Vega, Vanessa (2013). Teacher development research review: Keys to educator success. Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/teacher-development-research-keys-success
There is no doubt that teachers are at the center of improving student learning. Vega (2013) reviews current research in effective teacher development and details best practices used for ensuring educator growth and success.
The first best practice Vega indicates is effective administrator and teacher leadership. She asserts that great administrators focus on developing teachers’ capacities rather than their limitations, and she recognizes that accomplished teachers are most knowledgeable about student learning and are ideal for leading professional development opportunities. I agree with Vega’s point here in that experienced teachers do come with a wealth of experience and educational tools; however, novice teachers also have much to offer in what is “cutting edge” in education, especially in the area of technology. Vega also highlights the necessity of a highly-effective teacher management system that supports quality growth in teaching. This brings about a relevant question - what does a fair teacher evaluation system look like for both non-tenured and tenured teachers, especially if the ultimate goals is growth in teaching?
The next best practice Vega presents is job-embedded professional development. She identifies the following elements to be critical in the implementation of professional development programs: collaborative learning, links between curriculum and assessment, active learning, deeper knowledge of content and how to teach it, and sustained learning over multiple days and weeks (as opposed to the one-shot or fragmented workshop approach). I also believe that professional development needs to be differentiated, just like we differentiate as teachers for our students. This is important because it will allow us to improve our weaknesses and build upon our strengths as educators.
Professional learning communities is the last best practice Vega recognizes to support educator development. Vega indicates that PLCs are one step beyond professional development in that they provide teachers with not just skills to improve their teaching but an ongoing community that values each teacher’s experiences. She presents four key characteristics of effective PLCs: successful collaboration, focus on student learning, continuous teacher learning, and teacher authority. When I reflect on the PLCs that I am a part of, two in particular stick out to me – my grade level team and the mentor program in my district. In both cases, I feel that not only am I helping or supporting the professional(s) in the PLC, but I am also continually learning from them. That is ultimately what being a teacher is about – constantly growing as a learner of teaching.