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What is Professional Development?

By Grace Ferguson
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Professional development is the skills and knowledge an employee gains to optimize her personal development and job growth. It includes learning opportunities, such as college degrees and coursework, or attending conferences or training sessions. This development is an extensive and collaborative process; upon completion, an evaluation of progress is usually performed. Many different professionals engage in such learning opportunities, including teachers, lawyers, healthcare professionals, and engineers. These individuals often have a desire for career longevity and personal growth, and they are, therefore, willing to undergo the necessary training to obtain these goals.

For some specialized fields professional development is critical. In the United States, some states require teachers to participate in career development. For example, in the state of Arkansas, teachers are required to have 60 hours of these learning activities yearly. Additionally, an engineer may have to undergo career development to stay on top of new technology and practices.

The opportunities involved in career development can range from workshop attendance, to an entire semester of academic courses, to different services provided by various development providers. An individual can participate by taking the necessary classes on her own or taking advantage of the benefits offered by some corporate human resource departments. The main advantage of doing it on the job is the opportunity to learn and develop leadership abilities or specific task skills. Furthermore, individual training may cost the employee financially, which she may not be able to recover if the company does not have a reimbursement program.

There are various approaches to professional development. One approach is the Case Study method, a teaching approach in which the teacher gives the students a case, making them the primary decision makers in solving a related problem. Consultation is another strategy. By utilizing a specific problem-solving process, individuals learn how to address their immediate concerns.

The Coaching approach teaches individuals how to improve their skills in a particular area through the process of observation, reflection, and action. With the Communities of Practice approach, the individual learns with others who have a common goal. The Mentoring approach helps the person to become more self-aware while refining her professional abilities through reflection and observation.

Individuals who engage in professional development share the common goal of enhancing their job capabilities. In recent years, there has been a growth in online career development. Many content providers have implemented discussion boards and collaborative websites to engage and facilitate interaction and enhance training effectiveness.

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Discussion Comments

By sneakers41 — On Oct 28, 2010

Suntan12-I know that many professions require participation in professional development courses throughout their careers.

People in the field of medicine and technology are constantly learning new things because advances in medicine along with technology are constantly growing.

Sometimes these continuing professional development courses could be taken at a local community college. For those in the health field, you might find professional development programs in a hospital setting.

By suntan12 — On Oct 28, 2010

Mutsy-There is a lot of professional development for teachers in the form of education seminars. These seminars teach everything from classroom management to working with special needs children. The seminars allow teachers to learn new ways to cope with their jobs as well as network with others in the education field.

It is these types of professional development courses that teachers really look forward to. They usually take place when schools are out due to the teacher workshop days.

Sometimes this professional development might include training on new curriculum or technology that the school is looking to implement. A professional development class like this really improves the quality of the education.

By mutsy — On Oct 28, 2010

Crispety- Many companies offer online professional development for their staff and members of management.

Many of these courses involve soft skills such as proper customer interaction as well as sales development classes that demonstrate how to build a sale and handle objections.

Often these courses are self-paced and the employee can take advantage of the training while in the comfort of their own home.

The program gives the employer a message when the course is completed which helps the employer manage which employees are on task and which still need to be reminded to finish.

It also saves the company time and money because they can offer these training modules when they want and don’t have to pay a trainer to review the material.

In addition, the company saves money in increased productivity because the staff does not have to miss time performing their regular work tasks in order to attend a training meeting.

By Crispety — On Oct 28, 2010

Anon78100- I am not sure of the answer to your question. I do know that teacher professional development involves obtaining additional training in order to better serve the school and eventually offer more opportunities to the teacher who is now considered more marketable.

Often professional development programs for teachers can include seeking an additional endorsement or area of specialization. For example, an elementary teacher might seek an ESOL endorsement by taking additional courses in teaching English as a second language.

Also, a teacher might seek a Masters degree in special education which is considered a critical shortage area in most school districts.

This allows the teacher to earn significantly more because of the Masters degree and would offer an even higher starting salary as well as given a bonus because of the degree in the critical shortage area.

In addition, many school districts offer teachers looking to specialize in critical shortage areas tuition assistance. Usually this is in the form of loan forgiveness, in which a teacher does not have to pay back their student loans.

By anon78100 — On Apr 16, 2010

What does action research have to do with the personal development of the professional teacher?

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