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Professional Development Opportunities for K12

Educators
Emma Hengemuhle

Abstract: This paper explains the importance Problems with current professional
of professional development within the development methods
education system. Professional development The use of ineffective professional
opportunities create better teachers which development programs is one issue within
ultimately improves the education system as a American teaching practices. Current
whole. This paper also addresses the professional development in-service seminars
importance of conferences and in-service days and conferences are said to be ineffective
for teachers to successfully participate in because they do not consider how teachers
professional development opportunities, which learn (Borko, 2004). These days are about
in turn create a better classroom environment development for the teachers and if they are not
for their students and positively impacts their guided by how the teachers learn, they are
education career. ineffective. Professional development
opportunities challenge teachers to change their
Keywords: professional development, conferences, beliefs about education and characteristics
in-service days, teacher learning regarding how they teach, but do not give
concrete steps in how to make these changes
(Guskey, 2002). If solutions are not being
Introduction: What is professional provided for the problematic methods in a
development? teacher’s instructional practice, how can they be
Within the K12 education system, many expected to alter them to make their practices
teachers partake in staff development days, in- better? Professional development days are not
service days, or basic conferences to improve as effective as they can be because they are not
their teaching styles. These conferences are providing concrete knowledge and skill sets to
implemented within the school year in order to those who participate in them.
influence the education students receive, but Schools also struggle in providing high-
often, these days are ineffective for both quality experiences to their teachers during the
students and teachers. Students view these days professional development opportunities
as a simple vacation day, instead of something because they have a scarce amount of resources.
that could be influential to their education Funding for professional development is
careers, and teachers often view these days as a normally stretched across a wide group of
waste of time. Some focus on the time when teachers instead of focusing on a smaller group
they are able to go out to lunch and socialize (Garet et al, 2001). With the low levels of
with their colleagues or when the conference is funding, teachers often participate in in-service
over, instead of focusing on the professional days that are short and are thought of as a
development opportunity before them. Despite waste of time. The educators do not learn
these tainted opinions, professional anything substantial to implement within their
development is utilized to positively influence classrooms. This is due to the fact that during
the classroom environment and the these professional development sessions
performance of the teacher (Borko, 2004; Garet teachers are instructed on one particular subject
et al, 2001; Guskey, 2002; Yoon et al, 2007). By for that specific day and then it is tossed aside
going through professional development and never touched on again. This is problematic
workshops, teachers improve their knowledge because a teacher cannot fully implement
in both their specific subject areas and their something into their classroom if they do not
general instructional practices within the understand the basics of it.
classroom (Borko, 2004). Ultimately schools are only as good as the
teachers and administrators within them
(Guskey, 2002). With this in mind, professional education system. Teacher learning is how
development should be of a higher importance teachers gain knowledge through participation
within the education system in order for in the process of becoming a teacher and
schools to stand to their highest potential. furthering their skills. Participation is crucial
within professional development seminars
Importance of Professional Development because it enables teachers to learn practices
Opportunities that impact their classroom and better student
Professional development opportunities are learning.
extremely influential in the growth of a teacher Teachers need to understand their content
because they engage teachers in an experience area deeply so they can understand which
that impacts their perception of their students need to learn new information, what
instructional practices (Guskey, 2002). These they currently know, and what they retain. In
opportunities are crucial because they allow order to sustain this method of teaching,
teachers to expand their boundaries within the teachers need to stay up to date with theories
classroom and allow them to connect with other and other information related to the subject that
teachers just like themselves (Borko, 2004). With they teacher. This will allow them to provide
this, there can be an effective flow of productive experiences to their students.
information, strategies, and techniques that are However, in obtaining the new methods and
shared within the seminar. All teachers benefit information, teachers also must personally go
from the process because it allows new ideas to through conferences in order for them to
be explored and discovered. understand how to connect their teachings with
These opportunities also lead teachers to their students through things such as culture,
effective reforms within their school districts style of learning, and family life (Darling-
and education systems. But, in doing this, they Hammond, 2008).
must band together and utilize the knowledge Teachers need to know and learn more than
that their colleagues and students offer (Garet, just how to teach their content to their students.
2001). These reforms can stem from the They should be knowledgeable in their
collaborative sharing within a seminar, personal practices because some of them may
experimental tactics that are discovered, not be as effective as they think. If a teacher is
sustaining intensive and beneficial practice able to analyze and reflect upon their teaching
methods, and connecting with others who wish techniques, then they are able to use their
to change for the better (Darling-Hammond, findings to their advantage and improve the
2008). instructional practices they are utilizing. This
It is proven that teachers in all subject areas practice is something that teachers must learn
have benefited from professional development to implement within class regularly to evaluate
seminars (Yoon, 2007). These workshops and understand the true effects it has upon
improve subject teaching within specific their students and within their classroom
classrooms. It also reinforces the importance of (Darling-Hammond, 2008).
teachers to meet with their colleagues to gain
more knowledge to provide to their students Improvements
specific content. These new experiences will Several changes need to be made to make
exercise the students’ minds and will give professional development opportunities
teachers a new level of satisfaction regarding worthwhile for the teachers that partake in
their techniques. Collective participation of all them.
teachers in professional development The structure of these seminars needs to be
conferences provides the best outcomes. If changed to make them more effective.
teachers can change their methods together, Normally, professional development days are
their schools are impacted with better educated one short day filled with information that is
teachers, better teaching methods, and better never returned to. However, in order to
classroom environments for students. maximize the benefits, professional
development days should be an intensive
Teacher Learning learning process that lasts for a significant time
Understanding the concept of teacher period, meaning the conferences should be
learning is the first step to making professional made up of several ours of extensive work
development more successful within the (Garet, 2001). This would allow educators to
discuss the positive and negative aspects within system (Darling-Hammond, 2008; Garet, 2001).
their classrooms, how to improve their Teachers who learn together can change
instructional practices, and to share or discover together and then they are able to implement
information regarding their knowledge of the the change into their classrooms.
field.
Within the seminars, there should be The Benefits for Students
hands-on opportunities in order to maximize Professional development opportunities for
the ability for the teachers to understand the teachers indirectly lead to more successful
new techniques that they are encouraged to students. This is not only due to the fact that
implement within their classrooms (Garet, teachers feel more confident with their
2001). This will allow the teachers to truly practices, but also because the teachers will
understand how their teachings affect their implement new, challenging material within
students and what potentially needs to be their curriculum (Darling-Hammond, 2008).
changed to improve its effectiveness. Students are only as successful as their school
To make the new techniques more effective district allows them to be. If a teacher is
within their classrooms, teachers need to share continuously learning, it reinforces that
and incorporate the skills they gain daily when students should also be continuously learning
working with their students (Garet, 2001). The new things that influence their path to success.
importance of this within professional
development is that this information is References
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A new aspect that could be beneficial in Garet, M. S., Porter, A. C., Desimone, L.,
professional development days is allowing Birman, B. F., & Yoon, K. S. (2001).
teachers to engage in researching their own What makes professional development
questions, such as how to improve their effective? Results from a national
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understand how their teaching affects their Guskey, T. R. (2002). Professional development
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of needs they are faced with and more Yoon, K. S., Duncan, T., Lee, S. W. Y., Scarloss,
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in specific situations (Darling-Hammond, 2008). the Evidence on How Teacher
Teachers should still be learning as they Professional Development Affects
teach and it is necessary to discuss the Student Achievement. Issues &
information obtained to get new outlooks and Answers. REL 2007-No. 033.Regional
new practices that could allow students to excel Educational Laboratory Southwest (NJ1).
in different content areas. Schools need to allow
their teachers to participate in high-quality
professional development experiences in order
to maximize the efficiency of their education