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Teacher Professional Development: It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process

By Dr. Sandra Harwell

“By and large, education reform initiatives of the last twenty years have improved student performance very little. The main reason is that too little attention has been paid to what actually goes on in the classroom.”

This position paper refocuses attention on the classroom, specifically on the importance of professional development in changing teachers’ classroom behaviors in ways that lead to improvement in student performance. Using a framework designed by the National Staff Development Council, the paper describes the context, content, and process of high-quality teacher professional development. One of the paper’s primary observations is that sustained, systematic professional development programs that unfold as processes over time are generally superior to individual workshops and seminars, which are one-time events. The paper concludes by showing that online professional development provides two of the most essential elements of effective professional development: It gives participating teachers opportunities to practice what they learn over relatively extended periods of time, and it provides an ideal environment for interaction among participants. In addition, being asynchronous and accessible from any web-connected computer, online professional development provides a level of convenience that conventional professional development does not.
Reprints are available for $3.50/ea. [1-57837-358-1]

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