Professional development is a vital part of any educator’s career. As a teacher, professional development helps you reflect on your teaching practices, build new skills, come up with different classroom strategies, and generally stay ahead of the curve.
Teachers can actively work to expand their knowledge by seeking and doing professional development. Luckily, abundant training and learning options exist. Let’s explore the concept of professional development for teachers, why investing in yourself is so important, and key professional development opportunities.
What is Professional Development?
Professional development (PD) is a necessary practice in almost every career field. Education is no exception. For educators, learning doesn’t stop after you earn a teaching degree and start a career at a school. In K-12 education, teachers in most states are required to complete some amount of professional development in order to renew their teaching license.
Professional development helps teachers take innovative approaches to school improvement. PD is a broad term that covers topics that include formative assessment, data-driven decision making, policy implications, leadership, community, educational technology, and teaching methodology.
Why Professional Development is Important for Teachers
Professional development helps ensure the best learning outcomes for students, which has to be the number one priority for any good classroom teacher. Here are six reasons why educators need to invest in professional development.
Be a better teacher
Clearly, you should become a better teacher if your professional development efforts actually work. But there are good reasons why teachers see an improvement in performance after doing extra education and training.
However good your original teaching degree was, it can’t prepare you for the challenges and complexities that you find on the job. A big advantage of professional development is that you can step aside from your role and reflect on how to tackle these real-life problems differently.
As well, you may be exposed to ideas and strategies that you would never have thought of if it weren’t for doing professional development.
Stay on top of education research
Academic researchers are constantly analyzing the current teaching methods and developing a better understanding of effective practices. Teachers have enough work on their plate already and understandably can’t be expected to read every newly published study. PD workshops are carefully designed by experts who have the time to review and study articles as they come out and share the important results.
Research in education has helped us better understand how students learn effectively. The shift from a traditional teacher-centered classroom to a student-centered classroom can be largely attributed to the work of educational theorist John Dewey who proposed children learn best in natural social settings.
Today’s educational research has sparked discussions on the importance of social-emotional learning and play-based learning in the 21st century.
Enjoy your teaching job more
Being a capable and confident teacher leads to higher job satisfaction (see, for example, Ortan et al). You approach the classroom with a positive mindset, manage students so as to create a harmonious classroom environment, and achieve more satisfying instruction outcomes.
Naturally, therefore, professional development improves job satisfaction. Teachers also report strong dissatisfaction when they feel they need professional development but lack opportunities to get it.
Adjust to changes in the education environment
Educators address a landscape of issues and unique needs when working with students. As our society continues to grow and change, so do the types of challenges educators face. For example, moving to a new district might mean an educator now has a number of English language learners to teach.
Teachers had to quickly adjust their instructional methods when the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close their doors, leaving many educators without proper resources for setting up an effective online classroom. Professional development has the power to address specific issues, collect information from experienced professionals, and offer solutions to teachers.
Adapt to policy changes in education
Educational policies make big impacts in schools. Regulations in school size, class size, school privatization, teacher qualifications, teacher salary, teaching methods, curricular content, school infrastructure, and graduation requirements are all influenced by educational policy.
This can be a lot to keep up with, especially for teachers who already have a tight schedule. PD workshops offer opportunities for educators to learn about the policies that are most influential in their classes. By learning about the educational policies that regulate their classes, teachers can make sure they are meeting the requirements of their state and school.
Connect with the teaching community
Professional development can be completed individually or as part of a group. Individual PD opportunities can be great for those with a busy schedule who want to complete training on their own time. But group PD opportunities offer a chance for educators to share their experiences and knowledge and connect with other professionals.
PD opportunities can bring you closer to your coworkers or connect you with educators around the globe. This allows educators to come together to share their valuable insights and support each other.
Professional Development Opportunities for Teachers
Professional development gives teachers a chance to be students again. Not only does PD help educators become experts in their field, but it also fosters the talents of teachers who aspire to be educational leaders and make an impact on student outcomes.
Ready to sharpen your skills and learn about powerful insights in the world of education? The good news is that professional development opportunities are highly accessible online, so it’s easy for anyone to get started even if their school doesn’t provide PD resources.
Educators should talk to their administration about required and optional PD opportunities. Most schools have required PD workshops for teachers, but your professional development journey doesn’t have to end there. Here are some great professional development opportunities teachers can access online.
The National Education Association (NEA) offers micro-credential certifications to educators and aspiring educators who want to develop specific competencies. Micro-credentials are earned via the completion of courses in a variety of topics.
Some of the topics you can earn micro-credentials in include: bully-free schools, using your voice to advocate for students, building effective teams, arts integration, assessment literacy, and technology integration.
Postgraduate education courses
Graduate certificates are common amongst educators. Some teachers also decide to earn their master’s degree during their first few years of teaching and others wait a few years before re-enrolling in school.
After you’ve graduated and landed a job at a school, going back to college might sound like the last thing you want to do. Luckily, flexible graduate certificate online courses are available. Earning a postgraduate qualification helps you explore topics more deeply, gain new knowledge about teaching methodology, and grow professionally.
The rise of technology being utilized in schools means that educators need to stay up to date on the latest in educational technology. Both Google and Microsoft offer software that can be highly beneficial to your classroom.
You can take classes and earn certificates from Google and Microsoft to demonstrate that you are technologically literate and understand how to use technology to your advantage in the classroom. You can even take your knowledge to the next level by becoming a Google Certified Trainer and working with other schools and educators to improve their EdTech utilization.
Online PD workshops
There are tons of free online professional development workshops available for teachers. PBS offers courses in planning and preparation, assessment and evaluation, effective instruction, learning environments, and disciplines.
Coursera is another site where you can get access to free training (most courses do charge a fee if you want to receive a certificate). Coursera partners with universities to make learning more accessible. With Coursera, you take courses like Supporting Children with Difficulties in Reading and Writing or Teaching Character and Creating Positive Classrooms, Basics of Inclusive Design for Online Learning, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and more!
Even exploring educational websites like Future Educators is a form of professional development! Every time you as an educator make a conscious effort to expand your knowledge about education, you are doing a huge service to your students.