Students today, more than ever, are relying on their teachers. The past two years have had a dramatic impact on some students who are still regaining lost learning time while simultaneously struggling to keep up with grade-level studies. This situation thrusts teachers directly into the spotlight, which means they need to be as prepared as possible to take on the heavy responsibility of accelerating the learning of their students.
How can Catholic schools best prepare their teachers? Through consistent, effective professional development (PD). As students grow more dependent on teachers to lead them out of the COVID learning gap, teachers in turn are counting on administrators to provide the support they need. Here are four ways that professional development benefits teachers—and, in turn, students and districts.
- Better communicate with their students
- Best and most effectively instruct children of multiple learning levels
- Create relevant course instruction for their students
- Consistently learn new education technology so they’re prepared to employ it in a timely fashion
While not the only topic of focus when it comes to broadening teachers’ knowledge bases, deepening their understanding of the specific subjects they teach remains critical. After all, students look to teachers as experts who know the answers to any questions students may ask. Professional development can help expand subject matter and curricular knowledge so teachers are prepared to provide answers and explanations to student inquiries.
Research by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences backs up this statement—it shows that student achievement can improve by as much as 21 percentile points as a result of teacher participation in effective, well-designed PD programs. The bottom line? Teachers who receive high-quality professional development on a consistent basis are better equipped with the tools they need to elevate their instruction and impact students in an even more positive way.
2. Better Organization and Planning. As mentioned, PD is not limited to curriculum and subject instruction. One area that effective professional development can truly benefit instructors is the development of improved planning and organizational skills. In addition to the hours spent each day in the classroom, a teacher’s responsibilities extend beyond the school walls through grading, student evaluation and a laundry list of other time-consuming paperwork. By learning new skills and techniques, teachers can become more efficient in their time management, evaluations, record-keeping and overall organization. With that extra time, teachers are then able to better focus on their students, which can result in more positive student outcomes in the classroom.
3. Satisfaction in Their Role (read: Retention). We don’t have to remind you of the shortage of teachers across the country. Districts everywhere are struggling with short staffs, which is often the result of teacher burnout. The past couple of years have placed a heavy burden on the shoulders of teachers, and the weight of the stress and expectations has taken its toll. Even before the COVID age, the teaching industry suffered from notoriously high turnover; many teachers never make it to five years before leaving to explore other career paths. Professional development can help reverse that trend.
Providing PD, especially to newer teachers who are more prone to leaving the field, demonstrates a district’s investment in them personally, which makes them feel more valued and supported. Once a teacher feels that trust and support from their district, they feel more confident in their position, they know they’ll get the knowledge they need to keep improving, and they are more prepared to stay where they are for the long term. Plus, professional development offers teachers a refreshing change of pace—it allows them to be the student and provides them the opportunity to absorb information rather than distribute it. This opportunity to learn keeps teachers engaged. And guess who benefits from an engaged, supported, confident teacher? You guessed it, the students.
4. Encouraging Collaboration. Though teachers are often in front of a classroom by themselves, teaching is far from a solo act. As teachers are generally in constant communication with others—parents, administrators, fellow instructors—collaboration is a critical component within the profession. Any reputable professional development program includes substantial opportunities for collaboration; once collaboration becomes ingrained in a teacher’s daily responsibilities, they can then begin to cultivate communities that encourage communication and teamwork while helping create positive change in their schools and districts.
High-quality professional development clearly makes an impact at many levels, however, PD is only valuable when schools follow up with consistent support. Teachers may finish their PD sessions full of new knowledge and skills and ready to make a difference but if schools aren’t assisting with the implementation of these new skills, any benefits from PD will be substantially diminished. It is imperative that schools offer their teachers support through regular feedback, coaching, training events, observations and evaluations. It requires time, patience and steady support from districts to ensure success.
Catapult Learning’s professional development builds instructor and leadership capacity by equipping Catholic school educators with research-based best practices that are designed to meet the needs of their schools and districts. Our PD experts work with your school or district leadership to create a customized professional development plan to fit your specific areas of opportunity. By focusing on five key areas—pedagogy and curriculum, student support, environment, leadership and assessment—Catapult can address the varying needs of schools and organizations and help promote behaviors intended to increase and successfully maintain student achievement.
Catapult Learning offers a wide range of professional development solutions, including: