Substantive professional development, linked primarily to content knowledge and to instructional strategies, plays an ongoing part in our work. If teachers are expected to teach differently today, then they must continue to learn. Quality staff development occurs in new and different ways than merely the inservice offerings of years past. Effective staff development focuses on knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Today's school personnel must take on new roles within the school and be able to teach young people from diverse backgrounds by drawing on a large repertoire of subject matter and teaching skills.
Today's emphasis on national, state and local curriculum standard require teachers to have a deep knowledge of the subjects they teach and to use various teaching practices depending on the learning needs of their students. Teachers need sustained and rigorous professional development to help prepare students to perform successfully on the new forms of assessment that are a product of the standards movement. Effective staff development helps teachers acquire the most up-to-date knowledge of the subjects they teach and of techniques that are most powerful in promoting student learning.
Teacher learning and student learning go hand-in-hand. Students cannot achieve high levels of learning and performance unless teachers, principals, and other school employees are continuously learning. As is true with other professions, new professional knowledge requires sustained learning opportunities for teachers.
How many people would seek treatment from physicians, for example, if they had stopped learning after they graduated from medical school? All professions require that their members update their knowledge and skills throughout their careers. The past few years have yielded important research on human learning and teaching that was not available to most teachers during their college educations or earlier in their careers.
Enhancing teachers' skills will increase student learning. Staff development must be combined with standards for student learning and for teaching, improved curriculum materials, new forms of assessment, new technology, and skillful leadership. It is critical that educators have access to the knowledge about teaching and learning available today.