boards have been installed in about half the classrooms, with emphasis on fourth and fifth grade classes. My board was installed in time for us to view the Inauguration and it was truly an enriching experience. Since then I have been scouring the Internet for interactive websites to review and practice with my class concepts we have discussed in class. It is amazing to me the number of teachers who cannot get over being inconvenienced for a few hours to have such an amazing gift of technology in their classrooms! It is a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees. I agree that in this instance, a "novice" teacher truly does have much to give to the "seasoned" teacher in the passing on of knowledge. Only with our minds open will we ever truly receive such learning and growing experiences.

Nancy Hines's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I learn at least one new thing every day. When I was younger, I thought learning was over at 18 years of age. Wow! Was I wrong and so glad. I have learned over the years that we are never finished learning and I love it. There is so much to know and I am eager to learn more. My students do not belive me when I tell them that learning is lifelong. We never stop learning. How can a teacher ever expect to reach the expert category of teaching when there is so much to learn. I doubt that I will ever consider myself an expert teacher when there is so much I still have to learn.

Leslie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am in my 3rd year of teaching. I have had the same mentor all three years. She is in the same grade-level and has a lot of experience. We don't meet as often as we should and I probably don't ask as many questions as I should. She is helpful. Whenever I have a problem she helps or listens when I need to vent.

Amy Parsons's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Nancy,
I completely agree that teachers can not really attain expert status. Standards, techniques, curriculum and technology are constantly changing in the educational field. In order to be an expert, one needs to be an authority on their specialty. With the next best thing constantly coming out, how is that possible? We are life long learners and just like our students every day we learn something new.

Amy Parsons
Reading, PA

Benita's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am currently in my 4th year of teaching and I still need mentors. I just adopt individuals and ask if they are willing to help when I need help. It is awesome to have a mentor who is trustworthy enought for you to share, vent and/or cry. I have had all those days. But, most importantly it is good to have someone who will guide you, help you reflect on teaching and hold you accountable. I hope the best in all your teaching endeavors.

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