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From the Editor's Desk

The Importance of Professional Development

Nearly all teachers participate in professional development (PD), much of which is mandated by individual states and school districts. The purpose of PD is to enhance teacher knowledge and skills with the end result of positively impacting student achievement, provided the teacher applies information gleaned from the PD to the classroom (Yoon et al. 2007). However, the application of new knowledge cannot happen in a vacuum; PD is often ineffective when delivered in a one-day workshop that is often “intellectually superficial, disconnected from deep issues of curriculum and learning, fragmented, and noncumulative” (Ball and Cohen 1999, pp. 3–4).

Indeed, the evidence is mixed when evaluating the impact of PD on teacher practice and student learning (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine [NASEM] 2020). Given science educators’ desire to learn pedagogies specific to implementing the NGSS, coupled with our nation’s demographic changes, it is imperative that teachers have access to quality PD. According to the NASEM (2000), “well-designed, content-focused PD can achieve positive outcomes, especially when the PD helps teachers integrate new ideas or strategies with curriculum and when teachers engage with others in the same grade level, department, or school” (p. 154). Given the research, it makes sense that professional development is best conducted via opportunities to learn in the workplace though Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), instructional coaching, or any vehicle that focuses on improving student achievement through teacher practices.

Although PD is often viewed as an additional task to be completed, I encourage you to be open to learning and to advocate for quality PD. In doing so, you will have an opportunity to network and re-energize your teaching. PD can help you to improve your skills, your knowledge, and your effectiveness. The end result? A classroom where teaching is aligned to best practices and all students are supported in their learning.


Patty McGinnis is an instructional coach and veteran middle school teacher. You can contact her at pattymcginnis1@gmail.com or on Twitter: @patty_mcginnis.

References

Ball, D.L., and D.K. Cohen. 1999. Developing practices, developing practitioners: Toward a practice-based theory of professional development. In Teaching as the learning profession: Handbook of policy and practice, eds. G. Sykes and L. Darling-Hammond, 30–32. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). 2020. Changing expectations for the K–12 teacher workforce: Policies, preservice education, professional development, and the workplace. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Yoon, K.S., T. Duncan,  S.W.-Y. Lee, B. Scarloss, and K. Shapley. 2007. Reviewing the evidence on how teacher professional development affects student achievement (Issues & Answers Report, REL 2007–No. 033). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest. https://bit.ly/2Y4qDvF

Professional Learning old Teacher Preparation Middle School

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