In industries like medicine, law or information technology, continued professional development (PD) is an important job responsibility, as these professionals must ensure they’re keeping up with relevant and effective practices. The same is true for education.
Educators and researchers learn more about the needs and behaviors of students all the time. School leaders, such as those with advanced degrees in educational leadership, pass along these lessons and information to continue honing their teachers’ skills and growing their knowledge base.
Why Does Professional Development for Educators Matter?
PD is critical in education because our understanding of students constantly evolves. The better educators understand the different facets of how students operate, the better they can accommodate those students. Additionally, the technologies that educators use in the classroom change, and this has been particularly true during the 21st century.
The possibilities and capabilities offered by digital technology evolve rapidly, and educators must be aware of these changes and practice with these tools to utilize them to their fullest extent in the classroom. Professional development offers a space for teachers to learn about and harness these new ideas.
Student-Centered Professional Development
Ultimately, PD is about serving the students. Teachers further their own learning to improve their lessons and reach learners more effectively. And educators are constantly learning more about young people and their learning processes.
For instance, educators’ use of “trauma-informed pedagogy and social-emotional learning” has grown immensely in recent years, and those approaches are essential for relating to certain students, as the National Education Association (NEA) points out. Without PD to assist teachers in understanding these ideas and practicing techniques, many teachers would be ill-equipped to help students affected by these factors.
Sometimes PD can be more contextual, although still necessary. Learning about notable changes to government policies or district statutes that could affect schooling is essential for teachers to operate correctly. The NEA also emphasizes the importance of understanding the “changing landscape of issues and needs that educators must address in working with students, families, and communities,” such as an influx of English Language Learning (ELL) students.
Regular Professional Development Sessions Embedded in Jobs
The education training resource New Leaders offers some best practices for creating professional development structures that develop strong educators. Turning theory into effective practice is the goal of any training effort.
By having a consistent PD schedule that is part of the work, educators can apply what they’ve learned through “incremental, repetitive, and targeted practice.” This helps educators immediately utilize what they’ve learned and builds the habit of using and improving new methods.
Opportunities for Professional Learning Communities
Teachers should have a chance to form smaller learning communities with colleagues. In these groups, they can inquire about and assess the effectiveness of new strategies, sharing input and experience with colleagues to learn from one another. This format also offers a safe space away from administrators where teachers can share more openly. Encouraging this type of forum allows teachers to engage peers.
How Can Principals and School Leaders Support Best Outcomes?
Principals have the power to shape the PD climate of their schools. One of the best ways they can support effective PD is by inserting themselves from square one in the planning process. When school leaders have firsthand knowledge of strengths, needs and goings-on, they have a direct method to assess PD structure and demonstrate their investment in PD goals to staff. Edutopia suggests gathering data to inform PD sessions by using “classroom observations, instructional rounds, and feedback from teachers, coaches, and students.”
Modeling appropriate dispositions and processes also sets an easy example for teachers to follow. When principals “ask questions, try new strategies, and adjust when things do not go as planned,” they are modeling the type of approach that they hope teachers will emulate in the classroom.
Through the online Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Educational Leadership program from the University of Louisiana Monroe, graduates will gain valuable tools to create responsive, relevant PD processes that improve teachers’ capabilities and student outcomes. Coursework such as Teacher Leader II: Improving School Performance provides a deep look into leadership practice in many different school settings, from school culture to relationship building to decision-making techniques and more.
Learn more about the University of Louisiana Monroe’s online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program.