Facebook
Edutopia on Facebook
Twitter
Edutopia on Twitter
Google+
Edutopia on Google+
Pinterest
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
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

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

Valarie Butcher's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I do agree that subject-matter mastery is a critical element of an expert teacher, but in programs designed to prepare new teachers I think pedagogy should be a top priority. From personal experience I choose to pursue a degree that that certifies me to teach grades kindergarten through eighth grade. At the time a separate degree offered certification of grades first through eighth. The additional classes in my degree program focused on child development and the art of teaching. I could not have survived my first few years of teaching without these classes. I have taught several subjects and these skills have been what I rely on to guide me in making the content accessible to my students. As part of professional development I have participated in numerous workshops to strength my content knowledge skills, and I do believe these have made me a better teacher. However, I would be skeptical of teacher preparation programs that focus on developing content experts while ignoring the critical aspects of child development that allow relationship building as the basis of teaching.

Gayla Blanton's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with you, Gail, that we must continue to seek professional development as a part of our on-going pursuit of expertise in the field of education. The pendulum of methodologies and strategies is ever swinging from as far left to as far right as it can possibly go. We, as life-long learners, should continue to implement those methods and strategies that we feel best meet the needs of our learners. Due to societal changes, our role is becoming more demanding in a number of areas--classroom management, maintaining the mandates of NCLB, and developing strategies to meet the needs of a very diverse classroom environment, just to name a few. Developing networking between colleagues in our school, system, as well as those reached through technology will be an important strategy in our desire for greater expertise. We will continue to need the assistance and support of our peers in order to succeed.

Annemarie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that professional development opportunities are key to becoming an expert teacher. Teaching is an ever-changing career. I feel once you think you are an expert, the next minute you feel like a novice again. New ideas, theories and practices are always coming out. This is only my third year teaching and once I think I get the hang of something, I go to a professional development session and walk away thinking I need to start all over again. There are so many ways to teach a topic, so many strategies and different learning styles you can use. Therefore, I think it is hard to become an expert. In my eyes, that would be someone who has mastered the way to teach a topic so that it works every time and reaches every student. An expert by this definition is almost impossible. However, I will continue to go to professional development sessions and gain knowledge on new ideas. I like to try new things and share what I learn with others.

George's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that professional development can fill a teacher with inspiration. I also feel that some of the district or school facilitated professional development opportunities seem to be stand-alone trainings with no follow-up. Sometimes schools can train their staff on too many strategies over a short amount of time, not giving the teachers enough time to truly use any of them effectively. They might get more out of fewer strategies, with follow-up support.

CSchneck's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think Professional Development is essential for teachers, and actually any profession. However, it needs to relevant and applicable to real life in the classroom. The presenters also need to remember to apply their classroom methods to this as well. They need to know their audience in order not to shut them out. The material needs to be relevant or useful to everyone. Don't give Math ideas or examples to a bunch of English teachers. Also, remember you are talking to adults. An elementary teacher was the presenter at one session that I attended recently and it really shut me down when she treated us like elementary students. At that point, I wasn't really benefiting from that section. Knowing your audience is essential so that they will understand what you are talking about. Unfortunately, many presenters don't remember this and the full benefit of professional development is not received by the participants.

Annemarie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that professional development opportunities are key to becoming an expert teacher. Teaching is an ever-changing career. I feel once you think you are an expert, the next minute you feel like a novice again. New ideas, theories and practices are always coming out. This is only my third year teaching and once I think I get the hang of something, I go to a professional development session and walk away thinking I need to start all over again. There are so many ways to teach a topic, so many strategies and different learning styles you can use. Therefore, I think it is hard to become an expert. In my eyes, that would be someone who has mastered the way to teach a topic so that it works every time and reaches every student. An expert by this definition is almost impossible. However, I will continue to go to professional development sessions and gain knowledge on new ideas. I like to try new things and share what I learn with others.

Raymond Dyette's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted by Raymond Dyette.
The article, 'Why Is Teacher Development Important?', provided some interesting and idealistic perspectives. However, in addition to concentrating on knowledge of discipline and being resolved to becoming a "life long learner", teachers must develop the art of teaching. This only comes with constant practice and regular 'fine tuning' of one's teaching skills. Teachers must blend their knowledge of the subject matter, the theories on child development and culture, to produce a pedagogy that is suitable for learning. This can be a challenge for inexperienced teachers.
Of course, it takes a lot of time, effort and adequate thought and planning. Furthermore, as part of the teacher development is to be cognizant that strategies and the best practices must be flexible, student centered and not teacher oriented.

Jamie Kraayenbrink's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

After finishing my first year of teaching this past May, I found myself wondering where I would be if I hadn't been properly trained at my university and if I didn't have the support of my induction coach and fellow colleagues. The college program I graduated from required us to spend one entire year student teaching in a classroom. Although this didn't fully prepare me to run a classroom, I did gain enough experience to at least begin on the first day of school. Through the year I was coached by master teachers, which helped me to adapt and learn the skills of becoming a professional teacher.

Nancy Lomax's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agreed that novice teachers should be able to set in a classroom that is conducted by a veteran teacher to see the knowledge that the novice has just learned actively used. I would have loved to have that happen to me when I started, but I was placed in an elementary school that needed an Art Teacher for upper grades, and I had to sink or swim. This past year I was asked to be a mentor teacher for the new lower grade Art Teacher and I was determined that she received all the information I had available to me so that she wouldn't suffer the same self doubt that I experienced. We as colleagues should assist the novice teacher any way we can as many districts aren't as enlighten to provide professional development or they may not have the funds to offer the training. As professionals we are constantly honing our craft and will always need professional development. We can meet formally or informally to gather and discuss different practices, etc. Even the "Expert" teacher will learn something in these type of meetings. This will allow us to remain flexible and will in most cases rejuvenate us.

Nancy Lomax's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

In response to your situation regarding teaching autistic students, is it possible for you to sit in with the other teachers that are more experienced in teaching autistic students? Are you able to contact the Special Education Supervisor in your district and ask if there could be a workshop set up? I ask these questions because coming from and urban district I have had to be real creative in locating information and if one asks one my receive. Try these things and see if you get some positive results

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.