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Professional Development in Elementary Education Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 15th, 2022

Introduction

The educational sphere holds the top priority for contemporary society as the institution responsible for training individuals and preparing for future work and career building. For this reason, the development of the sector remains topical, and there are multiple attempts to foster its further evolution. The proposed literature review is focused on the problem of literacy among students and ways to improve it by providing teachers with training, tools, and equipment vital for their professional development (PD). The choice of the topic is justified by the significant scope of the problem and by the critical importance of PD in terms of modern schools and other educational establishments.

Review of the Literature

Importance of Literacy

The existing body of evidence acknowledges the critical importance of literacy for academic achievement and success. Thus, Ciccarelli (2017) states that the improvement of this factor can also precondition the appropriate rise in other subject areas. Moreover, the statistical data shows that schools focusing on literacy development and its consideration as the foundation of all learning demonstrate improved outcomes, and their students have more chances to succeed in the future (Ciccarelli, 2017). Under these conditions, there is a tendency towards the shift of priorities towards putting much effort into the cultivation of this skill among learners and the creation of an environment beneficial for further achievement. This change also means that teachers should also be ready to alter and engage in PD practices.

The diversity of learners’ needs and the sophistication of society drive change in the teaching process. Today, learning moves away from the old scholastic approaches and “sit and git” methods (Ciccarelli, 2017). The focus on literacy as the foundation of the educational sector presupposes the critical reconsideration of the framework and implementation of a new methodology, including the teacher learning and acquiring new skills and experiences to remain capable of satisfying students’ basic academic demands (Wasik, 2010). Collaboration, professional development, and the increased importance of details and instructions become the central factors of the modern education sector, focusing on literacy promotion (Selvaggi, 2016). The given change is vital for the positive rise and creation of the basis for success in other spheres.

Professional Development

Regarding the processes mentioned above, and the importance of literacy development, professional development is viewed as the factor that should be given much attention and effort. Bates and Morgan (2018) are sure that PD should positively affect teacher knowledge, practice, and student learning, as the most relevant and credible indicators in education. Recent research shows that the change in teachers’ practices is positively correlated with student learning outcomes (Bates & Morgan, 2018). That is why there are multiple attempts to foster positive change and ensure that educators are equipped with innovative tools, skills, and knowledge critical for their success. However, there is still a high risk of failure as not all strategies can be viewed as effective, and teachers might suffer from the inappropriate selection of methods to prepare them for new challenges in terms of the focus on literacy.

In such a way, the approach to organizing professional development among teachers should also be given much attention. Researchers tend to outline several critical elements vital for fostering positive change and equipping educators with practices necessary for their further achievement. These include a focus on content, active learning, support for collaboration, models of effective practice, coaching and expert support, feedback and reflection, sustained duration (Bates & Morgan, 2018). The inclusion of these elements in PD and their better understanding by educators are fundamental for educational establishments as teachers should be ready to function under new conditions and adapt to diversifying learners’ needs, which is impossible not considering these factors.

The content-focused design presupposes significant attention to what is taught. Bates and Morgan (2018) state that the fast-changing nature of society introduces the continuous need for updating the content. It allows teachers to connect theory and practice and attain improved outcomes among learners (Bates & Morgan, 2018). However, educators should be able to select effective and practical strategies that will be able to explain the chosen content and guarantee an enhanced understanding among learners. Regarding literacy, it acquires the top priority as teachers should be ready to meet the diverse needs of students and provide them with explanations and texts vital for their motivation and readiness to engage in the process and master their skills.

Active learning is another critical element of professional development and achievement of success regarding literacy promotion. Bates and Morgan (2018) state that traditional lecture models and approaches presupposing the minimal or passive role of students is not relevant today as they demonstrate undesired outcomes. In terms of literacy, this method cannot guarantee the desired results and should be replaced by new, more interactive, and motivational ones. For this reason, educators should employ more engaging and interactive exercises and view them as a vital part of the whole process. That is why the PD should also be focused on providing teachers with strategies and means how to use active learning approaches in diverse classrooms and attract pupils’ attention to the knowledge that is explained now. At the same time, active learning helps teachers to improve their conceptual understanding of content, its importance, and how it should be presented to individuals.

Speaking about the collaboration, most researchers view it as a central element of professional development and literacy coaching. This view is linked to the fundamental role the factor plays in facilitating positive change and improving outcomes. Collaboration functions as the force cultivating a togetherness mindset, developing collective knowledge, and experience sharing, which is crucial for both teachers and learners (Bates & Morgan, 2018). It can occur at different levels, such as one-on-one conversation, small group learning, or whole-school settings, which means that it is a potent tool that includes the elements of social learning and encourages all stakeholders of the process to share their experiences and fill the gaps in knowledge related to various spheres (Bates & Morgan, 2018). In such a way, by establishing positive relationships between educators and building trust relations with students, it is possible to improve outcomes and understanding of instructional contexts and other nuances.

Teachers should also possess an improved understanding of effective models and practices as another element of PD. The employment of paradigms with proven effectiveness can reduce the level of undesired outcomes and create the basis for new achievements. Stegg and Lambson (2015) state that all educators today need guided opportunities to investigate available materials and select among the most appropriate ones to ensure that they provide knowledge in the most effective ways. For instance, in focusing on literacy, an educator can choose from the pool of strategies that helped his/her colleagues in other establishments and preconditioned positive outcomes (Bates & Morgan, 2018). At the same time, there is also a place for new improvements, which means that the continuity of the teaching process’ continuity is established.

The PD also presupposes substantial support from other specialists, such as instructional leaders, literacy coaches, and principals. Bates and Morgan (2018) assume that the literacy coach’s role becomes critical as he/she becomes responsible for the evolution of teachers and their ability to acquire skills vital for their collaboration with students. Under these conditions, experts should act as helpers and facilitators of professional development among teachers who work with literacy and its promotion (Bates & Morgan, 2018). This sort of support is critical for the achievement of success among students and their transformation into active readers and learners. Coaching also presupposes collaboration, which proves the idea that all components of teachers’ training are vital for the attainment of success.

Sufficient professional development also presupposes feedback and reflection as two interrelated components. Bates and Morgan (2018) state that these factors are critical for deepening any educator’s knowledge and an improved understanding of the current situation. Moreover, it can help to remain in touch with the classroom and consider learners’ needs, their progress at the moment, and gaps in the knowledge that should be filled to create the basis for further achievement (Peterson et al., 2009). In terms of literacy coaching and learning, feedback and reflection can also be viewed as fundamental elements as they help a teacher to select among the existing strategies and alter them to adapt to the current situation and needs.

At the same time, effective professional learning should be a continuous and durable process. Investigators working in the field state that a one-shot approach, regardless of its content and focus, cannot guarantee a significant improvement in educators’ skills. Today, the learners’ needs continue to diversify, which means that teachers should also be ready to become learners and follow existing trends to preserve their capabilities (L’Allier et al., 2010). However, in multiple situations, the attempts to establish the PD paradigm fail because of the incorrect vision of duration and timeframes of teachers’ evolution. Principals might fail to work with educators and insist on short terms of their preparation and training as they are needed for the school’s functioning (Selvaggi, 2016). This mistaken vision can deteriorate the outcomes of PD.

Collaboration

As stated previously, collaboration is often viewed as a critically important element of both PD and literacy coaching. Stegg and Lambson (2015) are sure that the main idea of successful PD is the participation of all actors regardless of the content area, instructional focus, or final goals. It means that teachers, coaches, and principals should work together to create a framework characterized by multiple opportunities available for educators and their professional growth. Fostering the idea that every teacher should also be a literacy teacher, it is vital to ensure that all stakeholders will provide their support and help to attain high flexibility levels (Bos et al., 1999). For this reason, collaboration becomes a vital part of PD and introduces the idea of collaborative learning as one of the most effective ways to transform an educator into a specialist who can promote literacy levels among students in different environments.

The idea of collaboration is closely linked to the concept of community where everyone teaches, learns, and reads. Gilrane et al. (2008) state that along with literacy coaches and teachers themselves, administrators and principals are also vital in fostering positive change and establishing a system that will function and provide educators with the opportunities for their rise. It means that the school context also acquires the top priority as the factor supporting other stakeholders to become effective and teach students literacy.

Finally, speaking about collaboration, specialists admit the positive impact of team coaching and specialized reading professionals. Mokhtari et al. (2009) assume that schools hiring teachers credentialed in their area of expertise might acquire multiple benefits because of the opportunities to establish team coaching practices. Such specialists can share knowledge and skills with other team members and guarantee that their attempts to engage in PD will be successful (L’Allier et al., 2010). Additionally, effective literacy coaches can help to critically evaluate the existing school context and recommend the change that might be beneficial for teaching learners and developing their literacy (Miller & Stewart, 2013). In such a way, principals and other team members are also responsible for attaining final success and teachers’ evolution as specialists.

Instructional Planning

Finally, speaking about PD, the majority of authors recognize the critical importance of instructional planning. Fisher et al. (2012) emphasize the necessity to establish an instructional framework as the basis for the further improvement of teachers’ ability to make appropriate decisions. At the same time, the existence of developed instructions can help to increase the flexibility of teachers and simplify the task of monitoring the academic achievement of students, as well as the success of educators themselves. Moreover, Pomerantz and Pierce (2013) offer the example of a school with poor outcomes which were preconditioned mainly by the lack of clear instructional framework and inappropriate literacy coaching,

Analysis

In such a way, existing research acknowledges the critical importance of literacy in the modern educational sector. It should be cultivated by teachers as the factor promoting success in other spheres and helping learners to improve their academic performance. However, to achieve the given goal, educators should engage in effective PD practices that will guarantee their ability to succeed and provide them with skills and knowledge vital for the relevant tasks. The authors emphasize the critical importance of collaboration, instructional framework, and school context as the primary factors affecting results (Selvaggi, 2016). The focus on these elements and other components of successful PD can help to train educators and make them literacy teachers with an emphasis on the use of new methods and strategies to attain success. Principals and administrators are also viewed as vital stakeholders who remain responsible for outcomes and the formation of the appropriate environment.

Conclusions

Altogether, today, there is a shift of priorities towards the use of innovative and interactive teaching methods to guarantee that students will be able to succeed in the future. Literacy is determined as the fundamental component of the modern educational sector as it promotes success in other subjects and helps students to evolve. However, to become effective literacy teachers, educators should employ new methods and engage in effective PD to eliminate gaps in knowledge and become valuable specialists who can facilitate the further development of schools and the whole sector.

References

Bates, C., & Morgan, D. (2018). Seven elements of effective professional development. The Reading Teacher, 71(5), 623-626. Web.

Bos, C., Mather, N., Narr, R., & Babur, N. (1999). Interactive, collaborative professional development in early literacy instruction: Supporting and Balancing Act. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 14(4), 227-238. Web.

Ciccarelli, M. (2017). Setting the example: What happens when principals make literacy the foundation of all learning. Literacy Today, 5(8), 3.

Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Nelson, J. (2012). Literacy achievement through sustained professional development. The Reading Teacher, 65(8), 551-563. Web.

Gilrane, C., Russel, L., & Roberts, M. (2008). Building a community in which everyone teaches, learns, and reads: A case study. The Journal of Educational Research, 101(6), 333-349.

L’Allier, S., Elish-Piper, L., & Bean, R. (2010). What matters for elementary literacy coaching? Guiding principles for institutional improvement and student achievement. The Reading Teacher, 63(7), 544-554. Web.

Miller, S., & Stewart, A. (2013). Literacy learning through team coaching. The Reading Teacher, 67(4), 290-298. Web.

Mokhtari, K., Thoma, J., & Edwards, P. (2009). How one elementary school uses data to help raise students’ reading achievement. The Reading Teacher, 63(4), 334-337. Web.

Peterson, D., Taylor, B., Burnham, B., & Schock, R. (2009). Reflective coaching conversations: A missing piece. The Reading Teacher, 62(6), 500-509. Web.

Pomerantz, F., & Pierce, M. (2013). “When do we get to read?” Reading instruction and literacy coaching in a “failed” urban elementary school. Reading Improvement, 50(3), 101-117.

Stegg, S., & Lambson, D. (2015). Collaborative professional development. One school’s story. The Reading Teacher, 68(6), 473-478. Web.

Wasik, B. (2010). What teachers can do to promote preschoolers’ vocabulary development: Strategies from an effective language and literacy professional development coaching model. The Reading Teacher, 63(8), 621-633. Web.

Selvaggi, T. (2016). Principal and literacy coach: Collaboration and goal alignment. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 82(3), 28.

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