Dec 16

Six Essential Professional Development Topics for Teachers

A natural curiosity and lifelong love of learning will serve you well when exploring new teacher training ideas and professional development to improve your students’ learning outcomes. Ongoing self-improvement keeps you updated on recent research, strategies, best practices, and emerging teaching industry trends. It connects you with like-minded peers, makes your job easier, and helps advance your career. This post suggests six popular professional development topics for teachers to increase their impact on students’ lives. 

Strengthen Engagement

Student engagement is one of the most important predictors and gauges of student success, with studies and research showing engaged students receive higher grades and are more motivated to learn. A Gallup study found engaged students are 4.5 times more likely to feel hopeful about the future than their disengaged peers—highlighting the profound effect learning engagement can have beyond the classroom.

Getting students interested in new or different ways can engage them more as learners. At any grade level, allowing students to confer with a partner can increase response rates and encourage engagement in their learning. Ask students to talk in pairs about their answers to a question and call on each team to share one or both of their answers. Experiment by pairing students with higher and lower background knowledge or randomly assigning different partners each time.

Build Relationships

It’s beneficial to get to know your students as individuals. American Psychological Association research shows students who establish strong bonds with teachers perform better than those whose relationships involve conflict. Another study found long-term health benefits for teachers and students resulting from positive student-teacher relationships.

Stay current on school events and any developments affecting or involving your students through district, school, grade, or department publications. This is an easy way to find out about your students’ accomplishments so that you can celebrate them. Whether you call them out in your class communications or one-on-one, you can build relationships by showing interest in their lives outside your classroom.

Establish Rules and Procedures

According to Vanderbilt’s Iris Center case study, Establishing classroom norms & expectations, “Teaching rules and procedures to students at the beginning of the year and enforcing them consistently across time increases student academic achievement and task engagement.” 

Using posters and symbols creates a quick visual reminder for students of rules, procedures, and character traits appropriate for the classroom. These visuals act as decoration and provide an additional way to communicate classroom expectations so that students not only hear the rules but also see them.

Set Learning Goals

In a white paper by the Midwest Comprehensive Center at American Institutes for Research, student goal setting is associated with deeper learning. The authors contend that student goal setting is a worthy evidence-based practice producing positive outcomes for students across academic abilities, from advanced students to those with identified learning disabilities.

To encourage students to improve progressively, help them identify and set learning goals, then begin regularly tracking and charting student progress over the semester or subject unit. You could have students set a goal relative to a specific scale at the beginning of a unit or grading period and then track their scores on that scale. At the end of the unit or grading period, the teacher assigns a final, or summative, score to the student based on the scale. 

Design Quality Assessments

In its comprehensive Assessing Student Learning guide, the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching argues student assessment is the centerpiece of the teaching and learning process. Teachers use assessments throughout units to determine how well students are grasping lessons. If some students are having more difficulty, the teacher may give them individualized attention. And if the entire class is ahead or behind, the teacher can make adjustments to keep on track with learning objectives.

Whether informal or formal, assessment methods abound outside the standard test and quiz. One assessment tool that works across grade levels and subjects is to have students give short presentations to you or the class. Unlike a multiple-choice quiz or test based on information recall, a presentation requires students to demonstrate what they have learned and will help you identify their level of understanding. 

Direct Instruction

How students are taught can be just as important as what they’re taught when it comes to how well they absorb, retain, and can apply new information. Project Follow Through, a landmark study sponsored by the federal government involving more than 200,000 children and 22 different teaching models, found direct instruction practices produced the best student results in areas of basic academic skills, problem-solving skills, and self-esteem. 

Direct instruction works best when teachers present the information they want students to learn and then provide specific steps to help them process and recall what they’re learning. One direct instruction strategy to help students understand new information involves posing questions or short activities after incremental lesson chunks and allowing them time to process, discuss, and interact with what they’ve just learned among themselves.

Within small groups, students at different levels can help classmates make sense of specific points of a concept before moving on. Using the processing time to mull over information and find meaning or value themselves as they use and engage with it, as opposed to just hearing it, is a significant benefit for students and teachers alike. During this processing time, it’s important to move about the room to seek out any concerns or needs for more instruction to ensure students are heading in the right direction. 

Explore training topics for teachers with Avanti

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