8 Reasons Why Professional Development is Critical for Teachers

To become an educator, you’ve had to take hours and hours of schooling and pass countless certification exams to demonstrate your proficiency in both a subject matter and the art of teaching. So why then, do teachers need professional development? Formally, professional development is a reference to a “wide variety of specialized training, formal education, or advanced professional learning intended to help administrators, teachers, and other educators improve their professional knowledge, competence, skill and effectiveness.” And while PD does help enhance educators’ knowledge about certain subjects, it actually has numerous other benefits. Here are just 8 of the main reasons why professional development is important for teachers:

8 Reasons Why Professional Development is Critical for Teachers

1. They’re a new teacher 

Many careers offer a mentorship-type program, where new employees are paired up with a seasoned veteran who can show them the ropes and give them tips to help them succeed. Teaching is no different; one-on-one coaching is a type of teacher professional development that has become common in many schools, and first-year teachers have been proven to develop better classroom management skills, stay in the teaching profession longer and maintain their initial enthusiasm longer when they have a mentor.

2. Increase salary Certain types of professional development — such as online courses or pursuing a degree — can actually increase a teacher’s salary. Most teacher salaries are based on a sliding scale that correlates to the number of years taught and the level of education they have received. As with anything, teachers should check with their school district to ensure that the courses they are taking will fulfill district requirements for salary advancement.

3. Respond to changing education landscape Teachers are tasked with updating their curricula to respond to ever-changing social, political and cultural landscapes. There are always new developments and innovations in education, meaning new trends, skills and strategies to keep up with in the classroom. To do that, many teachers turn to continuing education courses — on topics like mental health and restorative justice — that are topical and designed to help teachers stay a step ahead in their careers.

4. It’s never been more convenient There is a wide variety of professional development options for teachers (more on that later). Because of that variety, and the accessibility of online learning resources, professional development has never been more convenient. Plus, many higher education institutions understand that teachers’ budgets may be limited, so they have worked to make courses as affordable as possible. And as an added bonus, some school districts program teacher professional development days in the academic calendar, so the time is already allocated for them.

5. Narrow any skills gap At its core, professional development is designed to help you do just that, develop professionally, in pursuit of new knowledge and skills to utilize in the classroom. With PD, teachers can narrow any skills gaps that they may have – identified by themselves or perhaps from a recent performance evaluation – through innovative, cutting-edge coursework that sparks their interest in exciting new topics and deepens their connection to the teaching profession.

6. Improve student outcomes It stands to reason that when a teacher pursues any type of professional development that relates to their subject area or instructional tactics, students are bound to benefit. And the research is there to prove it; studies show that professional development leads to better instruction and improved student learning when it connects to the curriculum materials that teachers use, the district and state academic standards that guide their work, and the assessment and accountability measures that evaluate their success.

7. Learn about new technologies Technology has steadily become a critical tool in education, and after the COVID-19 pandemic closed traditional classrooms, its necessity increased tenfold. To respond to the changing academic landscape, and discover new ways to reach students, many teachers are choosing to turn to tech-centric professional development options. Whether that be courses, training or conferences, improving one’s technology acumen is one of the best arguments for a teacher’s professional development.

8. Assist colleagues When it comes to the community-wide impact of professional development, Educator professional development organization Learning Forward put it best; “when educators engage in professional development at their schools with their colleagues, they can learn from each other, support one another, and hold each other accountable for applying what they learn.” While this speaks just to in-school PD, schools also benefit when teachers seek enrichment outside of their own schools. They learn new skills and strategies that they can introduce to their colleagues, ultimately spreading their knowledge and creating a professional development ripple effect.

Types of Professional Development

  • Educator conferences
  • Self-motivated research
  • Teacher workshops
  • Observing other teachers
  • School-wide PD days
  • Teacher-to-teacher mentorship programs
  • One-on-one coaching
  • Department meetings
  • Online continuing education courses
  • Advanced college degrees

Signs of Effective Professional Development for Educators

  1. Thoughtfully pre-plan the entire professional development curricula  +
  2. Carefully deploy said professional development program +
  3. Gather feedback to ensure the program satisfied teachers’ needs +
  4. Teachers put their new knowledge and skills to work in the classroom =

Effective professional development

How PD for Teachers Enriches the School Community

Think of teacher professional development like a trickle-down system — the teacher gets advanced training/knowledge, thereby equipping them with new information to pass onto students and more effective tools with which to share that information. Students then learn from highly trained educators and are privy to the latest teaching strategies that are shown to be most effective in ensuring positive learning outcomes. So, apply that thinking to every class in every grade, and you’re creating a more well-educated, more engaged and ultimately more successful school community. While this isn’t to say that one professional development course will make every teacher great and ensure every student learns 100% better, there are indisputable, far-reaching benefits of these programs. In their report on the state of professional development, Learning Forward put it best when they said, “teachers and administrators who routinely develop their own knowledge and skills model for students that learning is important and useful. Their ongoing development creates a culture of learning throughout the school and supports educators’ efforts to engage students in learning. A school that organizes team-based professional development and expects all teachers and administrators to consistently participate — though for different purposes, at different times, in different ways — demonstrates that it is serious about all educators performing at higher levels. As a result, the entire school is more focused and effective.” If you’re interested in online-based or course-based teacher professional development options, please consider the University of San Diego’s Department of Professional and Continuing Education. We offer hundreds of courses that can be taken individually or in pursuit of a specific certificate, across a wide variety of subject matters and cutting-edge topics. If you have any questions or would like to discuss how USD PCE programs can help you in your teaching career, please contact us.

FAQs about Teacher Professional Development

What is professional development?

Professional development is “a wide variety of specialized training, formal education, or advanced professional learning intended to help administrators, teachers, and other educators improve their professional knowledge, competence, skill, and effectiveness.”

When does professional development occur?

Professional development occurs any time an educator or administrator participates in something that enhances their teaching skills and professional knowledge. While that may be in a formal conference setting or online classroom, professional development can also occur through a mentorship program or even a department-wide meeting. There isn’t really a limit or standard when it comes to where PD occurs.

What are some common types of professional development?

Some of the most common types of professional development are educator conferences, self-motivated research, teacher workshops, observing other teachers, school-wide PD days, teacher-to-teacher mentorship programs, one-on-one coaching, department meetings, online continuing education courses and advanced college degrees.