Professional development is required of certified educators to keep them up-to-date on new research and tools for the classroom, but earning the credits can be challenging for busy educators. Keep in mind that professional development can take many forms and delivery methods, so read on for five ways to fulfill your state's requirements.
Professional Development Overview
The purpose of professional development (PD) is to keep educators abreast of new research and learning techniques. PD covers a range of topics, including classroom management, curriculum innovations and subject-based information. Other options include graduate courses or additional certifications. While PD credits can be a frustrating requirement to add to a busy year of teaching, there are many ways to earn the hours, including some you may not have considered. If you pick a PD topic that interests you, you will hopefully come back to the classroom inspired which will, in turn, inspire your students!
The days of searching for local workshops and conferences to earn those few extra hours of PD are long gone. Now there are numerous online options that include courses and webinars. Many of these courses are self-paced and vary in hours so you are only paying for the hours you need.
For example, Shape America offers one hour webinars for physical education teachers. Offered weekly, those one hour certificates can add up quickly. Study.com also offers professional development courses that include topics such as leadership skills and critical thinking. PBS offers online courses in seven subject areas. Consider also that online PD may be less expensive than an in-person workshop or course.
2. Conference or Workshop
Many colleges and professional organizations host conferences and workshops for educators, which can be a great way to fulfill requirements. These can be on the topic of teaching and learning, which is applicable to all educators. One example is the ASCD's (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) yearly workshop on teaching excellence where you may be able to hear from speakers such as ASCD author, educator and administrator Robyn Jackson.
These workshops can also be specific to a subject area, such as art. If you are an art teacher, you are likely a member of your state's art educator association that hosts a state-wide conference in addition to the national conference each March.
3. Courses or Certification
If you are considering pursuing a graduate degree, know that the hours may be able to serve you twice, earning you hours towards your degree and counting as PD hours. Or, alternatively, some PD hours might count towards your graduate degree, though you would need to check with your university.
AP and IB workshops are a terrific way to earn PD and, if your school is willing, possibly reimbursable. Rice University, for example, offers IB workshops as well as many AP workshops that are subject-specific and can even apply to middle school teachers.
4. Summer Events
Some people mistakenly think that teachers are completely free in the summer, but many spend time working on their professional development credits. While many conferences are held throughout the school year, many colleges offer summer events that capitalize on their less-busy campuses and teachers' less-busy schedules. Stanford University offers a Stanford Summer Teaching Institute while Harvard University offers many programs throughout the summer. Just keep in mind that these programs will probably cost more and they may include a pitch for their graduate degree.
Don't be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to earning your PD credits. Serving as a mentor teacher or supervising a student teacher may count as PD, or even participating on a committee at your school. The state of Michigan categorizes these activities as non-traditional and requires appropriate documentation, so check with your state. If you are already performing these duties, it's certainly worth checking to see if it can count towards your PD requirements!
With all of the examples above, be sure to check with your school or district to ensure that the PD you are spending your time and money earning will count towards renewing your certification; many PD providers make it easy and have a request for approval form that you can complete. Additionally, states differ on how many hours they require. Make sure to check on this every year, as requirements change, such as shifting from requiring 100 hours every five years to requiring 20 hours every year. Those subtle shifts can impact your pre-planned PD schedule.
Keep in mind that professional development costs money. The costs vary based on program, number of hours earned and setting. Check to see if your school or district has professional development funds you can apply for, or consider pursuing a PD event that is an interest for your school. For example, the aforementioned AP certifications. If you teach high school history and your administrator has been very interested in having an AP US History course, you might be able to become certified to teach the course. This earns you PD credits and it's possible that the school would pick up the tab. If not, keep in mind that some educator expenses are tax deductible, per the IRS.
Professional development varies in both topic and delivery, with many options in both areas. Online options are rapidly increasing but there are also many conferences, workshops, courses and summer events that can fulfill your requirements. However, don't dismiss activities such as mentoring and serving on a school committee; these activities that you already perform may also count towards your professional development.