Sep 20

What is Professional Development in Education?

No matter how long you’ve been teaching, all educators can benefit from professional development. Professional development not only supports your own personal and professional growth as an educator, but it also helps boost student success. Professional development can cover numerous topics and come in many different formal and informal activities. This guide will answer, “what is professional development in education?” and what it looks like for teachers, why it matters, and how you might incorporate a professional development plan into your life. 

What is Professional Development in Teaching, and Why is Professional Development Important for Teachers?

Professional development is any activity that helps you expand your knowledge, grow your skill set, or advance your career goals as a teacher. Professional development might include state-mandated continuing education hours required to maintain licensure as a teacher. Moreover, it can also include self-directed learning and exploration of topics that are relevant to your classroom. Ultimately, professional development is an investment in yourself and your students.

There are many benefits associated with professional learning, including the following:

Continuing education requirements – Professional development activities can help satisfy your state’s continuing education requirements. These might include workshops, seminars, training sessions, educational courses, and more. The number of continuing education hours required for teachers varies by state. 

Becoming a more effective teacher – Among the top reasons for engaging in professional development is the opportunity to become an even more effective teacher. Learning doesn’t stop once you’ve earned a degree; it is a lifelong process. You must be willing to grow to bring your best self to the classroom every day. Professional development offers opportunities to improve your instruction and classroom management skills. 

Best practices evolve – One of the most exciting things about working in education is that the field is always changing. Researchers are constantly discovering new information about how we learn. That means that “best practices” from 20 or 10, or even two years ago, may now be obsolete. For example, professional development for teachers in the new normal, (post-COVID), looks different. Professional development is a great way to learn about the latest research and trends in the industry.  

Student outcomes – Improving as a teacher and expanding your skill set can directly impact your students’ success. Research has shown that students whose teachers participated in ongoing professional development experience up to a 21% increase in achievement. 

Support student success in a changing world – Teachers are tasked with preparing students for a rapidly changing world. At the same time, social and economic shifts and changing demographics mean students’ needs in the classroom change too. Professional development can help teachers adapt to these changes and better serve their students. 

Empathy with students – It’s been said that students sometimes make the best teachers. By taking on the role of a student, teachers increase their empathy for students. They remember what it’s like to be new at something or experience the challenge of synthesizing new information with old knowledge. That kind of empathy can help teachers provide their students with the necessary scaffolding and support. When teachers adopt a growth mindset and take on the learner role, they can also model effective learning behaviors and strategies for their students. 

Career advancement and job satisfaction – No one wants to feel stagnant in their career. Even if you don’t wish to take on a new position, engaging in continuous professional development can introduce new challenges and fresh ideas to your career. Across all industries, one of the biggest sources of job satisfaction is the ability to grow. If you aspire to get promoted or serve in a leadership role in your school or community, professional development is a great tool to help you get there. Making a professional development plan can help you learn new skills, make new connections, and take steps toward achieving long-term goals. 

Networking/collaborating opportunities – Formal professional development activities like seminars, conferences, and group workshops allow you to connect with fellow teachers. Even informal professional learning activities can help you start conversations with your peers, leading to stronger connections and a better support network.

Professional Development Topics for Teachers 2022

Professional development isn’t one size fits all. You can tailor your professional development to your personal goals and find professional development resources on the topics that matter most to you and your student population. Some areas you might wish to learn more about via various types of professional development activities include:

  • Pedagogy and teaching techniques
  • Classroom management
  • Student engagement
  • Specific subject area content
  • Educational technologies
  • Social-emotional learning
  • Trauma-informed pedagogy
  • Active learning
  • Introverted learners
  • Special education and neurodiverse learners
  • Educational leadership and administration
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion, or how to create a more inclusive classroom
  • Assessment and grading methods
  • Creating effective assignments

Types of Professional Development Activities for Teachers

There are numerous professional development activities outside of school or district-sponsored PD, so choose whatever works best for your lifestyle. 

Conferences and seminars can be great places to hear from leaders in the education industry and connect with peers from around the country. Specialized training and workshops are a good way to delve deep into a specific topic or set of tools and learn how to apply them to your classroom. Self-directed professional development is a great way to take your development plan into your own hands. With online courses, videos, and resources, you can do your professional development whenever and wherever works best for you. 

Avanti’s library of on-demand video resources provides evidence-based insights on various education-related topics. Made specifically for and by teachers, Avanti’s professional development materials are backed by research and rooted in real-life experience. Choose from hundreds of videos that address special topics, classroom challenges, skill sets, different grade levels, pedagogical theories, and more to help you reach your professional goals. Videos are short (five minutes or less), so you can fit professional development into your busy schedule better. You can also download supplemental materials to help you start putting new knowledge into action. Plus, our teacher training materials count toward mandatory continuing education hours (check with your state/local requirements to be sure).

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