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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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Melissa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I just finished my first year of teaching this past May. I truly was blessed to have such a supportive administration and grade level, who worked together with me to make sure that my school year ran smoothly. I would not have been able to do it without such support. At the school where I taught we had what was called the Mentor-Mentee program in which all the new teachers were paired up with a veteran teacher. We met as a group once a month about various things that were coming up (tests, parent conferences, etcetera), things that we had questions about, and even to discuss various lesson ideas. I was also able to spend a lot of time collaborating with my fellow grade level colleagues and my mentor one-on-one on a regular basis in regards to lesson ideas, classroom management tips, teacher-parent conferences, curriculum nights, etcetera. I think every school should provide a program like the one implemented at my school as a way to help support new teachers!

Melissa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I also think that collaboration with other teaching professionals is key for teacher development. Not only should we be communicating with those within our schools, but also with individauls that teach around the world. I think that as teachers we all have valuable ideas and insights to share with one another and we can all greatly benefit from sharing. I have just started blogging on sites like this one. It has been great to interact with other teachers and exchange ideas on topics even if there are differing views. Reading differing views from mine own allows me to reevaluate and analyze why it is I hold certain views. I hope to continue my "blogging" experience as a way for me to stay informed on various educational topics and as a way for me to discuss my thoughts and opinions on such topics.

Melissa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that teachers need to constantly be challenging themselves. I believe as teachers we should be life-long learners who strive to search out the best practices that will enhance our students' learning opportunities. I think a lot of teachers have hit a rut and go about doing what has worked for them over the years. With all the new research on new techniques and strategies that will enhance the learning of our students we as teachers need to take the challenge to change our teaching styles.

Sarita's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I just completed my second year of teaching. It feels as though the more experience I gain, the less effective I feel as a teacher. I attended a great college that prepared me to be a great teacher. However, teacher prep programs can't 100% prepare any one for teaching. All districts and schools are different. We were taught the basic content and pedagogy of teaching, but that isn't enough to survive in a school setting. Schools should continually provide teachers with professional development programs so that we can learn specific things needed to be successful in our individual schools. For example, my school is the autistic center for our district. While in college, we discussed autism, but I was never taught any techniques to use with autistic children in the classroom. It is the schools responsibility to prepare us for these students. We needed professional development courses to learn how to meet the need of our student population. Teachers should be life long learners. And schools should provide ways to help teachers do this.

Sarita's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with you that new teachers need to be provided with support when entering the teaching field. However, I think all teachers including veteran teachers need to be provided with professional development as well. There are so many changes in our field that at times new teachers may know more about certain things than veteran teachers. I think all teachers need to be supported through professional development.

Jessica's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I feel the same as you, when I come out of a professional development workshop or class where I learn great new strategies to help students, I can't wait to try them out. We are offered great writing workshops at our school a few times a year. I am always eager to try new writing techniques with my students. My school is constantly trying to improve the professional development workshops that they offer, but sometimes I feel like they should continue with the ones we already had, perhaps taking it to the next level.

Raymond Dyette's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

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, the teacher learning situation requires 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.

Raymond Dyette's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

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, the teacher learning requires 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.

Shelley's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe that it is hard enough to come out of college being a novice teacher. You have little true experience in the classroom. You are backed with notebooks of "lesson plans" that you hope you will someday be able to use but quickly realize that many times you will not look at them again. Through my time at my school, I have watched many student teachers come in to learn and prepare for their future. What I find to be most interesting is these students are in their junior to senior years in college. They have spent most of their college careers preparing to become a teacher and "knowing this is the right profession for them". But what happens to these poor students who get into the classroom and realize that there is no way they want to spend the rest of their lives in the classroom? They have spent their time and money preparing to be a teacher and at the end realize they are not sure this is the profession for them. In my opinion, most stay with it and try to learn to like the job. No wonder, as stated in the above article, Why is Teacher Development Important?, that "half of teachers quit the profession in their first five years." Teaching is a profession that must be loved by and inspire the teacher. We do this because of our love for children and learning, not the benefits. I find it to be extrememly unfortunate that some colleges are still not properly preparing future teachers.
I did find it refreshing to read about some of the mentor programs in progress to support novice teachers. I know that my district could work on their mentor program and learn from others. I hope that soon our colleges begin to realize the importance of first hand experience and preparation to become a teacher. It's hard enough to be a first year teacher, let's not make it more difficult due to the fact that new teachers are not sure of the profession they chose.

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.

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