Professional Development: Critical Component of Success

Allison Vice

Allison Vice

Chief Innovation Officer

Possessing the right educational tools and knowledge results in less stress and more success for special education teachers and their students. School districts encourage, and often require, teacher participation in professional development programs in an effort to provide the necessary training to optimize students’ learning. In theory, this is the right idea, but too often, teachers face challenges like finding the right professional development options to fit their needs and the time to complete them.

Technology Impacts Student Success

Professional development is beneficial to teachers in obtaining the tools to ensure each student has the opportunity to unlock their full potential. Fortunately, school districts are beginning to understand that it is technology that holds the key to success for teachers and students.

Technology is changing the landscape of special education. Professional development offerings are starting to reflect this change in multiple ways. Special education software enables data-driven instruction that enhances how students learn in the classroom, and enables teachers to measure their progress in a more accurate and timely manner. Professional development programs, therefore, must familiarize teachers not only with the mechanics of using the technology but also how to implement it to achieve optimal student outcomes.

As technology impacts student success in the classroom, it also provides new ways to deliver professional development courses to teachers. In addition to more traditional trainer-led programs, online courses are now more readily available, allowing teachers to complete training at their own pace. Personalized learning for teachers means professional development is no longer just one-size-fits-all, but, rather, a relevant and enriching journey for teachers that will enable them to meet their students’ diverse needs.

Three Principles of Professional Development

According to the National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET), the need for professional development rests on the following principles:

  • Student learning is directly affected by teacher competence
  • Teacher competence is enhanced by ongoing professional development and continuous learning
  • Teachers, like students, must be continual learners

In the face of the changing landscape of special education, these principles have never been more relevant than they are today. Appropriate professional development has never been more important for special education teachers charged with facilitating student success. Technology continues to enhance personalized learning for students with special needs, enabling their individual needs to be appropriately met and measured.  It’s critical that teachers have continued opportunities to stay knowledgeable of new tools if they are to be effective agents for the success of their students with special needs.

About the Author

Alli Vice is a certified speech-language pathologist who previously served as a school coordinator, consultant, developer and presenter. She is seasoned in the areas of communication disorders, behavior, curriculum and assistive technology. She is the author of <em>Practical AAC: A Guide to Functional Communication</em> and the developer of the Smart/Ease series of augmentative communication page sets. Alli holds a Master of Education degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Southern University.