Education today is innovative. Driven by research into effective new methods and adaptive and collaborative technologies, teachers can now instruct students from diverse backgrounds and ability levels. However, integrating innovation requires professional development for teachers, and this development must be a requirement to receive federal and state funding.
For instance, the California Department of Education (CDE) has made professional development a key part of the California State Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators. In accordance with the focus of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), this plan emphasizes the need to recruit, train, develop and retain highly qualified teachers (HQT), especially in traditionally underserved populations.
By earning an online Master of Arts in Educational Administration degree, teachers can gain expertise in both innovative teaching methods and effective professional development.
What Is Professional Development for Teachers?
Professional development for teachers — or professional learning — is an important step in improving teaching quality. Lois Brown Easton, author of From Professional Development to Professional Learning, puts it this way:
“It is clearer today than ever that educators need to learn, and that’s why professional learning has replaced professional development. Developing is not enough. Educators must be knowledgeable and wise. They must know enough in order to change. They must change in order to get different results. They must become learners, and they must be self-developing.”
Teachers Need More Training
Educators simply cannot integrate new instructional methods or improve old ones without the time and training to do so. They also need the desire and motivation that create real learning. Teacher education has traditionally struggled with underfunding and uneven credential requirements and development opportunities.
In Greatness by Design: Supporting Outstanding Teaching to Sustain a Golden State, California’s Task Force on Educator Excellence (TFEE) maintains that the highest-achieving countries in the world emphasize both “universal high-quality education” and “ongoing professional learning.” However, in the United States, many cannot afford a high-quality teacher education and rarely have the opportunity to develop their abilities beyond the bare minimum for state certification.
Breaking the Underperformance Cycle
These undereducated teachers end up disproportionately in underserved school systems, where they perpetuate low-quality education. Clearly, professional development for teachers is a key part of reversing this trend, and it should be an important focus of today’s educational administrators.
Educational administrators oversee the development and implementation of professional development programs that align with local, state and national standards. This requires administrators to stay abreast of current research and trends in educational methods â€” as well as appropriate training models for teachers.
However, since teachers often know the best ways they can improve, administrators should regularly evaluate teacher performance and encourage self-reflection — as well as invite suggestions for professional development content.
What Kind of Professional Development Do Teachers Need?
Administrators should find out what sorts of continued learning would benefit teachers in both their specific content areas as well as education more generally. Through evaluation, self-reflection and feedback, many teachers can pinpoint specific aspects of their instruction or classroom design that they would like to improve. These could include anything from learning how to improve real-world application of mathematical concepts to successfully engaging English language learners in group projects.
Teachers Learning Together
School-wide professional development for teachers can also be very effective, especially programs addressing the integration of new teaching methods and technologies. For example, if a school is transitioning to technologically advanced, collaborative classrooms, the entire teaching staff needs to understand the underlying concepts and how to use collaborative technologies.
How do educational administrators find funding for professional development for teachers? In accordance with the regulations and requirements of the ESSA, the U.S. Department of Education delegates certain grants and teacher improvement funding to states. Some states, in turn, believe that local systems have a better understanding of their constituents’ needs. California, for example, gives substantial autonomy to local education agencies (LEAs) to determine the allocation of these funds.
Therefore, educational administrators are in the unique position of advocating for funding for their teachers’ continued learning as well as influencing where that funding goes — whether that means scholarships for teachers to attend conferences or for the development of school-wide training programs.
Professional development for teachers is integral to high-quality teaching. Future administrators need to understand different types of professional development and how each creates different teacher learning outcomes. Students in a master’s degree in educational administration program will study this aspect of school administration in depth: both what teachers should be learning and how to ensure high-quality student learning.
Learn more about the CSUSM online MA in Education, Educational Administration program.
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