Professional development is learning to earn or maintain professional credentials such as academic degrees to formal coursework, attending conferences, and informal learning opportunities situated in practice. It has been described as intensive and collaborative, ideally incorporating an evaluative stage. There are a variety of approaches to professional development, including consultation, coaching, communities of practice, lesson study, mentoring, reflective supervision and technical assistance.
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Professional development opportunities can range from a single workshop to a semester-long academic course, to services offered by a medley of different professional development providers and varying widely with respect to the philosophy, content, and format of the learning experiences. Some examples of approaches to professional development include:
- Case Study Method – The case method is a teaching approach that consists in presenting the students with a case, putting them in the role of a decision maker facing a problem.
- Consultation – to assist an individual or group of individuals to clarify and address immediate concerns by following a systematic problem-solving process.
- Coaching – to enhance a person’s competencies in a specific skill area by providing a process of observation, reflection, and action.
- Communities of Practice – to improve professional practice by engaging in shared inquiry and learning with people who have a common goal.
- Lesson Study – to solve practical dilemmas related to intervention or instruction through participation with other professionals in systematically examining practice.
- Mentoring – to promote an individual's awareness and refinement of his or her own professional development by providing and recommending structured opportunities for reflection and observation.
- Reflective Supervision – to support, develop, and ultimately evaluate the performance of employees through a process of inquiry that encourages their understanding and articulation of the rationale for their own practices.
- Technical Assistance – to assist individuals and their organization to improve by offering resources and information, supporting networking and change efforts.