Science Teacher Professional Development

Instructor: Esther Bouchillon

Esther has taught middle school and has a master's degree in gifted education.

In this lesson, we'll define professional development and explore its importance for science teachers. Various professional development activities, such as science education conferences and webinars, are also covered.

Why Is Professional Development Important?

Two new teachers were talking in the teachers' lounge about their mentor teachers. Ms. Young said 'Every time I bring up a website or a way to use the iPads in the classroom my mentor teacher, Mrs. Ancient, says they are too difficult to use and gives me copies of the worksheets she uses. I checked the copyright date on one and it said 1990! I bet she still thinks Pluto is a planet too.'

Ms. Newbie looked surprised, 'Well, just because something is old doesn't mean it isn't valuable. A lot of things have changed as new studies have been conducted, though. My mentor teacher, Mrs. Current, knows all about the latest technology and best practices. She told me it is really important to participate in good professional development in order to keep things fresh in the classroom. Maybe that's why she is more knowledgeable. Things change frequently in education. Before we know it we will be veterans too and out of touch with all the new studies if we don't make an effort to stay informed.'

Professional development is important for both veterans and rookies for staying up to date on new best practices, changes in standards, and new technology. All teachers quickly realize at least one area in which they are weak, and targeted professional development can help teachers grow in these areas.

What Is Professional Development?

As the name suggests, professional development is training that is completed by current professionals in order to continue development as a teacher. Excellent teachers never feel that they have completely 'arrived' at the pinnacle of education, and they realize that there is room for improvement. The best teachers never stop growing as professionals. Due to the importance of continued training, a majority of states require teachers to complete a certain number of hours or earn a number of professional development credits in order to renew their teaching licenses.

Ideas for Professional Development

There are many different types of professional development available for science teachers, from free to costly and from quick to time-consuming. While any experience that helps educators grow in their teaching skills can be considered professional development, credit for recertification will only be given if the experience meets the state's guidelines.

Many programs marketed to teachers will provide a description stating the number of credits to be awarded, while more obscure experiences, such as shadowing a scientist for the day, may need special approval. It is essential that the teacher checks the state requirements before beginning any professional development. Usually the school principal or district recertification specialist will be able to assist the teacher in this. Below are some examples of professional development for science teachers.

Webinars

A webinar is basically a seminar conducted over the internet. You can listen and see a speaker's presentation live, and some even allow the listeners to participate by asking questions and answering polls. Webinars are excellent sources of professional development because they do not require you to travel beyond your home computer. You can hear from speakers around the world and participate in seminars covering a variety of subjects. Learn about specific science education topics like climate change or participate in more general webinars focused on techniques and practices for K-12 science education.

Conferences

Teacher conferences are available in a plethora of areas related to teaching. For science teachers, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) conference is the premier conference held annually; however, there are state science conferences and other local science conferences as well.

Professional Development Events

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