The importance of teachers continuous professional development
Four elements needed for success
Teachers are being challenged to transform educational outcomes, often under difficult conditions, says Andreas Schleicher of the OECD in a recent article for Huffington Post
No matter how good the pre-service education for teachers is, it cannot be expected to prepare teachers for all the challenges they will face throughout their careers.
All this underlines the need, Schleicher says, to better support and encourage teacher participation in continued professional development and to ensure that professional development really matches teachers’ needs. The OECD identifies several aspects as central to success:
‘First, well-structured and resourced induction programs can support new teachers in their transition to full teaching responsibilities before they obtain all the rights and responsibilities of full-time professional teachers. In countries such as Finland, once teachers have completed their pre-service education and begun their teaching, they begin one or two years of heavily supervised teaching. During this period, the beginning teacher typically receives a reduced workload, mentoring by master teachers and continued formal instruction.
Second, effective professional development needs to be ongoing, include training, practice and feedback, and provide adequate time and follow-up support. Successful programs involve teachers in learning activities that are similar to those they will use with their students, and encourage the development of teachers’ learning communities.
Third, teacher development needs to be linked with wider goals of school and system development, and with appraisal and feedback practices and school evaluation.
And finally, there is need to re-examine structures and practices that inhibit inter-disciplinary practice and to provide more room for teachers to take time to learn deeply, and employ inquiry- and group-based approaches, especially in the core areas of curriculum and assessment.
In sum, Schleicher says ‘ the transformation of today’s teaching force requires smarter development of professionals. The significant rewards that come with better educational outcomes show that getting this right is worth it’
Schleichers views reflect the strong focus now being placed internationally on improving the quality of teachers and teaching and in ensuring that teachers have access to high quality, continuous professional development throughout their professional lives. Research shows that good and bad teachers have a very significant effect on student outcomes, even after taking into account socio-economic factors (see Hanushek et al)