Susan Midlarsky

author • consultant • tutor | inspiring excellence
Articles Professional Development

Professional Development: What Do Teachers Really Need?


My friend and esteemed colleague, Charles Fischer, brought to my attention the frightening lack of time and resources spent on professional development for teachers. His blog post relates a report from the National Staff Development Council and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education to his own experience with professional development. Here is a quote from the report that I found pertinent:

Analysis of a broad range of studies indicates that the kind of sustained professional development that increases student learning requires between 49 and 100 hours of contact on a single professional development focus. However, the report notes that in most areas, teachers were receiving less than 8 hours of training on a given topic, and the average reported number of hours of professional development in the United States was only about 44 hours combined across all six topic areas.

Compare this to Singapore, where teachers receive a broad, consistent education to start, and each year receive about 100 hours of continuing professional development. Now one reason why they are succeeding where others are struggling becomes obvious.

I travel to different parts of the country to offer professional development to teachers. I have heard from many how much they enjoy learning what I have to offer, but they bemoan the lack of time they are given to absorb the new material in order to implement it. A rare few have enough time, immersion and follow-up, for instance if they are able to attend professional seminars over several days, to catch fire with new and better methods and use them in their teaching. But this requires money, often out of the teacher’s own pocket, and this is simply out of reach for the vast majority of teachers.

In his blog, Charles lists a number of short workshops he has attended that have had little or no impact on his teaching, while longer ones transformed his teaching for the better. I’m sure many teachers could come up with similar lists.

If we really do want education to improve in this country, then we need to invest more time and resources in educating not just the students, but the teachers as well.

Read Charles Fischer’s excellent blog post here.

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