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Professional development generally refers to the acquisition or updating of knowledge and skills required for maintaining a particular career path and growing as a professional in a particular field. As various professions attempt to adapt to global changes, professional development is used to help employees stay on top of innovations in technology and best practices in their fields. In education, professional development is an essential component for teachers to remain relevant and effective. Teachers need to recognize the diverse student population and be able to effectively address their various and special needs. Professional development can bring the benefits of integrating advancements in research concerning how people learn and new subject-area knowledge to a teacher's instruction in the classroom. In addition, professional development is an ever increasing component of enabling teachers and staff to advance in status or rank.
Education policymakers and school leaders incorporate professional development in various capacities to improve the quality of teaching and the level of student learning in schools:
- For new and beginning teachers entering the field as a component of induction programs
- For inexperienced and experienced teachers as a supportive intervention following an unsatisfactory evaluation
- To train educators in new procedures and technologies associated with school reforms to support success
- To enhance teachers' knowledge and skills in pedagogical practice and techniques and in specific content areas that they teach
- May be used by states as a requirement for continuing licensure or advancement
- May be incorporated as a component in diversified compensation programs.