“Teachers today are under growing pressure to perform. But most new teachers are not adequately prepared to meet the needs of their students, and many experienced teachers have yet to adapt to new standards. Just like practitioners in other professions, teachers need to deepen their knowledge and improve their skills over the course of their careers” –Public Education Network (2004)
Teacher Professional Development (TPD) refers to the continual support and training that a teacher receives in order to be an effective and highly qualified teacher. Attending University to study teacher education, taking and passing the praxis and then successfully obtaining a state educators license is not the end. It is the beginning of teacher development.
There are three common models of TPD (Gaible,Burns, 2005):
- In speaking with teachers at the middle school I work at, this mode of learning is often very ineffective. Standardized TPD has many flaws in the attempt to save money by sending an ‘elite’ few to a conference or training in the hopes that they will effectively train their colleagues in that subject.
- Often times, the information brought back to teachers is unfocused, biased towards subjects other than their own and has no connection between what is learned and how it should be used.
- This standardized way of disseminating information is often done via staff meetings. This is problematic in many ways: attitudes towards staff meetings is low, and the amount of time to pass a large amount of information to a large number of teachers is too little (How does one effectively teach 6 hours of content into 15 minutes?)
- This model is effective. At the same middle school, Site-based TPD allows teachers to collaborate on a more personal level. This can be done on different levels: 4C (Conglomeration built from 4 Counties that produces vocational electives for High School students)>District>Departments>Schools>Teams.
- The team level is made up of core teachers and a special education teacher. This team environment can enforce prior knowledge and constantly introduce new ideas to both new and veteran teachers. This small community of 5-6 people allow for teachers to build each other, create a more intimate learning environment through collaboration and mentoring, and more importantly discuss state and district wide changes.
- With little structure or support, teachers have to dedicated to pursue personal studies. This can include finding and attending educational/professional conferences on their own time and using their own money. However, self-directed TPD can be as simple as reading articles on the internet, watching YouTube videos on a given subject, or even talking to a colleague.
- Most teachers who I work with agree that this model is effective due to the fact that professional development can be done in one’s own time (with little to no disruption to the classroom) and that it can be focused on topics that the teacher struggles with or needs further strengthening.
Three needs that teachers in the school district I work in currently have are: improving classroom management skills, learning how to utilize the SmartBoard in lesson plans, and how to teach a diverse population (how to give the same lesson that fits multiple needs). I believe that all three issues can be addressed through each model listed above. However, the way that the TPD models are set up, surely if a teacher was to set some time aside to study the materials (on classroom management for example) then attending a conference on the same subject then that teacher would have benefited through self-directed and standardized TPD thus reinforcing the content and creating a stronger and highly qualified teacher. The issue then would be if the teacher has learned through hands on means to ensure that the teacher has learned by doing rather than by listening. (Gaible,Burns, 2005)
Teachers often complain about the lack of development they are offered that allows them to specifically focus on regional issues rather than generic information learned in undergraduate work. They feel that due to budget cuts in the last two years TPD is unrealistic and seemed to have fallen by the way side. The biggest changes in the state of Indiana (where I currently reside) have been the loss of the mentoring program that placed newer teachers with veteran teachers to help them assimilate into the profession. Another issue has been the loss of 1/2 day teacher training that was set aside for TPD. With this loss, teachers have automatically switched to a more hybrid model composed of both site-based and self-directed teacher development to try to progress in an ever-changing profession, especially when it comes to integrating any type of technology into the classroom.
* Thank you to my colleagues whom gave their time and knowledge freely to discuss these important issues relating to TPD.
Gaible, E., & Burns, M. (2005). Models and best practices in teacher professional development. In Using technology to train teachers: Appropriates uses of ICT for teacher professional development in developing countries (pp. 15-24). Washington, DC: infoDev/World Bank. Retrieved from http://www.infodev.org/en/Publication.294.html
Teacher professional development: A primer for parents and community members (2004). Retrieved from: http://www.publiceducation.org/pdf/publications/teacher_quality/teacher_prof_dev.pdf