Teacher educators must now, more than ever, direct learning beyond mastery of core subjects to improve students’ 21st-century skills and make education more responsive to the challenges of a knowledge-based society. This is an exciting challenge for those who are minded to be involved in a lifelong learning process attending various courses, professional learning communities, teacher development seminars, and published materials supporting it. The starting point for Teacher Development (TD) is the participants themselves, and therefore it is essential that they understand the nature of this development. Does TD relate to professional, personal or social development and how? Does professional development mean teacher training? This article attempts to clarify the sense of teacher development by describing what professional, personal and social development mean and how they are related.
By Zoi Theodoropoulou
What is Teacher Professional Development?
Teachers’ professional growth, also known as professional learning, is the process of developing teachers’ expertise that results in changes in their teaching practices which enhance students’ attitudes, motivation, and learning outcomes. Evans (2010) defines “changes in teachers’ practices” as changes in awareness, understanding, skills, behaviour, attitudes, beliefs, and convictions. The goal is for teachers to effectively use their newly learned skills and knowledge to affect improvement in their own classrooms. Continuous critical reflection, evaluation and analysis of teachers’ teaching practices are considered central components of their professional development. This reflective approach is critical and involves recalling, considering, evaluating past experiences and devoting time to learn, unlearn, and relearn teaching practices (Nunez et al., 2006). But, what does it mean to develop professionally? According to Darling-Hammond and Bransford (2007), it means continuous and active engagement in processes that help teachers develop adaptive expertise, i.e. the ability to apply meaningfully acquired knowledge and skills flexibly and creatively in different situations. Besides, teachers are expected to be experts in various roles, including lesson planning, communication, management and assessment, while also being adaptable to students’ learning styles, needs, and interests.
Does professional development mean teacher training?
Teacher training and professional development are not synonymous. Teacher training refers to the work that is usually undertaken at the start of a teacher’s career to prepare them to teach. Widdowson (1984) says that it aims to show teachers “how” to develop particular teaching practices converging and relying on existing techniques. Professional development, on the other hand, includes training but also encourages divergence and a willingness to depart from the bounds of prescribed practice. The term “development” is used here to describe a process of teachers’ continuous intellectual, experiential, and attitude growth (Lange, 1990). So, effective professional development should encourage teachers to understand the rationale behind any pedagogical decision made and experiment with new ideas or tools in their teaching contexts and reflect on how these impact their students’ learning. Constructive feedback and valuable insights through dialogue and post-observation supervision focused on classroom practices, collaborative learning, self-monitoring through self-observation (via video recording, journals, or portfolios), and teacher-led activities that support teachers' autonomy, as well as reading books and journal articles, taking online classes, and attending professional development conferences and learning communities as well as performing action research are examples of such tools.
What is Teacher Personal Development?
Personal development or self-development is vital for teacher development. But what do we mean by personal development? According to Richards and Farrell (2005), it refers to long-term personal growth that helps teachers identify and make sense of their teaching practices and of themselves as individuals. In this ongoing process, they can develop the necessary life skills to help them grow both inside and outside of the classroom. Several life skills assist teachers in coping with the challenges of everyday living, such as having good intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, confidence, organisational skills, teamwork, building rapport with students, emotional resilience, conflict resolution. Socio-emotional growth can be reflected in teachers’ attitudes and interactions with their students. Hence, teachers’ personal development must be targeted in teacher education programmes since developing the ‘teacher self’ is crucial to enhancing quality education.
What is Teacher Social Development?
In today’s education, it is considered necessary to develop students social, sociolinguistic as well as strategic competencies such as adjusting spoken language appropriately to a situation, turn-taking, active listening and understanding, respecting, having empathy, communicating one’s message effectively, managing impulses and behaving properly, as well as resolving conflicts (Huitt and Dawson, 2011). But, what about teachers? Do they possess the requisite knowledge, social skills, and attitudes to relate to others effectively and contribute positively to their community? Social development is a vital part of teacher development. After all, interpersonal relationships are at the heart of teaching. So, for a successful career and well-being, teachers must be able to communicate efficiently with students, colleagues, other staff members, and parents and maintain healthy working relationships.
In view of the above, personal, professional, and social development are the foundations of Teacher Development and should be the goal of every TD programme. This is because it is a never-ending learning process in which teachers should be treated as individuals first and foremost. It’s important to remember that updating, innovating, and searching are the three pillars of teacher development, whether formal or informal (Cardenas et al., 2010). Reading books and academic journals and engaging in online webinars, interactive workshops, and professional learning communities have all aided my professional, personal, and social development as an English as a Foreign Language teacher during this challenging year. I’ve gained confidence and successfully dealt with my negative emotions, and helped students who have been affected by the pandemic. So, how do you feel about it? What are your thoughts on Teacher Development?
- Cardenas, M. L., Gonzalez, A., & Alvarez, J. A. (2010). In Service English Teachers' Professional Development: Some conceptual considerations for Colombia. Folios, (31), 49-68.
- Darling-Hammond, L., & Bransford, J. (Eds.). (2007). Preparing teachers for a changing world: What teachers should learn and be able to do. John Wiley & Sons.
- Evans, L. (2010, May). Leadership for faculty development: confronting the complexity of professional development. In Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Denver, Colorado, May 3rd (pp. 1-19).
- Huitt, W., & Dawson, C. (2011). Social development: Why it is important and how to impact it. Educational Psychology Interactive, 20(1), 80-100.
- Lange, D. L. (1990). A blueprint for a teacher development program. Second language teacher education, 245-268.
- Nunez, A., Ramos Holguin, B., & Tellez, M. F. (2006). Reflection in the educational context: Towards decision making in the classroom. Apuntes Contables, (11), 111-115.
- Richards, J. C., & Farrell, T. S. C. (2005). Professional development for language teachers. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
- Widdowson, H. G. (1984). The incentive value of theory in teacher education1. ELT journal, 38(2), 86-90.
Zoi Theodoropoulou is a highly motivated English Language and Literature graduate and certified EFL teacher with a First-Class Honours degree from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and working experience in the UK, Spain, and Greece. She is currently pursuing a Master of Education in TEFL at the Hellenic Open University.