Being a teacher means making a commitment to lifelong learning. With education being an ever-changing, ever-expanding field and with new developments happening often and new takes on old developments, professional development is a crucial part of achieving continued educational success and reaching teaching goals. Professional development references the process through which teachers receive ongoing training and exposure to new teaching tools, strategies, and resources to enhance their curriculum and classrooms. Workshops, small groups, and online and in-person trainings are just a few of the ways that teachers can partake in professional development.
Developing an Effective Teacher Professional Development Plan
Professional development starts with creating a professional development plan that helps ensure learning objectives are met. An effective professional development plan for teachers should factor in elements such as:
- Active learning: Hands-on and interactive trainings provide teachers with opportunities to directly engage in the types of learning activities they would be implementing in their classrooms. Active learning helps keep teachers engaged and allows for greater discernment and understanding of potential drawbacks and benefits.
- Skill development: Define the skills and knowledge necessary to understand any new teaching strategies or technology, and properly apply that knowledge within a classroom.
- Collaboration: Teachers should be able to exchange ideas and address barriers and challenges they encounter in their classroom. These opportunities create spaces for teachers to collaborate on problem-solving by allowing them to share individual and collective knowledge among themselves.
- Content-focused: Content-focused professional development is training that provides concrete solutions and information about specific teaching strategies, tools, or resources. Examples of content-focused professional development include: discussing a specific software program or mathematical technique, and training teachers on the most effective methods of instruction around these topics.
- Support and coaching: Involves direct communication with teachers about their individual support needs and sharing information to address teachers’ unique concerns.
Setting Goals for Professional Development
The other major piece in effective professional development planning is goal setting. Teachers should establish educational and professional objectives, taking into account the tools and resources necessary to achieve them. Examples of goals for professional development include:
- Technology integration: If utilizing and teaching technology usage is a struggle in your classroom, then professional development centered around technology integration would be ideal for you. Online research and training videos on YouTube can be effective tools to better understand new or challenging technological devices and programs.
- Burn-out prevention: They may not seem related, but tending to personal needs and self-care are important parts of teachers’ professional development. The best and most attentive teachers are those who remember to take care of themselves, stay revitalized, and share their energy with students in healthy, engaging ways. Daily actions like getting adequate rest, making time to relax, reading a book, etc. help keep teachers on track to meet professional development goals.
- Cultural immersion: Part of being a good teacher is creating safe classroom spaces for students. A classroom environment that fosters respect and acceptance of different cultures is a key part of creating these safe spaces. Researching history and norms of various cultures online and incorporating this information into curriculum is one approach. Reaching out to colleagues, parents, and families to invite them to share their cultural experiences is another, more personal approach.
- Making learning fun: Getting and keeping students engaged in their learning has been proven to significantly and positively impact their retention of knowledge. Small things like going outside for a change of scenery, making lessons more hands-on and interactive, and encouraging play can drastically improve morale for both teacher and students.
Keep in mind that professional development for teachers is not one-size-fits-all. Whatever your personal professional development goals are, you can get there by taking advantage of all available resources that work for you. Whether you find it easier to talk to colleagues, research online, invite commentary from students and families, attend workshops and in-person trainings, or take advantage of the variety of professional development grants available for teachers, always remember that professional development is about you reaching your teaching goals through the resources that best benefit you and your students.
Example of Professional Development Plan
When creating a professional development plan, teachers should be sure to include clear goals and realistic timelines for achieving these goals, as well as define standards and criteria to measure progress toward achieving them. Other things to keep in mind are tools, resources, and support needed to accomplish your professional development goals. All necessary components should be detailed in your professional development plan. The more detailed and structured your plan, the easier it is to track progress and maintain accountability to it. Teachers can create their own professional development plans from scratch or find a template of a professional development plan online.
Technology Professional Development Goals for Teachers
The overwhelming majority of teachers report feeling under-equipped to incorporate educational technology in their classrooms effectively. A recent study of 2,000 K-12 educators found that almost 80 percent of teachers felt professional development training was necessary to instill the knowledge and confidence necessary for them to effectively implement higher-level technology into their classrooms and curriculum. What is it worth to spend hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on technology equipment for students if schools continue to skimp on ensuring teachers receive the necessary training to properly teach them to use it? With educational technology making more frequent appearances in classrooms everyday, meaningful technology professional development for teachers is paramount to successful technology education for students.
Professional Development Grants for Teachers
Professional development is not only an important part of continued growth and success for educators, but it is also required that teachers partake in professional development trainings and opportunities. To facilitate teachers in completing their required professional development, there are a variety of grants ready to be accessed. These include foundation grants, Department of Education grants, and even international travel grants. Some examples of teacher professional development grants include:
- Grosvenor Teacher Fellowships From National Geographic: This grant is provided via National Geographic and Lindblad. About 25 K-12 geography teachers in the U.S and Canada are selected to go on global expeditions and participate in professional development activities.
- Funds for Teachers Fellowships: Funds for Teachers provides $5,000-$10,000 grants that enable U.S teachers to design their own custom professional development plans based on their own PD needs.
- NEA Foundation Learning and Leadership Grants: NEA Foundation grants are available for public school teachers to fund professional development experiences geared toward improving student achievement and curriculum.
McCarthey Dressman Teacher Development Grants: The McCarthey Dressman grants are awarded to individual teacher or small teams working in K-12 education to fund professional development projects intended to create long-term classroom improvements. This grand awards up to $10,000 annually for the first three years of the project.