Getting a teaching degree and license doesn't mean that your education is over. Even if you don't plan to go back to school, you'll need to keep up on the latest evidence-based practices, learn new techniques and expand your educational repertoire through staff or professional development opportunities. From topics that focus on behavior to instruction and evaluation, staff development can cover an array of areas that educators need to know.
Teaching How to Teach
Pedagogical content knowledge -- or knowledge of the way children learn -- is an essential staff development topic for teachers, according to the article "Teacher Professional Development Focusing on Pedagogical Content Knowledge" in the journal Education and Educational Research. This broad topic should focus on what the teachers who are attending the staff development meeting or workshop need to know. For example, if you teach high school biology, the staff development should include content, instruction and modeling experiences on using science with adolescents.
Knowing the most up-to-date information on dealing with behavior issues in the classroom can help to keep your day calm. Behavioral topics may focus on a specific problem behavior -- such as biting in young children or defiance in older students -- as well as ways to reduce or turn around these issues. For example, a 2011 study by researchers at Vanderbilt University, the University of Florida and the University of South Florida following how professional development affects teacher influence and young children's social behaviors, the educators receiving the staff training saw positive changes in their students.
Even though you may feel comfortable teaching the subject you studied when you were in college or grad school, you may not feel the same level of confidence when it comes to special subjects. A third grade teacher may not know how to use art in her classroom, or a preschool teacher may worry about using age-appropriate science lessons. Schools may bring in an expert educator in the specific subject to provide useful tips, examples of lessons or model instructional techniques. These programs may cover content for special-subject teachers or help general educators to infuse their classrooms with other material. For example, the U.S. Department of Education funds staff development programs that focus on how to implement and use the arts effectively in the classroom.
Evaluation and Assessment
As accountability in schools becomes an ever-present subject, understanding how to evaluate and assess students is crucial for teachers. Staff development topics may cover different types of assessments, what to look for, how to create effective scoring rubrics or how to implement state standards and assessment testing. For example, continuing education and training may cover material on formative assessments. This would include information on making formative -- or immediate and contextualized -- evaluations, how to give students feedback on an ongoing basis and how this differs from summative assessments conducted at the end of the term or school year.
- Sage Publications: Teacher Professional Development Focusing on Pedagogical Content Knowledge
- Challenging Behavior: Professional Development Related to the Teaching Pyramid Model for Addressing the Social Emotional Development and Challenging behavior of Young Children
- U.S. Department of Education: Art in Education -- Professional Development for Arts Educators
- Wisconsin Center for Education Research: Professional Development in Classroom Assessment
Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.