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Arkansas State University

Teacher Performance Improves with Subject Matter Training


History of Professional Development For Teachers

According to the Teaching Tolerance project from the Southern Poverty Law Center, professional development in education falls into one of two waves. The first wave covered the 1960s, when professional development for teachers focused mainly on teaching skills: time management, planning, modeling and assessment. In the 1990s, however, the second wave focused more on student learning, and professional development for teachers began to consider how teachers could improve student learning through subject-matter training. Instead of specific classroom management skills, professional development for teachers emphasized “(1) how students learn particular subject matter; (2) instructional practices that are specifically related to the subject matter and how students understand it; and (3) strengthening teachers’ knowledge of specific subject-matter content.”

What Is Subject-Matter Professional Development For Teachers?

While any current online master’s degree in education program covers up-to-date teaching approaches, subject-matter knowledge truly foregrounds effective teaching. As the Partnership for 21st-Century Skills attests, “teachers can teach for deep understanding of subject matter in ways that enhance problem-solving, critical thinking and other 21st century skills, through a balance of direct instruction and project-oriented teaching methods.” That is, knowledge comes to students indirectly as part of a larger goal to complete a project. Effective education must build upon core subject-matter content in ways that highlight problem solving and critical thinking.

The Key

Historically, professional development in education has concentrated on the instructors’ teaching skills; however, current online master’s degree in education programs know that subject-matter mastery and student learning are both key to effective professional development for teachers. Teaching, like any other career, requires ongoing personal and professional growth.

Learn more about Arkansas State University’s online Master of Science in Education in Curriculum & Instruction.


Partnership For 21st Century Skills: Professional Development: A 21st Century Skills Implementation Guide

Teaching Tolerance: Teaching Teachers: Professional Development to Improve Student Achievement

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