A good teacher is any school’s greatest asset. They are high in demand and rare in supply. The best investment any school can make for its students is to recruit the best, most talented teachers, because good teachers inspire and motivate good students.
But even the best teachers will agree that given the highly demanding and ever-changing school environment, professional development (PD) is what keeps them at the top of their game. To stay current and remain abreast with the most up-to-date information, a thirst for constant learning is key.
Research suggests that there is a direct link between PD, teaching practice and student performance. For teachers who love learning remain intellectually alive and inspire their students to love learning as well.
4 ways PD helps good teachers become great
- Helps teachers deepen and go beyond their subject area knowledge – PD facilitates teachers to discover new ways to engage students by including the latest advancements in teaching practice and assessment.
- Helps teachers update their knowledge – PD allows a teacher to refine their skills, attitudes and teaching approaches and remain up-to-date with the recent advances and techniques in their subject area.
- Helps teachers improve student performance – PD encourages teachers to constantly find effective methods of teaching. When teachers are armed with the latest information they can help every student learn and develop the skill set they need to thrive in a global workplace. PD also helps teachers better assess their students in terms of where they are in the learning process. This assessment process gives teachers a better insight on how to remodel their teaching methodology to improve student outcomes.
- Helps create a collaborative environment – PD through professional learning communities creates a common ground for same grade or same subject teachers to come together, share and brainstorm ideas and common questions. This casual exchange of ideas and strategies keeps everyone on the same page of continuous learning.
We all understand that PD is what gives teachers the opportunities to keep up with new practices and skills that are important for classroom and student growth. Yet far too many schools use traditional PD formats that look good on paper but aren’t necessarily workable as teachers are treated as passive learners. The question therefore is what makes professional development effective. Because it is only effective PD that genuinely impacts teaching and student learning.
We discovered that effective PD includes the following elements:
- Content based – PD that intentionally focuses on curriculum based teaching strategy is far more effective in supporting teaching practice in classroom.
- Ongoing and sustainable – ongoing and continuous PD is crucial for teachers to master and implement a new teaching strategy within a classroom. Research points out that it takes a teacher about 50 hours of practice, coaching and instruction to gain expertise on a new teaching strategy.
- Reflective – an effective PD program engages teachers in concrete tasks including feedback and reflection. Teachers should be given ample time to think about the changing teaching practices and give their inputs and feedback before implementation.
- Addresses the needs of the teacher – while learning a new skill or implementing a new strategy, teachers need support in terms of practice. Depending upon the complexity of a skill, a teacher would need anywhere up to 20 practice sessions before they can effectively change a teaching practice in a classroom.
- Offers active learning – an effective PD engages teachers directly in the design and implementation of learning strategies. Through active learning, which includes role plays, live modelling, open-ended discussions, and classroom visits, teachers receive a first hand experience of the same style of learning that they are creating for their students.
At the end of the day, every school or teacher aspires for the same thing for their students – to make them meet their full potential. Yet a lot of teachers lack the basic training to make real changes in the classroom. Ongoing PD is at the core of providing quality education. The more a teacher is exposed to PD, the better they become. After all, the definition of a great teacher has significantly changed over the past decade. Today we remember those teachers who are not only good at making their students learn but are passionate life-long learners themselves.