What is Teaching Professional Development?

Dan Cavallari

In most U.S. states, secondary and primary level teachers must complete teaching professional development, which is any activity approved by the school or school district that advances a teacher's knowledge and understanding of the teaching profession. Teaching professional development can include taking relevant classes, developing curriculum, participating in school-wide plans, and a variety of other activities that will keep the teacher up to date and knowledgeable of their craft. Monetary compensation can sometimes accompany professional development activities, though it is certainly not guaranteed.

Teacher professional development may include courses on effective lesson planning.
Teacher professional development may include courses on effective lesson planning.

When participating in teaching professional development, a teacher must first develop professional development plans. This is usually done with the assistance of a principal or other administrator. The teacher and administrator will collaborate to determine any deficiencies in the teacher's training, any areas for improvement, or any projects that can be completed to benefit both the teacher and the school. Upon completion of all teaching professional development items, the teacher, in many cases, earns a stipend. The value of this stipend varies depending on district, state, and federal funding available to a particular school.

Some instances of teaching professional development are courses and activities designed and implemented by a school or district for all of its employees rather than as an item on an individual teacher's professional development plans. In such cases, a stipend may or may not apply, and a teacher may or may not be required to attend. Such workshops may include team-building activities, courses or seminars dealing with that school's student demographics, state testing, classroom management training, and so forth.

In many states, a teacher must complete teaching professional development to keep their certification current and valid. Requirements vary from state to state, and some professional development activities may grant teachers college credit upon completion of a course or training session. Examples of such teaching professional development activities may include college courses on special education or teaching impoverished students, courses on developing curriculum, courses on effective lesson planning, classroom management seminars, training for administrative positions, and state certification testing. Working toward certification in any subject area is also generally considered a valid professional development activity, and some teachers may begin teaching without full certification--thereby affording them the opportunity to work toward certification as they teach.

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Obtaining specialized certificates may also count as professional development activities. For example, working toward an English as a Second Language certificate could benefit a teacher and a school in an urban setting where non-native speakers are common, and therefore may be considered a valid professional development activity.

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