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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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Casey's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As a third-year teacher, graduate student, and mentor to an undergraduate student, staff development is certainly in the forefront of my thinking right now. One of the discussions that my grad school class has been involved in regards the continuum of novice to expert teacher. I feel very strongly that staff development in all stages of a teacher's career is vital to the success of her students and her job satisfaction, as well as movement on the continuum. Just as it is our job to stimulate a young learner's mind, we, as professionals, need to grow in our own thinking.
One word I heard commonly as an undergraduate and first year teacher was "survive". Sure these are difficult years, but no one went into teaching to "survive" and most of the teachers I know want to make a difference in students' lives, not just get by. When a student teacher or first-year teacher is accountable for the success of a room full of students, it is vital that they receive the proper trainings and support systems.
Understanding that veteran does not equal expert is important. Support systems and staff development opportunities need to be available to all teachers, regardless of experience. I am concerned that in these difficult economic times, staff development is being cut at the expense of student learning. My school system has already cut its staff development days and there was even talk of cutting the staff development positions in schools. My district prides itself on high expectations, differentiation, and success for every student. Teachers are students, too, and they must not be neglected.

Kari's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Perhaps a teacher's greatest allies in a school setting are your colleagues. Many of you may be blessed with having formal mentors; others will be assigned buddies, but all of you will have peers who are ready and willing to help you. They were in your shoes once, and like most of us, they remember vividly the first years of novice teaching. These professionals are the first line of assistance, support, and problem solving.
It is so important to be friendly to everyone in the building and resist getting pulled into cliques. Try to stay clear of any colleagues you identify as whiners, complainers, or gossips. Stay away from lounge conversation that is toxic not caring. There are wonderful opportunities on a staff for collegiality and even deep and lasting friendship.
Through this ongoing contact with your colleagues, find out who the experts are in various curriculum areas. Remember to not be shy and ask for help when needed. Veteran teachers will most likely be flattered if you ask for ideas or help.
It is only in giving our best that teachers can possibly expect to bring out the best in our students. Be the best teacher you can be, and your rewards will come to you in the form of young hearts and young lives forever changed because of your influence. In the words of John Cotton Dana, "Who dares to teach must never cease to learn."

Kari C.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Perhaps a teacher's greatest allies in a school setting are your colleagues. Many of you may be blessed with having formal mentors; others will be assigned buddies, but all of you will have peers who are ready and willing to help you. They were in your shoes once, and like most of us, they remember vividly the first years of novice teaching. These professionals are the first line of assistance, support, and problem solving.
It is so important to be friendly to everyone in the building and resist getting pulled into cliques. Try to stay clear of any colleagues you identify as whiners, complainers, or gossips. Stay away from lounge conversation that is toxic not caring. There are wonderful opportunities on a staff for collegiality and even deep and lasting friendship.
Through this ongoing contact with your colleagues, find out who the experts are in various curriculum areas. Remember to not be shy and ask for help when needed. Veteran teachers will most likely be flattered if you ask for ideas or help.
It is only in giving our best that teachers can possibly expect to bring out the best in our students. Be the best teacher you can be, and your rewards will come to you in the form of young hearts and young lives forever changed because of your influence. In the words of John Cotton Dana, "Who dares to teach must never cease to learn

robert woods's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

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.
VIDEO: Teacher-Preparation Overview: A Survey of Top Programs
Running Time: 9 min.
Teacher Preparation

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.

penny's picture

dear leaders. why is teaching a very important profession?

AutismClassroom.com's picture

I agree that the Mentoring is critical. I work with several school at a time. Each year I try to hook up a new teacher with a teacher who is out side of their building and is running an effective autism classroom. My goal is to give them a chance to see other classrooms. Each of them already has a mentor in their school who may or may not teach children with autism. So I connect them with a teacher skilled at teaching kids with autism. They get to visit that teacher's classroom 2 times (at the beginning of the school year at the end of the school day) to view the set up and design of the room and to talk about planning etc. And, that teacher visits them 1 time to see their classroom. When this actually happens, it is great and I have seen new teachers become wonderful teachers. Sometimes, however, time constraints don't allow it to occur.

John Middleton's picture

Many changes need to be made to teacher prep programs. The most important one is to do away with the practice of taking coursework and student teaching at the same time. The University of Arizona does it right - a semester of coursework, then a semester of student teaching. That said, master teachers need to be screened effectively as well - it can't be about one's desire to have a period off.

NewScienceTeacher's picture
NewScienceTeacher
Eighth grade science teacher in Cobb County Georgia

As a recent graduate of a teacher education program, I agree that getting pre-service teachers in the classroom early should be an integral part of any program. The program that I just graduated from provided candidates with two years of in-class mentoring. These opportunities allowed for students to gradually get used to the responsibility of being on their own. It also allowed us to see how experienced teachers handle challenging classroom situations.
Now that I have graduate and gotten a job, I have been taken under the wing of another teacher. We are working together to plan lessons and she is giving me lots of insights into sound classroom practices. Having a "mentor" teacher has definitely made me feel less anxious about the upcoming year. I would urge any teacher who finds themselves in the position to help a new teacher to do so, it makes a world of difference.

Matthew's picture
Matthew
Technology Education Twin Cities MN

One thing that our school is going to be doing for staff development is a leadership activity this fall during out workshop week. We have contacted our local military camp and we are taking our entire high school teaching staff to the military training facility. we are going to spend the entire day at the camp, we will be working on the confidence course, we will also be working on leadership and team building. I think this is just what our building needs before the start of the school year. The best part is, it is free. The school only has to pay for busing to the location. We will see how it goes in a few weeks. But as a teacher knowing this, I have been excited for workshop week for a while now.

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