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Better Classrooms through Professional Development

Janelle Cox

Why is teacher professional development important? Because it creates better classrooms. In fact, there’s a body of research that shows that professional development courses help teachers create and develop great students.

These courses provide teachers with the tools and methods that they need to deal with students in the classroom. Studies show that these courses are essential for improving teaching in ways that will impact how students learn.

In fact, research shows that it’s important to start at the beginning of a teacher’s career, when they are just starting out. Support for new teachers is often inadequate and teachers are left with little support. Studies show that nearly half of all teachers leave the profession within the first five years of starting out. Teacher mentoring and induction programs must be implemented within the first year to provide support.

A lot of time is spent on getting new teachers ready for the classroom. First there is learning the content and techniques, then teachers must go through their student teaching experience and develop the skills that they have learned. Once they graduate from college then they are more or less on their own. Most of the time, first-year teachers are connected to a mentor teacher, but after that their ongoing professional development seems to fall short. In order to stay on top of their career, they must continue their education thought professional development.

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Ongoing Professional Development

Support of veteran teachers as well as new teachers is incredibly important in sustaining great, knowledgeable teachers. Having teachers who stay on top of what’s current in education definitely influences the success of the students in the classroom. Students are more motivated and inspired when their teacher is well-informed, creative, imaginative, and makes learning fun.

Professional development will keep teachers abreast of what’s new in technology as well as their own subject matter. There are always new strategies to learn and new research on how students learn. Professional development courses allow for veteran teachers to learn from one another and find new ways to reach their students. It helps keep them up-to-date on emerging technology and new resources.

How Professional Development Creates Better Classrooms

Research shows that in order to create better classrooms (one that will impact students’ learning), professional development is essential in all schools.  Over the years, professional development has been used to cover workshops to help teachers understand specific components of what they are expected to teach. Teachers either get a day off from their classroom, or got to earn credit toward their master’s degree. But, studies are now showing that these brief sessions are producing little results within the school. Now, new professional development opportunities are being implemented. Here we will take a quick look at a few of the new opportunities that can help improve student learning.

Backed by Research

Today, schools want to make sure that the professional development courses they are expecting their teachers to take is backed by research. Administrators are looking closely at the data of the teaching strategies that they are implementing to make sure that they choosing the best approach for their students.

Is Ongoing

Since research shows that those one-shot professional development sessions weren’t cutting it, administrators are now setting up collaborative weekly or monthly sessions where teachers work together as a team. The goal is to work together to advance student achievement.

Must be Part of the System

Studies show that professional development can’t just be an add-on that happens a few times a year: It must be embedded into the system in order to get successful results. Teachers need the time throughout their school day to implement what they learn, and then reflect upon it. Formal training sessions, the correct materials, and time for collaboration, all must be inserted into the school day.

Led with Guidance

In order for professional development to be able to create better classrooms and improve student learning, teachers need to have guidance. District administrators, principals, and lead teachers need to provide firm guidance. In the past, teachers have been left with little to no guidance once a professional development course was over. Today, leaders are trying to change that in an effort to improve student learning. Leaders know now that it’s necessary to check in and provide the resources and time that it takes to implement any new strategies, techniques, or theories into the curriculum.

Ongoing professional development is the number one way that teachers can stay on top of their profession, and remain an effective teacher. In order for teachers to receive well-designed professional development, leaders must spread it out over a period of time. Above all, it’s important to remember that effective professional development includes collaboration, sustained learning and leadership, research-based information, and active knowledge.

What have you done to increase your professional skills? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. Other teachers will gain knowledge from your experiences.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators