Professional Development for Teachers at Crossroads
To Influence Policy, the Field Must be Able to Articulate Both What It Is and How It Can Help Teachers Improve Student Achievement
Perhaps no other aspect of the teacher-quality system in the United States suffers from an identity crisis as severe as that of professional development.
Few in the education field discount the eminently logical idea that teachers should be supported in the continuous improvement of their craft. But as a term for describing ongoing training investments in the teaching force, “professional development” has become both ubiquitous and all but meaningless.
Though frequently invoked by lawmakers and consultants, most recently in states’ applications for the federal Race to the Top competition, professional development plans generally incorporate little context about who will provide the training and for what purpose. That this situation endures, despite a focus during the past decade on data analysis and research to improve instruction, is both a testament to the complexity of the professional-development enterprise, and its greatest problem: Mediocre, scattershot training, apart from doing little to help students, is...
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