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The Importance of Professional Development in Education

Michael Nutter

April 21, 2020

Investing in educators’ professional development can increase teacher retention and improve student learning outcomes.

Professional development for teachers most commonly takes the form of an in-person conference, seminar, or workshop. In light of recent events, however, school districts are finding ways to adapt to a new remote reality. As students and educators adjust to digital lesson plans and new methods of communication, there’s no reason why professional development should be limited to traditional formats.

Virtual professional development is becoming an increasingly popular option — and it’s also more important now than ever. To ensure continuity of education in times of crisis, there are few things more critical to students’ success than their teachers’ ability to teach them. Research has consistently shown that teacher quality is the single most important school-related factor in student achievement. What’s more, teaching is a skill that can and should be learned and improved upon with feedback, instruction, and practice.

The Proven Benefits of Educator Development

The benefits of educator professional development (PD) are more wide-ranging — and more significant — than one might expect. For example, one 2001 study found that specific instructional strategies, such as identifying similarities and differences and reinforcing student effort, can significantly improve student outcomes.

In other words, equipping teachers with effective strategies and giving them opportunities to improve their teaching techniques can have tangible benefits. For school districts to be as effective as possible, there’s no better place to invest than in their teachers’ continued growth and development — both in and out of times of crisis. Some of the most notable benefits of educator professional development include:

Improved student learning outcomes

High-quality educator PD can be directly linked to improved student learning. One United States Department of Education study showed that student achievement was boosted by as much as 21 percentile points when their teachers had participated in well-designed professional development programs.

Another study by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools found that students taught by National Board Certified Teachers scored significantly higher on end-of-course tests for Algebra II, Biology, Civics and Economics, Chemistry, and Geography than students taught by teachers without the certification.

Increased teacher satisfaction and retention rates

Teacher attrition is one of the largest issues facing school districts today — and effective professional development may offer a meaningful solution to schools’ talent retention difficulties.

One of the primary factors causing teacher attrition is the lack of opportunity for educators to grow and lead. A study from the Economic Policy Institute found that of teachers who quit the profession and teachers who stayed in their roles, teachers who stayed were more likely to have received early support, mentorship, and subject-specific professional development.

Increased understanding of technology

Teachers are experts in their subject area, but they’re not necessarily technology experts. However, technological literacy is increasingly paramount to a well-rounded education today. And with our current reliance on technology to power remote learning, a basic understanding of technology can go a long way in providing a smooth transition for students.

Effective professional development not only ensures that teachers can leverage technology in the classroom, but also that they can pass on those invaluable skills to their students. Whether it’s a SmartBoard, 3D printers, Chromebooks, or tablets, no classroom technology should be introduced without also training teachers on how to best use and teach with the new tool.

Effective Professional Development With Vinson

These are uncertain times for educators, administrators, and students alike. Providing virtual professional development for your educators can allow them to continue to grow and support their students as we navigate the new normal. And while there’s significant value to be gleaned in traditional full-day PD workshops, online courses and resources offer teachers a flexibility that is appreciated — pandemic or not.

Now more than ever, it’s vital that teachers are well-versed in Google Classroom, Microsoft Office, and other leading edtech platforms. Our virtual PD offerings are led by Google and Microsoft-certified experts who can help teachers take advantage of technology to better engage with their students.

Whether you’re interested in offering your teachers a virtual PD option to support them remotely or you simply want to provide a permanent virtual PD resource, Vinson can help. As educators ourselves, we’re dedicated to supporting K-12 school districts during this time. Reach out to us today to learn more.

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