With new knowledge and technological advancements emerging constantly, it is essential for teachers to be lifelong learners. Gone are the days when teachers taught the same material year after year without ever updating their knowledge or pedagogical approaches. Nowadays, those who are considered capable and effective teachers have several important characteristics. The Kentucky Department of Education developed a list of Characteristics of Highly Effective Teaching and Learning (CHETL) and outlined that these characteristics include a knowledge of content, instructional rigor, and instructional relevance, among others. In order to provide their students with the best possible education, teachers need to be able to provide this through continuous learning and growth throughout their careers.
The teaching landscape is experiencing significant transformations, demanding proactive measures by educators. This is because traditional teaching methods once considered the cornerstone of education, are being increasingly supplemented — and, in many cases, replaced — by innovative approaches. The student demographic is also shifting, with more diversity in factors like race, ethnicity, and gender now present in classrooms.
As such, teachers must adapt and embrace the integration of technology, promote personalized and student-centered learning, foster inclusivity, and prepare students for the demands of the 21st century. By taking action, teachers ensure that educational experiences remain relevant, engaging, and meaningful for students. Below are some of the ways in which teachers can continue learning and adapting, both to enhance their teaching profession and to empower students to reach their full potential.
Primarily, teachers need to be lifelong learners in order to stay current with new knowledge and developments in their fields. In fact, a study from the journal Teaching and Teacher Education found that teachers must constantly improve their knowledge and not settle for only what they acquired at the time they graduated. This is because as new research and discoveries are made, the information that educators possess becomes outdated.
Personal development is very important for educators, as it improves knowledge and skills in order to facilitate individual, school-wide, and district-wide improvements for the purpose of increasing student achievement and/or improving student engagement. Actively engaging in professional development opportunities, such as participating in lesson studies, attending conferences, or pursuing higher education, ensures teachers that they are incorporating the most up-to-date information into their lessons. This not only benefits their students by providing them with accurate and relevant information but also enhances their understanding of their own field.
As a teacher in today’s rapidly changing landscape, constantly working to refine their skills is a valuable and crucial trait. By always looking to upskill their capabilities, teachers can stay in the loop on the latest practices in their field to enhance their effectiveness in the classroom, better meet the diverse needs of their students, and foster innovation and creativity.
Taking up courses that teach in-demand practical technological skills such as coding and UX design can help even general teachers improve their instructional techniques. Gamification, simulators, interactive whiteboards, and virtual or augmented realities are just some of the newer technologies that teachers can learn and incorporate into their classrooms. By doing this, they can better understand the modern world and how to continue learning and adapting to it, all while better preparing their own students for these modern challenges.
Being lifelong learners also helps teachers adapt to the changing needs of students. While the field of education itself is changing, so are student demographics. Race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic background, and special needs are only some of the ways in which students differ from one another. In addition, students nowadays seek educational experiences that prepare them for the future rather than just a degree. All these factors combined make the typical one-size-fits-all type of education inefficient for teaching.
One essential way teachers can adapt is by modifying their teaching strategies to accommodate different learning styles. They should employ various instructional techniques like visual aids, group work, and technological resources to cater to this diversity. Investing time in professional development programs and training would also be helpful, as these can provide educators with multicultural education, cultural competence, and strategies for teaching diverse populations. All these are constantly changing, which is why it is important that educators don’t settle with their current knowledge and continue striving to be lifelong learners.
Article written by Amber Thompson, Exclusively for Educators of America