Professional Development

Professional Development

Professional Development, Opportunities and Challenges

Research on Globalizing Trends
in Teacher Education:
Essays & Briefs
Educator/Learner Resources
Promising Models of Education:
Philosophies in Teaching/Schooling

Ongoing learning opportunities are important to professional growth in all fields. In the education field, such professional development is particularly vital, as it has the potential for improving the quality of education and the quality of how learning experiences are delivered. Many classroom teachers and other education professionals have access to pre-service and in-service professional development through their schools or school districts. Universities also offer professional development programs to schools and school systems designed to support the continuous learning of teachers. Education professionals and teachers working for NGOs may receive professional development training through national, regional, or local NGO training and support networks. Whatever the access point, effective professional development is central to ensuring that teachers and other professionals who work with children are proficient in current instructional practices and other critical areas, such as assessment and classroom management.

There are many providers of professional development trying to cater to the growing/evolving needs in ongoing teacher education by creating new professional development programs/services. Some of these programs are locally designed and delivered. Depending on the level of expertise of the provider, locally conceived programs are often more relevant and effectively integrated into existing professional development plans. There are also mass-produced programs based on foreign models of education claiming to provide solutions to education challenges faced in various regions of the world. It is important to critically assess the local relevance of these pre-packaged programs. While some of these commercialized programs certainly can be adapted to suit local needs, there is an intrinsic gap between their claims and context-based effectiveness. Therefore, schools must exercise caution in assessing their appropriateness and then sensitively integrating these programs into their existing education frameworks.

One popular approach to professional development is workshop-based programs. However, such trainings, when limited in scope, may lack the continuity and coherence to effect real change in instructional practice. Although these trainings may not be harmful, and may expose educators to new concepts, they may have little or no impact on student learning. It is more important than ever before that educators receive quality and ongoing professional development. Therefore, being able to carefully assess the strengths and weaknesses of an array of training and professional development options and evaluate how they may match local needs is critically important. All schools should take great care to ensure that professional development programs meet the unique requirements of their school and align with existing instructional philosophy, longer-term professional development plans, and community needs.

Professional Development in the 21st Century - Global to Local Concerns

The social, political, and economic structures that influence education systems worldwide are changing and becoming more interdependent. As a result, schools around the world face multifaceted challenges. Today's educators need to prepare students for life in plural societies by helping them to engage with complex global issues, connect their own lives and experiences with those of others, and recognize their responsibilities as global citizens. Education systems across the world presently face significant challenges equipping present-day teachers with the skills, knowledge, and outlook necessary to develop citizens who can work in and understand the complexities of a global world. Because of the unique demands in this age of globalization, relevant and effective professional development programs that incorporate global outlooks and perspectives that capture the global-to-local dynamic of change are more and more needed. In order to be effective, culturally appropriate, and community sensitive, professional development programs should be designed based on specific needs of a school or community.

Checklist for Assessing 21st Century Professional Development Programs

A promising 21st century professional development program:

  • Assesses the strengths and challenges of a particular education system/structure and the education needs of the community in order to identify specific areas of focus for professional development.
  • Recognizes global trends in education and incorporates these trends in a sensitive and balanced approach that reflects local needs.
  • Recognizes the dynamic and context-specific nature of defining professional "core knowledge" - in both local and global terms.
  • Ensures that the professional development program not only addresses the unique professional growth needs of individual educators but that it also connects to a larger plan for the development of school and school community. (If the school is a part of a network or schools or a school district, then professional development plans of individual schools should reflect the overall plans for the network or district.)
  • Identifies and then incorporates locally and globally relevant skills, knowledge, perspectives, attitudes, and values.
  • Is based on dialogue, inquiry, and reflective practice with a goal for continuous professional skill development and knowledge acquisition.
  • Encourages professional learning communities where knowledge gained can be shared and reinforced through professional networks.
  • Generates creative and critical thinking on issues related to equity, diversity, social justice, human rights, environment, sustainability, technological innovation and use, education governance, international relations, and community-based relationships (and more).
  • Addresses the ethical aspect of human interaction and development.
  • Utilizes evidence-based research that supports professional development content and effective delivery methods.