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What are the Different Types of Professional Development for Educators?

By Carol Francois
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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There are several different types of professional development for educators, using a variety of methodologies and tools. The term educator is used to describe anyone whose primary job function is to provide instruction to others. Teachers, lecturer, professors, and course instructors are all educators.

Professional development is an entire genre of courses, seminars, and workshops. These programs are designed for the trained professional, providing continuing education to keep skills current and provide training on new initiatives. A large number of professional careers have a continuing education requirement, with a specific number of courses or hours of instruction required per year to maintain a license or certification. The basic assumption is that all educators have completed post-secondary training in teaching or a related field.

One of the most popular options of professional development for educators is a one-day seminar. The topic can range from classroom management to technology, to the impact of socioeconomic policy on literacy. The sessions are typically hosted or moderated by a well-known subject matter expert. The format is typically a morning lecture, followed by an interactive discussion session in the afternoon. Educators have a chance to discuss their own experiences and debate the material presented in the morning.

Courses offered by the local university or teachers college are another type of professional development for those in education. These courses are available in the evenings and weekends to accommodate the working schedule of people in education. Some courses are purely lecture-based, while others provide a combination of lectures and student presentations.

Online training programs are an increasingly popular type of professional development for educators. These programs can be completed at the convenience of the educator, from the comfort of home. Using the computer and the Internet, he or she can access course materials, listen to recorded lecturer, and post assignments. Most programs include a moderated discussion board so students can talk with each other about the course work and related issues.

Almost all educational institutes have dedicated professional development days built into the school schedule. These days are used to provide updated instructions to all teachers, learn new course management software, discuss pressing issues, and share experiences. A significant amount of professional development involves the sharing of ideas, old and new, and discussing the ways to implement these ideas to benefit modern students. It is very important to maintain a regular schedule of professional development for educators, as this field is always changing to meet the needs of both students and employers.

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Discussion Comments

By anon957627 — On Jun 21, 2014

I think professional development is one of the big needs for teachers because nowadays, everyone in the learning process is either a teacher or a student so it brings a lot of knowledge and information.

By amysamp — On Nov 06, 2011

I work for the school system as speech therapist and we have to have thirty hours of continuing education that we need to have every three years. Almost all of the continuing education I have received so far are hours from conferences I have attended.

And the conferences are just like the article described. You have a lecture as well as questions at the end of the lecture. I like to go to conferences because they offer so much information, not only from the person who is lecturing but also from the interactive portion where the other professionals going through the same thing as I am ask questions.

I know you can also get continuing education online, and I look forward to getting a few credit hours from this forum as you can often find these credits for free!

By miriam98 — On Nov 05, 2011

@Charred - I know what you mean. As teachers we were encouraged to share our techniques and ideas with others. We did this in the formal settings, like the professional development workshops you referred to, but also on a quarterly basis at the departmental level.

Lead teachers would gather everyone together in a kind of brainstorming session and we would discuss the different methods we were using to tackle different subjects. I always found that grammar was the most difficult subject to teach.

It didn’t matter whether we were using whole language or more structured approaches to grammar, it was always a challenge – at least for me anyway. Maybe the problem was that, regardless of the method, kids always seemed to find the subject boring. I think it’s important to make what you’re teaching interesting so that kids will be motivated to learn.

By Charred — On Nov 04, 2011

I am not an educator by trade, by I did teach overseas in Asia for several years, in a K-12 setting. It was English as a foreign language and I also had the opportunity to teach some math and science as well.

Since it was a formal academic institution, I had to learn the ropes so to speak, which involved understanding how to prepare lesson plans and things like that.

In addition, every year we had teacher in service training before the new school year started. These were professional development workshops for teachers and they covered new methods and techniques that were useful for teachers.

For example, one year we focused exclusively on the writing process. Everything was geared towards teaching teachers how to teach writing. We began by writing ourselves first, going through the whole process from draft to completed paper. It was fun and helped us when we taught the kids the same process.

By JessicaLynn — On Nov 04, 2011

@sunnySkys - I think mandatory continuing education is the way to go in most industries. I think there are a lot of people that would never bother with it unless they had to.

Anyway, as far as professional development courses, I think the best way is to just do them in person. I'm a big fan of online courses for a lot of things. However, I think in a professional development course it would benefit all of the people in the course to be able to speak to one another. That way, they could share their knowledge and perspectives.

I'm a firm believer that when you take a course, you can learn from the other students too, not just from the teacher.

By sunnySkys — On Nov 03, 2011

I think professional development education is extremely important for teachers. One of my friends is a high school teacher, and he is very passionate about his job. He stays up to date in the education field, and from what he tells me, experts are always making new discoveries about education and ways to educate students.

I feel like since the field of education is constantly evolving, the only way to stay current is through mandatory professional development. Some people, like my friend, will take it upon themselves to stay up to date. But not everyone does that voluntarily.

By golf07 — On Nov 03, 2011

@honeybees - I am a professional educator who teaches many of the seminars and workshops for people in the insurance industry.

It is just as crucial for us to have continuing education as it is for those that I educate.

There are many requirements that we also need to complete in order to stay licensed. Online professional development for educators is one thing that has become very common.

Because everyone has such a busy schedule, this is often times the best way to complete the education requirements I need. There are many people who use online programs, and it is a great way to complete your requirements.

My favorite way to learn is still in a traditional classroom type setting. I like the interaction and think the retention is also better.

By honeybees — On Nov 02, 2011

I work in the insurance business and have to complete a certain number of hours of continuing education every year in order to keep my license.

Since I am licensed to sell many different kinds of insurance, this will involve more than one program I need to complete.

The company I work for has professional development programs in the form of seminars. A few times a year they will have a professional come in and give us a workshop, and this will complete our requirements for the year.

This is really nice since I don't have to spend my weekends or time off work to fulfill my requirements for the year. Everybody gets their ongoing education done at the same time, and you know you are good for another year.

By bagley79 — On Nov 02, 2011

Has anyone else noticed that the professional development education program for teachers seems to require more than it used to?

Maybe it is just structured differently so it seems like it is more than it used to be.

When I was growing up, I remember getting out of school for parent teacher conferences, Christmas break, Good Friday and two days at Thanksgiving. I also remember 3 whole months of summer vacation.

Now my kids get out of school early every Wednesday afternoon for ongoing teacher education development. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, it just seems like there is a lot more required for them than there ever was before.

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