Professional Development of Early Years Teachers
‘Another day to be set aside for a training session or a workshop? No, we wouldn’t be able to accommodate that!’ This is the common refrain from schools when asked to conduct a training session for teachers.
In today’s fast-paced life, working parents hardly have time on their hands and expect the schools to provide holistic education for their children. And parents obviously want the best teachers for their kids.
Research confirms that the most important factor contributing to a student’s success in school is the quality of teaching. While parents may not be aware of the studies carried out in this area, they are unanimous in their desire to ensure that their child is exposed to the best teaching at school. This brings us to an important point, that of the professional development of teachers.
John Dewey’s quote reminds us of the importance of this factor. ‘What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children.’
Professional development involves various educational experiences that are available to working individuals. Needless to say, every professional, be it a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor, an accountant, an engineer, or a scientist requires professional development to ensure their skills are on par with the developments in their fields. And teachers should be the first to receive developmental training at regular intervals as theirs is considered the mother of all professions.
Research has shown that in the field of education, the quality of teaching and the leadership of the school are the most important factors that contribute to students’ achievement.
Continuous professional development for teachers makes them aware of the emerging trends in education and enhances the quality of their teaching. This results in effective teaching and leads to students’ success.
Many misunderstandings exist about professional development for teachers and its purpose. Let’s discuss these.
What constitutes professional development?
When people use the term ‘professional development’, they usually mean a formal process such as a conference, a seminar, or a workshop. However, professional development can also occur in informal contexts such as through discussions among colleagues, independent reading and research etc. Professional development is also known by other names, such as staff development, in-service training, professional learning, or continuing education.
Why do teachers need professional development?
Although all teachers possess professional degrees, they may not have the range of learning experiences necessary to become effective facilitators of knowledge and information. Moreover, a wide gap exists between the theoretical and practical aspects of teaching.
New teachers might be intimidated by a host of issues, such as classroom management, development of the curriculum, preparation of lesson plans by following NCF standards, dealing with parents, interactions with other teachers etc. With some additional support such as mentoring, induction programmes and so on, new teachers can learn effective practices to apply to daily challenges.
Teaching is so complex a job that even the experienced teachers confront new challenges every year because of the changes in syllabus, instructional methods, technology intervention, learning needs etc.
Different modes of continuous professional development for the new and the experienced teachers keep the teachers abreast with the changes in educational patterns and also equip them with the skills required for practical implementation.
Professional development for teachers – Principal’s role
Principals are instructional leaders. Most often, they don’t participate in professional development programmes meant for teachers. However, their participation would help them to guide and support their teachers for positive outcomes. In addition to this, specific professional development programmes targeted at principals which equip them with the skills to play their roles and responsibilities effectively are needed.
Typical modes of professional development
Professional development constitutes the following.
Observation: Teachers observing other teachers
Team meets: Teachers and coordinators meeting to plan lessons, solve problems, improve performance, learn new strategies etc.
Coaching: Experienced teachers sharing their expertise with colleagues and coaching them
Mentoring: Mentoring of newly joined teachers by experienced colleagues
Workshops: Attending workshops conducted by professionals
Conferences: Attending conferences to imbibe expertise from different parts of the country.
School improvement programs
Online courses: Courses on specific topics related to teaching
How does professional development benefit schools?
Learning is a continuous process. Principals and administrators who organise continuous professional development programmes help to create a culture of learning in the school. Professional development, especially for pre-primary teachers, is often an ignored aspect. Properly structured and tailor-made programmes that benefit pre-primary teachers are sure to reap results.
Teachers who are engaged in a continuous process of learning develop their skills and, in turn, are able to develop a love for learning in their students, making a lasting impact on their lives. As a result, the students perform better and the schools stand out in their performance.