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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

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Shelley Moreland's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I sadly understand why in the above article, Why is Teacher Development Important, it states, "most teachers leave the profession within five years of teaching." Some of the universities are still behind in properly preparing educators. They are given the background knowledge of education, but not much first-hand experience. Some of the student teachers coming into my school are coming into the classroom for the first time in their junior and senior years of college. These students have spent most of their time and money thinking education is the profession for them. Unfortunately, some enter the actual classroom and realize it is not what they would like to do with their lives for one reason or another. These students have invested so much already, that they stick with the profession thinking it will be alright. No wonder they are leaving education. Being a novice teacher is difficult enough, it is something that takes dedication, inspiration, and hard work. We need to better prepare these upcoming professionals in order to keep great teachers in education and great teaching practices for our students. With proper preparation we can help teachers to become experts in their field of study.

Jeannette Simpson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

When I graduated from college, I was unprepared for the inner city school and students where I would spend my first two years as teacher. My 12 weeks of student teaching did not prepare me for the stories and baggage that came with my students each day. I had little support from my team or principal and was new to the community. I find it interesting that other people mentioned student teaching for a year and had a mentor program set up for their first year teaching. When I read the rate of teachers leaving the profession, I know I could very well have been one but did not quit because I honestly didn't know what else I would do. I always wanted to be a teacher. My son told me the other day that he wanted to be a teacher when he grew up and instead of being proud, I cringed because I know the challenges in teaching. After reading this article about improved preparation, I feel encouraged for him and others who want to become a teacher.

Jeannette Simpson
Kenosha, WI

Ken Burgess's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think that undergraduate programs need to give the training teacher education in real life situations. I am a P.E. teacher and while my program was great the one area I felt my education lacked was being given ways to deal with what is really out there.

All of the lessons I taught in my methods classes were to a small group made up of my peers who knew what was going on and we were in a great sized gym with all the equipment we needed. This is not true to life. I now teach in a building where we have 100 students in the gym at one time and it is not big enough. Or what about the school that does not have enough equipment?

I felt it would have been beneficial to be given strategies on what to do in these types of situations. There is very rarely that perfect situation out there and you have to be creative in your thinking and planning to be able to adapt to the situation you might find yourself in.

One area in regards to continuing education I think could be better is the planning of content for inservice days for the specials and specialist teachers by their respective schools. I have lost count of how many times we have gone to meetings that do not involve us at all. I understand it might be a lot of organizing for the school to find something for all of us but it would be nice to be able to have an inservice for the other teachers in the building that would be beneficial and meaningful to them.

Cheryl Fidler's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I taught for my first 2 years in an inner city school. My training both at college and during my student teaching did not prepare me for teaching mostof the children who come to school for the soul purpose of being babysat. There was no inservice days for me prior to starting school. I was given curriculum guides and sent on my way. There was one mentor teacher in our school who didn't give me any support until I sought him out. After leaving the profession to raise a family, I swore I would never teach again. Here I am 9 years later earning a Master's degree so that I can reenter the teaching profession.
I had realized that after long term substituting at my son's school, that not all school districts are the same. I received a tremendous amount of help from not only my teaching team but the mentor teacher at our school. She gave me the same attention and support that a newly hired teacher would have received. It was not until then that I realized how much I belong in a classroom.

Ujema Pepe's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I read with great interest the experience Cheryl Fidler experience during her first two years in an urban school setting. As a teacher who has always taught in the urban setting I can relate to your experience. However your experience happens in all setting to many new teachers allover this country. I've maintained that the training you get at college is focuses on the ideal school system, but when you get to the real world classroom you have to take time to study the social and political environment of that school in order to create for yourself a way of functioning in that school. Once you've spend sometime in that setting and have learned from your experience each succeeding years will become easier for you. I am glad you have decided to renter the school system; I wish you all the best.

carmella's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

When I began my first year of teaching, one of the requirements from my district was to complete a Mentor program. First year teachers met about once a month and participated in various workshops. Being inexperience, I learned a great deal from this program such as communicating with parents, classroom management, and differentiating instruction. It was a great experience not only to share insights with other novice teachers but our mentors attended the meeting too. Working collaboratively with other professionals that shared similar concerns and experiences, made the first year go more smoothly.

Toni Malvestuto's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am currently working on my master's degree in education in the area of Integrating Technology in the Classroom. In the program, I was watching a video of Sonia Nieto (Professor of Language, Literacy, and Culture) speaking about teacher expertise and professional development. As she was talking about the importance of professional development and the rapid changes in technology, she stated that the top ten jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004. That statement says a lot about how fast the world is changing. We can not stay stagnant as teachers. I believe that professional development has to be continuous if we are going to be successful educators.

Sharron Keim's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that being a lifelong learner is the key to being a succesful educator especially where technology is concerned. Communication with parents is through email more than phone or personal contact. Creating effective lessons means using technology for eye-catching moments and eye-pleasing papers (if teachers want the student's papers to look neat, then the hand-out ought to as well). Engaging students through the use of technology is an essential part of a regular classroom almost daily. Not to mention, keeping up with the students interests in order to engage them, a teacher should know what they enjoy doing (types of music, websites, hobbies, etc.). Also knowing these items will help teachers to monitor and/or report inappropraite behvaviors. Technology is changing everyday so it will be an area to revisit consistantly.

Katie Chrostowski's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I felt that it was refreshing to finally see some one equate the teaching profession to what doctors do in surgery. You would not want a first time, fresh out of college, no experience of surgery of any kind working on your heart surgery. More than likely, you would want the well schooled, and highly trained surgeon who has had lots of supervised practice working on your vital organ.

The same goes for teachers as well. There are programs out there where people who have a degree in something different than education, can come to the classroom with little or no training and obtain an alternative teaching license WHILE teaching a classroom of children. More often than not, these inexperienced teachers are placed urban environments where teaching can be even more difficult due to lack of classroom management issues.

The moral of what I am trying to respond with is, that teaching children is just as tedious and important of a job as a surgeon trying to save someone's life. We are laying the foundation for these children lives and it is our responsibility to be as experienced and qualified as possible.

?'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.

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