Professional Development/Knowledge

Published: June 23, 2008
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Professional development is a process of improving skills and competencies to ensure that early childhood care and education staff and teachers are fully prepared to work effectively and creatively in the communities they serve. Professional development can take many forms, including structured lectures or training sessions, peer mentoring, reflective supervision, consultant coaching, distance learning, online discussion groups, continuing education and degree requirements, and other models that theoretically increase individual or program competence. At Head Start’s Ninth National Research Conference, several speakers addressed the critical role that professional development plays in developing and sustaining high-quality programs for infants, toddlers, and families. Keynote speaker Margaret Burchinal, Ph.D. spoke about competencies and credentials in the early childhood classroom, noting that quality of early childhood education is not necessarily higher when teachers have a bachelor’s degree or more education. She noted that the quality can be improved when teachers receive carefully selected and implemented professional development. Respondent Robert C. Pianta, Ph.D. concurred, asserting that the field should move from simply accepting academic degrees as evidence of classroom effectiveness. He emphasized that the field would benefit from developing further valid assessments of teachers’ practice and knowledge, and investing professional development funds in training components with demonstrated effectiveness.

Head Start's 9th National Research Conference