Does learning end when we obtain a degree and enter the world of work? The answer must be a big ‘No’. Gaining knowledge and experience is an ongoing process of continuous self-improvement and exploration of the world around us. And a commitment to lifelong learning is a core aspect of being a teacher and a characteristic that is intrinsic to many of them. The world before us unfolds the truth that the field of education is constantly evolving. What was considered best practices a decade ago might be outdated now. A rapidly changing world necessitates ongoing evaluation and adjustment of our teaching methods. It evolves in response to the changing needs of students and in response to emerging research about how human beings learn as well as changes in the world outside the classroom. No matter how long we’ve been a teacher, there is always an opportunity to hone our craft and become more effective at what we do.
Professional development allows teachers to expand their skills and knowledge and grow as educators. It is a way to become a better teacher, advance career, better understand students, and challenge oneself in and out of the classroom. Professional development is an investment in a teacher’s self, her future, and her students. Engaging in professional development has been shown to have a measurable impact on student engagement and achievement. Professional development increases teachers’ understanding of how students learn and their knowledge of effective teaching methods. Plus, participating in ongoing professional development builds empathy with students and allows teachers to model the kinds of learning behaviors they want to encourage in their classrooms. And without having these necessary awareness, knowledge and skills, a teaching profession become dull and insipid that leads to a frustrating state that a teacher never expects to see.
Professional development offers an opportunity to share experiences with fellow teachers and feel much less alone in the challenges a faces. Teachers can help each other to become better educators when they collaborate and exchange ideas. Workshops, conferences, and shared conversations about teaching help them learn from one another and become energized. To become an educator, we have to take hours and hours of schooling and pass countless certification exams to demonstrate our proficiency in both a subject matter and the art of teaching. professional development is a reference to a ‘wide variety of specialized training, formal education, or advanced professional learning intended to help administrators, teachers, and other educators improve their professional knowledge, competence, skill and effectiveness.’ And while professional development does help enhance educators’ knowledge about certain subjects, it actually has numerous other benefits. It stands to reason that when a teacher pursues any type of professional development that relates to their subject area or instructional tactics, students are bound to benefit. studies show that professional development leads to better instruction and improved student learning when it connects to the curriculum materials that teachers use. when educators engage in professional development at their schools with their colleagues, they can learn from each other, support one another, and hold each other accountable for applying what they learn.
Teachers must update their curricula to respond to ever-changing social, political and cultural landscapes. There are always new developments and innovations in education, meaning new trends, skills and strategies to keep up with in the classroom. To do that, many teachers turn to continuing education courses — on topics like mental health and restorative justice — that are topical and designed to help teachers stay a step ahead in their careers.
Types of Professional Development that teachers can embrace include (i) Educator conferences-participating in such type of conferences either at home or abroad ensure tremendous development. However, the teachers of primary and secondary level stand far away from this notion. The don’t have such type of experience to attend the conferences and they don’t have transparent idea to have its benefits. English Teachers’ Association of Bangladesh (ETAB) arranges such type of conferences, both online and offline’ to invite more and more teachers to equip themselves. It also encourages the teachers to give presentation on their own ideas, experiences and action research.
(ii)Self-motivated research—teachers must motivate themselves to conduct research on myriad of topics they encounter every day. Currently, they are implementing a new curriculum in the country. The positive and challenging aspects of this curriculum are well known to them. They have ample opportunities and field to conduct research on it. Interestingly, no such proposal, let alone doing any research by our practicing teachers has yet to be discerned. Yes, research is being done by some educators who don’t have direct teaching learning experience and have to depend on teachers’ class observation for a short time or on some questionnaires that don’t always reflect the read picture. Hence, our educational researches come to way of help to the learners, teachers and other stakeholders.
(iii) Teacher workshops-teachers can arrange workshop time and again. Holding , participating and managing a workshop on education give huge practical experience to teachers. (iv)Observing other teachers –this is absolutely absent from our education culture. A senior and experienced teacher’s class can be observed by the young teachers to learn how things need to be dealt with responding to the situation arise while conducting a session. Similarly, experienced teachers need to remain present in the young teachers’ classes so that they can learn new ideas from them and give necessary feedback in the light of their huge experience.
(v)School-wide professional development days can be observed by the school administration and with the enthusiasm shown by teachers. (vi)Teacher-to-teacher mentorship programs stands as an effective way to go forward in any profession. I can remember my teacher-to-teacher mentorship program when I joined Cadet Colleges. This type of easy but very essential tool to develop teachers professionally must not be ignored. (vii) Online continuing education courses are now available that teachers can avail. It will not hamper their usual activities of the institution. (viii) taking and giving regular feedback from the learners, fellow colleagues and authorities and other relevant people.
Technology has steadily become a critical tool in education, and after the COVID-19 pandemic closed traditional classrooms, its necessity increased tenfold. To respond to the changing academic landscape, and discover new ways to reach students, many teachers are choosing to turn to tech-centric professional development options. Finally, it can be said that ample opportunities of developing oneself in the professional one belongs are available around us. It just calls for one’s motivation. Can’t we motivate ourselves for our own benefits as well as for the benefits of our students and education?
Writer: President English Teachers’ Association of Bangladesh (ETAB)