Why Is Teacher Development Important?: Because Students Deserve the Best | Edutopia
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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
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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

Jes Monzo's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe that teacher development should be content based as well. Depending on what your area of specialization is, should have an impact on what the professional development program should be. I agree with the focus on relationship skills but I just think that content should take preference.

Sarah Stere's picture
Anonymous (not verified)


It sounds like we need more cooperating teachers/mentors like you in the field! I find it so sad that we lose great new teachers each year because they do not feel like they are getting the support that they need to be successful. I have been a mentor and would love the chance to be a cooperating teacher for a student teacher at some point. I enjoy helping people in general, but if I can inspire a beginning teacher to stay in the profession, it would be remarkable. I, unfortunately, did not have a good student teaching experience, but I stuck with it and I am so glad that I did. I will be able to use that experience to help student teachers or new teachers. We can all remember what it is like to be new and we should be willing to share with new teachers coming into the field, regardless of whether somone took the time to help us or not.

Ongoing teacher training is so important in our field because it is constantly changing in just about every area. I agree with what Lauren said about having the opportunity to share with other teachers. I think we can learn so much from one another and this is more valuable than having someone lecture to us who has not been in the classroom for years. One of the best professional development opportunities I have had was a make it/take it literacy center training. Being able to walk away with ideas and actual centers I could use was fabulous!

Susan's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with what this article suggests for teacher development and with many other good ideas submitted by commenting teachers (ideas like incorporating the importance of relationships into our teacher development). I am interested in finding out other teachers' thoughts regarding the idea of workshops and professional development opportunities that are geared toward helping teachers become more flexible, able to handle stress, and able to adjust their teaching styles and methods in varying situations. My school has offered various opportunities for new and veteran teachers alike to cope with stress. I have not taken advantage of one of these opportunities. But, I am curious as to what other people think about these workshops (have you ever attended one? If so, did you find it beneficial? If not, do you find these workshops to be somewhat unimportant?). I know that flexibility and the ability to handle stress are two main characteristics that are difficult to obtain, but they are so very important for every teacher to possess. Much of these attributes come with time and experience, but I feel that these skills can also be obtained through some training opportunities. Thoughts?

Debbie Leonard's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that as educators it is important to come together and share ideas, lessons, struggles and successes. Teachers need to be exposed to all that is available to them, not just what their school or district provides. As the article states, "The best professional development is ongoing, experiential, collaborative, and connected to and derived from working with students and understanding their culture." Blogs such as this one and other sites for educators are excellent ways to help all educators grow.

Jamie Maupin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I was fortunate to get my teaching certificate through a program that allowed me to spend an entire year in one classroom. I took education classes around my part time work in the classroom until my student teaching. The value of seeing the whole year, working with real students, and building relationships with students and staff, was so valuable. I was also able to see all of the extra responsibilities that go with the job. The program really prepared me for my first year of teaching.

Now that I have been teaching for a few years, I still wish I had more opportunities to see other teachers in action. We have wonderful collaborative teams already, but I know I could really learn from observing others and then dialoging about the lesson.

Are there schools out there that have developed peer observation programs?

Laurel   Greeley Colorado's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Professional development is extremely important for novice teachers, as well as, for the experienced. I think where many school districts miss the boat is providing collaboration time after the workshop or class and opportunities to revisit the topics presented in the workshop throughout the school year. I have had several experiences where I will sit in a class for a week with fellow teachers and learn many exciting ideas. But without time to collaborate or revisit these ideas, I find it is easy not to implement them in my classroom. Teachers need TIME to process the information presented in classes with their fellow educators, and to revisit these ideas to fine tune them.

Vicki's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think your school may be on to something by training teachers in stress management. Even the most knowledgeable teachers will leave the profession if they cannot handle stress well. Teachers often smile on the outside, and cry on the inside. Teachers cannot always express what they are feeling. This emotional build up combined with overwork produces an unbearable situation. I think this must be addressed for the teaching profession to attract and retain highly qualified educators. In the graduate course I am taking, this issue is addressed. I wish I had been equipped with some stress management strategies the first year I taught. I had to learn most of it through experience.

Good Instructor or Teacher?'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think content knowledge and presentation methods are important as well, but this only makes you a good instructor. That alone is not enough to be considered a good teacher at K-12 levels.
A good teacher is actively involved in student learning outside curriculum. They present students with a strong social, passionate, and caring role model. Good teachers listen to and observe students to evaluate needs, educational and personal. A teacher is someone students can discuss life with and seek information unrelated to course content.
A good instructor is focused on subject matter, tests, and grades. This is the ideal instructor at the university level, emphasis on content and presentation. Most students at the university level only require a good instructor. K-12 students require so much more.
I believe there is to much focus on instructing as the save all. New teachers come to classrooms thinking all they will do is teach. Wrong! I think teacher development must have equal amounts of both. Good teachers spend equal amounts of time instructing for content and educating students about life.

cathy Schneck's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that interpersonal skills need to be addressed as well. Our school is so technology or SOL centered that I think sometimes they forget about the other part of teaching and learning. If you are not a Core subject, you are also somewhat second class. We did do a session of grief this year, but only because we had several situations that called on it. There are so many topics that could be addressed besides just subject matter or presentation topics. Plus - we need to reinforce that we can have a relationship with the students - without crossing the lines. I think many teachers are afraid of that as well. If we become afraid of our students, it cannot be a good learning environment.

Brianna's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Professional development is important to me as a teacher because it inspires me to go into the classroom and keep making a difference. Every time I have gone to some type of professional training I come out feeling as though my flame has been lit again. I am glad our district has us take professional development classes. If they didn't I don't know if I would still be a teacher. Besides, who could stay a novice forever?

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