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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

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

Comments (118)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

?'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am also working on my master's degree. I agree that if we are going to be successful that we must continue an ongoing professional development. We gain helpful and useful information such as new instructional strategies that we can use in our classroom.

Carla Liming's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that many times the novice teacher is overwhelmed with all that they are faced with their first year. Our school uses a mentoring program to support new teachers and I believe this is helpful. However, sometimes a new teacher is assigned a mentor who is not within her grade level or subject. Assigning a new teacher a helper within their grade level or subject would be beneficial. This person would help the new teacher be informed of procedures that all oters take for granted. Many times new teachers know their subject very well but are discouraged by all the day to day teaching. It can be overwhelming when you are not prepared for it. One thing that I would like to see many education schools use would be to bring more current teachers to the college classroom to talk about strategies that they use within the classroom that work.

Ashley Brooks's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I was very lucky to be provided with a wonderful mentor my fist year teaching. She helped me create effective lessons and utilize creative and fun strategies in my classroom. She helped me to prepare my first year and I have used many if not all of the same techniques and activities this year. Currently, I am working on my master's degree. I feel teacher development is so crucial to ensure that our students are receiving their best education possible.

Stacey Francis's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am an educator who entered the profession through an alternative preparation program after having worked as a Social Worker for a number of years. While I feel that having the teacher prep programs spend much time helping teachers to become content experts, I feel that it is also very important for educators to get some real world advice on how to deliver content, fill out essential paperwork such as IEP's and development plans and also how to deliver the content to students in a variety of settings.

I agree with one of the other teachers who stated that I think that teacher inservice days could be used to reeducate teachers in specific content areas and allow them to cross plan with teachers from the special education department.

Stacey Francis
Hampton, Georgia

Paulette Palmer-Stevenson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Our students deserve the best and therefore, as teachers it is only fair that we give them the best. Teachers can make sure they give students the best by continually developing themselves when they participate in teacher development programs.I have gained a lot by collaborating with other teachers and learn new techniques through professional development.

I agree with Carmella that by working collaboratively with other professionals that shared similar concerns and experiences can make your classromm experiences go more smoothly.

Nicola van Vuuren's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with Carla in welcoming teachers into education colleges to give a first hand experience on a few points to teacher in training . I am a teacher in South Africa and studied at the Johannesburg College of Education. While I really enjoyed my studies I found that I gained the most when I was in the classroom teaching and learning first hand. It was interesting to speak to teachers who had been teaching for a while. Most of them were filled with encouragement and some had a jaded few of how the teaching profession had changed and how different children of today are.

cassie clanton's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

A new teacher should have a mentor teacher. My mentor saved my life.
I started teaching five years ago. I graduated in December, so I became a substatue teacher for the rest of that year. The Saturday before school started I received a call from a middle school secretary. She want to know if I could cover a fifth grade class for two weeks. I said yes without thinking what I was getting into! I asked the secutary if I needed to plan for the FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL, she replied no everything will be waiting in the classroom Monday morning. Being a new, neive teacher I totally belived her. When Monday arrived I got up early, drove to the school, I new how important the first day was. My classroom was in a mobile in back of the school and it was totally empty. I could not find one marker, a piece of paper, and the lesson plans were nowhere to be found. That day I learner a very important lesson as a teacher, always expect the unexpected!
Think goodness I had a wonderful mentor teacher she helped me surive! I will never forget how scared I was a she did her best to make the best out of a horrible situation.

Laurel Sobota's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I work in a very old middle school building where the use of technology has been on a roller coaster track. We would try and jump onto the "technology bandwagon", buying into the latest and greatest new gadget, only to not have sufficient training. Many of the gadgets are currently gathering dust somewhere on a shelf. Other times, with sufficient training, the technology would take hold and both the teacher and student would benefit greatly. We are on the dawn of a new era in my district, in that we will be moving into a new facility in less than 2 years. The classrooms will be stocked with the latest gadgets and gizmos in the education world. I truly believe that the secret to unlocking the treasures in these items is training and having an open mind. So many "veteran" teachers are less likely than novices to accept and use new technology because it might take them out of their comfort zone. This is one of the cases where the "veteran" can learn from the "novice" in that most new teachers have had some exposure to the newest technology. I hope that as we transition into the new building, all teachers, both new and old, be willing to open themselves up to all the "bells and whisteles" that technology has to offer.

Laurel A. Sobota's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The school I work at also has a mentor program and I also believe that it truly makes a difference in how the new teacher adapts to the new environment he/she is placed into. Our program not only has the mentor working with the new teacher on "teaching basics" but also has a major role in helping that teacher to prepare for state licensure and passing teacher evaluation interviews. Another important aspect of this relationship is pointing out the little things that help the new teacher become a real part of the staff family. For example, one new teacher was unaware that Friday's are "jeans day" as well as "doughnut day". He now joins the rest of the faculty on Fridays and is becoming more comfortable with his new environment.

Angelina Gonzalez's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that mentors are so important to have especially for a new teacher. I work in a large school that hires brand new teachers each school year. Many times these teachers seem overwhelmed and discouraged from being a teacher because of the lack of support. A good mentor can guide them, show them how things can and should be done so that they can become an expert teacher one day. Can you imagime becoming a brand new police officer on the force and they throw you in a squad car with another brand new police officer? It probably wouldn't be so productive which is why they usually put a rookie with an experienced officer. The same goes with teaching. You need someone experienced on your side to show you the ropes.

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