We all know professional development (PD) for teachers matters. Not only is it a key requirement for teachers to maintain their accreditation but, with the world changing faster than ever, teachers and school leadership teams need training to keep ahead of the curve so they can support their students. Studies have shown that quality teaching and school leadership are two of the biggest factors in lifting and maintaining student achievement and wellbeing. Today on School Stream, we look at some of the emerging trends in professional development for teachers.
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Happy World Teacher’s Day!
But first, we would like to wish all teachers a Happy World Teacher Day for 30 October. Schools have faced significant challenges this year and despite a very tough situation, teachers have been beyond heroic in ensuring that students were able to keep on learning. We salute you.
Innovation in training
Teaching is a profession that allows you to keep your brain agile and young as you work to inspire the next generation of lifelong learners. Learning is as dynamic as the world we live in: technology evolves, new curriculum and pedagogy are developed, and the circumstances of student’s lives change too. Teachers need training to fill the gaps and develop the capabilities to meet any new issues, but the way PD is being delivered is changing too. Let’s explore the benefits and limitations of taking professional development online and the kinds of training expected to be in demand.
1. The rise of online training and MOOCs
What is a MOOC? It’s an acronym for Massive Open Online Courses. They have many benefits for teachers who want to build on their capabilities. They are low cost (and in some cases free), courses are generally 20 hours in length and teachers can work at their own pace. There is plenty of evaluated research around the impact of MOOCs that show them to be an effective way to undertake PD and improves outcomes for students too. In one (US-based) study, 96% of teachers said that participating in the MOOC had led them to make changes in their teaching practice. Closer to home, 32,320 teaches have engaged with the University of Adelaide’s MOOCs program since September 2019, impacting approximately 1.3 million students. You cannot argue with that kind of reach. However, online learning does have some limitations. The opportunity to meet colleagues and mentors from other schools has always been seen as an important part of the training experience for educators and it is sadly lost with an exclusive online approach to professional development. However, designing digital learning experiences is emerging as a skillset in its own right, and the opportunity to create a community of learners and build-in meaningful, collaborative learning experiences may be able to overcome these limitations. But one thing is for sure, with travel to conferences and gatherings of large groups off the agenda for the foreseeable future, online training is only going to boom.
2. Growth area: Mental health and wellbeing training for teachers
It will come as no surprise to anybody reading this that the storm and stress of teaching through a pandemic are going to have big ramifications for both teachers and students. School can be stressful at the best of times for adolescents and it is thought that up to 50% of mental illnesses emerge during adolescence. It is expected that teachers will increasingly need evidence-based training to identify the early warning signs of mental health issues in their students, as well as training to ensure they have the skills to look after themselves as well. To be clear, no one is expecting teachers to be counsellors on top of everything else, but basic mental health training can equip teachers to communicate with students who may be experiencing a range of problems and their subsequent lapses in behaviour as a result. When teachers are supported with the tools they need, the whole school benefits – students and teachers alike. Student wellbeing and teacher wellbeing are two sides of the same coin, after all.
3. A fresh idea: A Return on Investment perspective on professional development for teachers
Can schools borrow some of the thinking from the private sector when it comes to professional development? There are certainly many ideas that apply to training in both environments. In a business context, professional development is viewed as an investment, and although this emphasis on the transactional nature of PD might feel uncomfortable for some educators, there are tangible parallels worth exploring. For example, as in the corporate world, schools contribute time and funding for teachers to undertake PD and in return, schools may anticipate that teachers can take on additional responsibilities, upskill other staff and stay in their role. And it is safe to say business is very conscious of the role professional development has on staff retention. The oft-cited Continuous Professional Development Cycle is another tool used frequently in business and shows that professional development is best thought of as a series of activities that work together and that is undertaken – collaboratively – hand in glove with planning and evaluation. The hope is that this approach increases the overall competence of the business or, in this case, schools.
4. Emerging trend: Personalised training
Adults learners bring the richness of their life experience and will apply this to new professional learning activities. Personalised, professional development takes this into account and weaves opportunities for this throughout the design phase. Why is this emerging as a trend now? It’s widely thought that personalised training is the key to engagement when it comes to online learning – especially for millennials who are in the early stages of their teaching career and are arguably the most enthusiastic about online learning.
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