Professional development is the key to improving teacher performance. Education reforms over the past two decades have focused primarily on improving student performance on standardized tests; however, education experts and policymakers tend to agree that those reforms are not as effective as intended. Some education experts believe the focus needs to shift away from test performance to professional development for teachers, with the expectation that as teachers improve so will students.
Emphasizing Content in the Classroom
The No Child Left Behind Act mandates that every public school must meet certain standards for student achievement each year, measured by standardized tests. These tests determine much of what teachers cover in the classroom, and teachers face the dilemma of teaching the information students need to pass these tests or developing more in-depth knowledge of the general subject at hand.
To achieve balance between in-depth knowledge and strong test performance, teachers must first have a solid command of the subjects they teach. If students are to learn more than surface-level skills and knowledge, teachers must engage them at a deeper level that inspires intrinsic rather than extrinsic learning motivation. Teachers must know their subject matter well enough to teach broad concepts, not just the items on a test. Professional development for teachers should include broadening understanding of their subject areas.
How to Enhance Subject Matter Training for Teachers
To improve their classroom skills, teachers must first understand their students’ current needs. Administrators and curriculum directors should find ways to help teachers identify gaps in student knowledge. Without this insight, teachers cannot improve their own skills in a way that actually benefits students.
Once schools have a clear understanding of their students’ deficiencies, professional development for their teachers should aim to improve those weaknesses. In-service and professional training should offer teachers clear ways to connect their pedagogy with their subject specialties. Additionally, school districts can encourage teacher development through further education, like enrolling in an online master’s degree in education program with a secondary focus on their subject specialties.
As teachers develop their abilities in the classroom, they should see a correlated improvement in student performance. Effective professional development for teachers encourages both teacher satisfaction and improved standardized test scores. To continue this trend, schools must concentrate on broadening their teachers’ specific subject knowledge to offer students deeper contexts in more engaging classrooms.
Learn more about the LSUS online M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction program.
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