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Investment in PD is an investment in your students

By Sam Di Sano on 15 October 2018NSWstaffroomLeadership

Professional development is an important way for teachers to refresh and deepen their own knowledge of their subject area and learn new ways to help students learn. We all get that, but it doesn’t end there. It is just as likely that the more professional development teachers get, the more likely their students are to succeed.

Researchers in the US investigating the effect of continuing education for teachers on students’ problem-solving and reasoning capacities found that professional development programs for teachers also significantly improved student performance. The researchers found that students performed better with the teachers who gained a deeper understanding of how they learn.

The importance of supporting teachers

One area universally acknowledged as requiring greater investment is professional development for teachers. Teachers should always be upgrading their thinking and their ideas and it is imperative that schools and systems prioritise the importance of enabling teachers to keep up-to-date with all that is happening around the world and in their profession.

Teacher development has moved beyond simple in-service workshops and has expanded into a more robust process of continuing education for professionals. In order to career advance, teachers need to seek out professional development opportunities which are ongoing and aligned with standards and assessments, which is actually a good thing.

The Grattan Institute report of November 2017 indicated, rather alarmingly, that as many as 40% of teachers still say they have never had the chance to watch colleagues and learn from how they engage students in class.  

If the current debates on education can offer some solution to falling student engagement and rising teacher stress, this has to be an area of priority. Undoubtedly the most effective source of help is other teachers. The more opportunity there is to interact professionally and the greater the investment in teacher knowledge and skills, the better the prospects for student improvement.  

PD happens in many ways

Formally it can take place at a workshop, seminar, meeting, or conference. Informally it can occur through conversations, readings, observations or feedback. The best approaches are for PD to be school-based; ongoing; innovative, collaborative and reflective.

In light of the NESA obligations, the challenge for 21st century educators is to move willingly toward PD rather than be dragged kicking and screaming to it because of mandatory requirements.

Academically high-achieving countries (Finland, Japan, Canada) give their teachers on average about 100 hours of yearly professional development time, and between 15 to 20 hours a week of time to collaborate with and learn from their colleagues. The average American teacher receives about 44 hours of professional development time a year. NESA is asking us for 100 hours over five years. Realistically, we probably need to devote more time to professional development and collaborative teaching, but this is a good start.

Teacher-induction programs

Support specifically for beginning teachers is often uneven and inadequate. Even if well prepared, new teachers can often be assigned to the most challenging circumstances. Given nearly half of all teachers leave the profession in their first five years, much more attention must be paid to providing them with early and adequate support.

Mentoring and coaching from experienced colleagues are just as critical to the successful development of a new teacher. Great induction programs create opportunities for new teachers to learn from best practices and analyse and reflect on their own teaching.

Listing your professional development workshops, training seminars, and events attended in say the last three years on your resume is an increasingly accepted expectation. Potential employers will find value in knowing what energises and inspires you and what you have attended to benefit your students’ learning.

PD is important to energise educators

PD introduces educators to new ideas, new teaching methods, structures, tools and technology designed to benefit us every day in the classroom. Professional Development should energise and excite educators about their teaching. After attending a PD event, educators should be excited to take what they learned and be eager to apply it.

What has been your experience?

Can you nominate recent PD you have attended that has genuinely energised you?

What were the reasons it worked so well for you? I’d love to get some feedback on what has worked and share it with others. And if you are interested in some new and innovative PD for your school, get in touch to receive some information about our PD sessions.

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