Whatever the professional development route a teacher chooses, one thing's for sure: He or she must meet certain professional obligations depending on the school, district, state and subject of certification.
Much of the teacher training outlined in individual professional development plans still takes place in off-site workshops, conferences and training sessions. Sometimes, a teacher's personal plan intersects with district-wide training. This learning often takes place in the school itself and can be targeted to a teacher's specific needs, such as the age of the students being instructed or the subject being taught. Teachers can collaborate with each other about instruction issues, as well as observe other teachers in the classroom, receive coaching or mentoring, or set off on a self-prescribed research mission. Experts are brought in for in-service training, a time in which teachers are released from teaching duties during regular school hours so they can hone new skills.
In addition, an increasing number of teachers are receiving training outside these traditional settings. Many teachers are turning to online sources that provide individualized professional development. While learning at home has its advantages -- such as flexible scheduling and no commutes -- there's another distinct advantage budget-strapped school districts are discovering, too. Online resources aren't as expensive. Instead of bringing in experts to offer pricey daylong presentations, there are low-cost or even free online lessons available -- many of which can be integrated into a district's existing improvement initiatives [source: Rebora].
Of course, public school teachers aren't the only ones who continue to improve their craft through workshop training. Private school teachers, such as those who instruct using the Montessori method, also are encouraged to complete professional development courses. However, these courses -- whether math, music, special needs or leadership -- are tailored to the Montessori style, which allows children to learn at their own pace. Some Montessori professional development courses offer dual credit toward a master's degree [source: NAMTA]. If a teacher is leading Montessori classes in a public school partnership, teacher certification through the state -- as well as a Montessori training organization -- is required. In this case, a teacher would be subject to the professional development required to renew his or her state teaching license.
With all the types of professional training available, teachers are sure to benefit from honing their craft, but these programs aren't without their downsides. On the next page, we'll take a look at some of the pros and cons of professional development programs for teachers.