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19 December 2022
By The Education People

Keeping on Top of Your Professional Development as an Educator

If you work in education, you’ll be aware that no two days are the same. And, as we tell our students, ‘lifelong learning’ is vital.

So what is professional development and how can you best engage in it to benefit yourself, your school, and your pupils? Let’s dive straight in.

Defining 'Professional Development'

To put it simply, professional development is the process of attaining and maintaining skills, knowledge, and credentials vital to your position.

For teachers, professional development has been laid out more specifically by the British Council in their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Framework.

The key areas involve:

  • self-awareness & reflection — understanding where you stand currently to identify areas for improvement, and allowing others to observe your teaching
  • thinking ahead — setting goals for the short and long term, and understanding the steps necessary to achieve them
  • open mindedness & awareness — using technology to aid your development, keeping on top of developments in education, carrying out your own research
  • training & collaborating — attending and delivering training sessions and conferences, joining teachers’ associations, observing other teachers.

Why is Continued Professional Development Important?

As we know, the education landscape is constantly changing — if there’s one constant we can rely on, it’s that things will be different next year. With that in mind, it’s clear that your development is not a ‘one and done’ scenario.

Continuing your professional development is not to say that all of your prior training becomes obsolete, or that you’ll never get on top of things. Rather that you’re building on the strong foundations you’ve built — for your and your classrooms’ benefit.

Improved Outcomes

Studies show the crucial role that continued professional development of teachers plays in securing the outcomes of pupils. Most of us can firmly say we can look back and see the impact that certain teachers had on us, our grades, and our lives.

Enhancing CPD opportunities in turn enhances learner achievement.

Teacher Motivation

When you place emphasis on your own development, you intrinsically feel more motivated and in control.

As well as this, research from Jack Worth and Jens Van den Brande has shown a strong correlation between autonomy and job satisfaction and an intention to stay in teaching.

School Reputation

When teachers are shown to be supported and motivated to develop their skills, the reputation of the whole school is increased.

This positive reputation creates a happy cycle, whereby teachers feel prouder of their school settings, and wish to continue evolving its practices.

How to Keep on Top of Your Professional Development

Understand Your Learners

Naturally, a better understanding of your learners will help identify areas for reflection and research.

Taking a closer look at your current approach to understanding pupils leads you to thinking about your impact, and where you can apply new theories of learning.

Some learner characteristics to consider include:

  • age
  • group dynamics
  • cultural backgrounds
  • neurodivergence
  • learning styles.

For example, reflecting on your learners might bring to your attention some knowledge gaps when it comes to neurodiversity, and working with neurodivergent pupils.

Take the Time to Identify Your Strengths

Not only is it important to self-reflect and identify areas where you can make improvements, but you need to know your strengths, too. It’s all too easy to be overly critical of yourself in such a fast-moving environment.

Reflect on what you do well so you can keep doing them — and maybe even get better at them.

Talk to Other Educators

The educator community is the backbone of professional development and, without it, you can start to feel disconnected and uncertain. Engaging in associations, forums, and even break-room discussions make all the difference here.

Talking to other educators with expertise in specific areas you wish to improve upon will prove incredibly valuable as you evolve.

It’s really important to seek out support as you work on your PD, and don’t be afraid to ask for it if you feel you don’t have it.

Take it One Step at a Time

A common challenge when it comes to professional development is taking on too much. The fact is, you simply can’t expect yourself to work on fifty different threads at once.

Successfully researching and implementing new strategies takes time — all the best things do! Try to be realistic when setting goals and revisit them on a regular basis. It’s OK to have to reassess and change tact.

Along the way, know that both big and small steps are necessary. So whether you’re watching a short video on your break or attending an in-person conference, you’re investing in your future — and that’s something to be proud of.

Work Towards New Certifications

While not every part of your professional development will involve years of study, exams, and a certificate at the end, some parts do! You might choose to pursue higher education studies, like a Master or Doctorate in Education.

Otherwise, you can join in with training programmes your school offers (or suggest programmes you would like to join).

The Education People are here to help you with your professional growth, providing and facilitating a range of training programmes and conferences for early years settings, schools, and colleges.

As members of CPD UK, we can deliver CPD-accredited courses to ensure you’re on the right track. Some courses are delivered face-to-face, while others are done via Zoom and made as interactive as possible.

Discover more about our expertise if you’re interested in bespoke training, see our conferences page for the latest key topics in the field, and explore our E-learning courses on a huge catalogue of subjects.

Our goal is to enable educators to be the best they can be. Do get in touch if you have any questions about how we can help!