| Sep 21, 2016

Professional Development: An untapped market?

Professional development days are a staple of school life. Students get a day off, parents scramble for childcare, and teachers sit in a stuffy room and become students. In truth, however, professional development (PD) is a huge part of work life for a teacher, with around ten percent of the school year, or 19 days, devoted to training. But much of that effort is wasted, according to a new study [note: report behind paywall]: "By and large, U.S. teachers are receiving professional development that is superficial, short-lived, and incoherent." Does this present a hidden opportunity for modern trainers and educators?

The point of PD is to ensure that teachers are fully versed in current educational knowledge and techniques. A lot of people tend to think of teaching advancement in terms of generations, with younger teachers picking up new skills when they train for their certificates, and bringing those skills into the classroom while older teachers retire. However if that viewpoint has any basis in reality, it’s a disastrously inefficient way to keep teachers current, especially in this day and age.

The world is full of data and practical experience, and private companies make the most of this through constant skills training -- and being profit-making entities, they work hard to ensure that all their training is effective, useful, and is retained by all learners. The study, a

2016 EdNET Insight report entitled The Evolution of Professional Development to Professional Learning, finds essentially no effect on student outcomes by teacher PD, while most teachers believe it has little relevance in their work. Despite this, the report views PD as a huge potential opportunity.

Modern training offers countless venues for picking up, honing and maintaining skills. Micro-credentials, online learning, collaborative learning -- the list is long. And the market is huge, with an estimated US$18 billion spent on PD in the United States alone -- this totals around $18,000 per teacher per year. Would talented teachers, trainers and tutors outside the education system be able to crack this market and start offering PD to educators? At the moment, few schools would even think of such a thing -- but making it happen could have major business ramifications. It’s an opportunity to make a profit, and to make a difference.