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6 minutes reading time (1298 words)

Personal Professional Development for Educators

The main audience  of this IAE Blog entry is teachers and other professionals in education. It discusses three general approaches to professional development:

  1. A catch as catch can, hit or miss approach.
  2. Traditional professional development such as workshops, short courses, seminars, conference sessions, planned group activities as components of regularly scheduled staff meetings, and so on.
  3. Self-planned, personalized, and self-implemented ongoing programs of professional development.

The Ongoing Professional Development Problem

Teaching is a very challenging and complex occupation. We live at a time when the totality of human knowledge is growing very rapidly. The content students need for a modern and future-oriented education is changing. The teaching and learning processes are changing. Formative, summative, and long-term residual impact assessment methodologies and needs are changing. The world is “getting smaller” and the world and our educational systems are beset by a wide range of global challenges. (DARPA, 2012; Moursund, 9/14/2012; Moursund, 7/22/2012; Moursund, 2/15/2012; Moursund, 2/14/2012; Moursund, 11/1/2011; U.S. Department of Education, 2008.)

Addressing Your Professional Development Needs

This section briefly summarizes three approaches to professional development. The general theme is that professional development needs to be a routine, continuing aspect of a teacher’s professional career (Whitby, 10/18/20120). Quoting Whitby:

It has long been my position that to be better educators, we need to be better learners. Since I have worked in higher education now for a while, many teachers have said to me how they love having student teachers in their building, because they can learn so much from the “young people” about all the new stuff in education. Some variation of that phrase has been repeated by more than one educator every year since I have been working with student teachers. To me that is a big RED FLAG. It causes me to ask, “Why does a veteran teacher need to have a student bring them up to date on the latest methodology, pedagogy and technology in the field of education?” If our students are to get a relevant education, should we not have relevant educators? Why on earth would experienced educators need students to provide that which every school district in the country should be striving to provide teachers within their system? [Bold added for emphasis.]

Some teachers organize their ongoing professional development into a program aimed at an advanced degree or National Board Certification. See Others concentrate mainly on meeting the specific continuing licensure requirements of their school district and state. Most have considerable leeway to develop an individualized plan of action.

Catch as Catch Can

Every educator learns on the job through experimentation, practice, and interactions with students, colleagues, parents, and others. This learning is an important type of professional development. However, it does not systematically draw on current research in education, brain science, computer technology and its uses, online learning, and so on.

This catch as catch can approach to continuing professional growth is very important, but it is not sufficient to meet the challenges of our rapidly changing world.

Traditional Professional Development

Most K-12 teachers have undergone a substantial amount of college work designed to help them gain the knowledge and skills to prepare them to be a teacher. They must meet requirements for an initial teaching license/credential, and they must meet ongoing requirements for continuing licensure. Often the latter requirements include earning a specified number of college credits or Professional Development Hours every two to three years or so. See

I like to think about the idea of a half-life of an education. The idea comes from the half-life of a radioactive element, the amount of time for the radiation to decrease by half.

The half-life of a professional’s education varies considerably with the profession. In certain quickly changing medical areas such as oncology and brain surgery, the current half-life is perhaps less than three to four years. In essence, this means that just to keep up, certain specialists need to learn as much every three to four years as they have previously learned in their speciality area.

The traditional content of teacher education tends to change slowly. Remember, however, that teaching involves content, pedagogy (teaching methodology), and assessment. When content, pedagogy, and assessment must take into consideration changes in areas such as computer technology and cognitive neuroscience, there is a substantial acceleration in the pace of change. Teachers also face the challenge of changes in the nature of the students. This challenge is discussed in A New Kind of Learner (Moursund, 1/12/2012).

Our current on-going teacher certification requirements are inadequate to help teachers to keep up with the pace of education-related changes being brought about by current research and technological development.

Self-planned and Self-implemented Professional Development

We all understand the concept of being a life-long learner. We want our students to develop learning habits that they will carry into adulthood and throughout their lives. Like physical exercise and healthy diet, life-long learning needs to be an ongoing, regular activity.

Spend some time browsing the literature to increase your understanding about the increasing pace of change in curriculum content, pedagogy, and assessment that relate to your professional teaching career. One way is to spend time browsing the IAE Blog entries available at However, you should also spend some time browsing the new state standards that are being developed and those publications most directly related to your specific curriculum areas. Translate what you learn into an estimate of the half-life of your current professional preparation.

Then develop a personal professional development plan that appropriately builds on the ideas covered in this IAE Blog entry. You have heard the statement, An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Even a short period of concentrated personal professional development a day helps to keep professional obsolescence away.  How many minutes of carefully planned professional development time per day (or per week) are you willing to commit to in order to preserve and improve your professional competence?

What You Can Do

Reflect on your habits of mind related to maintaining and increasing your level of professional competence. If you are following a healthy regimen of exercise and healthy eating, compare this with your regimen of ongoing professional development. If you are following a “healthy” regimen of professional development, compare it with your regimen of diet and exercise. Both your brain and the rest of your body deserve to be treated well. Just “do it.”

Suggested Readings from IAE and Other Publications

You can use Google to search all of the IAE publications. Click here to begin. Then click in the IAE Search box that is provided, insert your search terms, and click on the Search button.

Click here to search the entire collection of IAE Blog entries.

Here are some examples of publications that might interest you.

Brain-based Teaching Strategies to Build Executive Function. See

Intelligent Computer Tutor Systems. See

Out-of-date Education. See

Staff Development to Improve Education. See

Tapping Into What Makes Teachers Tick. See


DARPA (2012). What are grand technology and scientific challenges for the 21st century? NetworkWorld. Retrieved 10/12/2012 from

Moursund, D. (9/14/2012). Deep insights into problems with our educational system. IAE Blog. Retrieved 10/12/2012 from

Moursund, D. (7/22/2012). World problems identified by B.F. Skinner in 1971. IAE Blog. Retrieved 10/12/2012 from

Moursund, D. (2/15/2012). Some grand global challenges. IAE Blog. Retrieved 9/14/2012 from

Moursund, D. (2/14/2012). Grand challenges in education. IAE Blog. Retrieved 2/14/2012 from,

Moursund, D. (1/12/2012). A new kind of learner. IAE Blog. Retrieved

Moursund, D. (11/1/2012). Grand challenge problems in education. IAE Blog. Retrieved 10/12/2012 from

U.S. Department of Education (2008). R&D: Solving grand challenge problems. Retrieved 11/1/2011 from

Whitby, T. (10/8/2012). PD: How do educators get to know what they don’t know? SmartBlog on Education. Retrieved 10/12/2012 from



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David Moursund (website) on Monday, 10 June 2013 23:20
PD for leadership

Written by davem, October 14, 2012.

The IAE Blog entry does not discuss Professional Development for leadership. See

Quoting from this document:

An ever-increasing number of school systems are investing in teacher leaders as a key strategy for improving learning for all students. And they should, as research shows that shared and distributed leadership can be found in most highly successful schools.

Written by davem, October 14, 2012. The IAE Blog entry does not discuss Professional Development for leadership. See Quoting from this document: [quote]An ever-increasing number of school systems are investing in teacher leaders as a key strategy for improving learning for all students. And they should, as research shows that shared and distributed leadership can be found in most highly successful schools. [/quote]
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Monday, 18 January 2021

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