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21 Top Professional Development Topics For Teachers Now

Teacher professional development should be strategic. Here are twenty one ideas with the current hot topics for teachers.

Any time we have a break, educators need to get some rest so that we can be our best. However, our professional accreditation requirements are still on track and need to be renewed, as we have to learn and up our abilities. As I look to listen to educators, here are 21 hot topics that I think we should consider including in our personal PD. They fit into the categories of SEL, digital instruction, engagement/management, and leadership. 

Also, remember to apply these 5 Simple Principles for Improving Teacher Professional Development as you select your topic and method of delivery.

21 top professional development (1)

Advancement Courses

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Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored blog post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Recently, while discussing the next steps for schools this fall with two instructional designers in the webinar “10 Ways to Move Learning Forward”, we identified ten considerations for school. (I’ve embedded the webinar below for you to review.) Many of the topics below were part of that conversation, including Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

As a result of this webinar and some research of my own, I compiled this list which I hope will serve as a quick menu for you and the teachers at your school to select summer professional development that will help you grow and learn. I've also included courses from this blog post sponsor, Advancement Courses that meet the criteria for each topic.

Social-Emotional Learning

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is right at the top of the list for many of us. We have to relate to educate. To better relate, we have to understand where students are emotionally so that we can connect with them, get them any extra help they might need, and move them forward.

SEL isn’t about manipulation it’s about human connection; and of all the things we need to do, connecting with one another and regulating ourselves emotionally is right at the top of the list. Let's look at some areas we can all improve.

1. Student Mental Health (Including Anxiety and Depression)

Understanding mental health is more important than ever. Recently, I had to educate myself on the current trends in helping students who are anxious, depressed, worried, or just need guidance about the future. 

Research note: As Wall (2021) indicates, there is a definite connection between trauma and student behavior as well as student learning. In her qualitative study, she found that when schools meet this challenge head-on, student achievement increased and behavioral challenges decreased. (WALL, C. R. G. (2021). RELATIONSHIP OVER REPROACH: FOSTERING RESILIENCE BY EMBRACING A TRAUMA-INFORMED APPROACH TO ELEMENTARY EDUCATION. JOURNAL OF AGGRESSION, MALTREATMENT & TRAUMA, 30(1), 118-137.)

Understanding student mental health can also help us with others who we meet in our world today. Students need us to understand them so we can teach them. These courses will give you a start.

Courses about Student Mental Health

Strategies for Addressing Student Anxiety – With the strategies and interventions you learn in this course, you will be able to create a classroom environment where students can successfully cope with stressors and instead focus on learning.

Helping Children Overcome Depression – Using the resources and strategies from this course, you will be able to support your students struggling with depression to help them redirect their thinking and pursue academic success in spite of the challenges they’re facing.

2. How to Reach Students Who Have Experienced Trauma

You nor I can know or understand what children have experienced in this time of challenge and upheaval. So, we have to learn how to reach and teach students who have experienced trauma. We don’t need to know what it is, but we do need to recognize that the trauma is there. In my experience, I’ve found that assuming that students have experienced trauma of some kind is more likely than assuming that they haven’t.

Helping Students Overcome Trauma – In this course, you will explore the different types of trauma and how they affect students’ behavior and academic performance. You’ll learn how to identify conditions such as PTSD and how to help students through natural and healthy grieving processes. In addition, you’ll explore strategies for proactively coping with trauma, including creating student-led support groups and peer counseling programs, getting students involved with community outreach programs, and partnering with local and national organizations focused on processing trauma. With the resources and techniques from this course, you will be equipped to create a program that helps your students heal and thrive in spite of life’s hardest griefs and tragedies.

3. How to Connect to Students and Understand Their Emotions (SEL)

Teachers around the world are using mood check-ins, emotional temp checks, and other methods for connecting. Even when connecting at a distance instead of in person, we can all benefit from learning some skills to connect with students on an emotional level, even while delivering classroom instruction.

SEL Courses

Assessment Strategies for SEL – In this course, you’ll get up to speed on current practices in SEL, including the history and legislation that has propelled it to the forefront of our educational focus. You’ll explore emotional intelligence models and various methods for collecting data, so you’ll be equipped to decide which instruments are right for your school or district to measure SEL growth. In addition, you’ll create practical tools such as rubrics for teacher observation, surveys for self-assessment reports, and data collection checklists and notes for interviews. Finally, you’ll choose your last lesson to either explore the long-term economic and social value of SEL instruction so you can encourage your school or district to invest in this important movement or discover the ways you can easily implement SEL instruction and assessment into your current routine. 

Creating Meaningful Relationships and Setting Boundaries with your Students In this course, you will examine the fundamental strategies involved in building meaningful relationships and setting boundaries with your students. You’ll learn foundational concepts of interpersonal relationships, learner-centered instruction, the role of the teacher as a facilitator and advisor, the impact of the learning environment on the development of meaningful relationships, authentic learning, and inquiry-based teaching. In addition, you’ll cultivate techniques for establishing good rapport while maintaining healthy boundaries, even with hard-to-reach students.

4. Engaging Students Online Who Are Experiencing Anxiety

Some students are not yet ready or cannot return to in-person learning. It can be more challenging to engage these students online. Skills for online engagement with students who are experiencing anxiety (and trauma) can be especially helpful for educators struggling with student disengagement in online classrooms.

Student Anxiety in Online Learning – In this course, you’ll analyze anxiety brought about by technology immersion as an overactive fight–flight–freeze survival response. Based on information systems research, you’ll explore the concept of “technostress” and its triggers, how to spot it in your students, and how it impacts learning. You’ll examine common mistakes in addressing anxiety, as well as how to work with parents to help students through technostress and when to reach out for additional help. Finally, you’ll learn traditional best practices and digital solutions available to students to offset some of the anxiety they’re experiencing.  

5. Better Relating to Parents

Now more than ever, parents and teachers need closer partnerships if we’re going to help children. However, how do educators relate to parents, as many parents have also experienced trauma? Developing and improving parent communication plans and understanding how to better connect with parents will help educators help students even more, particularly if those students are learning from home.

Courses About Improving Parent Relationships

Partnering with Parents for Student Success – According to Dr. Susan M. Sheridan (n.d.), “Research shows that when a partnership approach between parents and teachers is evident, children’s work habits, attitudes about school and grades improve. They demonstrate better social skills, fewer behavioral problems and a greater ability to adapt to situations and get along.”  As educators, we want what’s best for our students! It is our job to establish, foster, and maintain productive relationships with parents so that our students can be successful.

Forming Community Partnerships to Access Educational Resources – In this course for school leaders, you will explore methods for seeking out and partnering with community members to gain a variety of resources for your school. You’ll learn from other school leaders who have successfully built a network of contacts and resources, and develop strategies to help you do the same in your community. In addition, you’ll learn how to create a well-balanced presentation of your schools’ current needs to energize community members to get involved. 
By the end of the course, you’ll have a practical plan to drive more educational opportunities for your students through the power of community partnerships. 

6. Self-Care for Educators

Teachers have to rest to be their best. Additionally, educators have to be healthy and whole in order to rise to the monumental tasks laid upon them in classrooms today. We must learn to have good health and wellness so we can be better classroom teachers tomorrow. If your school lets you take such a course, I think most of us would benefit.

Self Care Courses

Achieving Work-Life Harmony in Teaching – During the course, you will develop strategies and practices to apply immediately in your practices as you assess your stress and its causes, as well as implementing new rituals and routines that ease distress through understanding the concept of resilience.

Self Care Strategies for Teachers – You will learn techniques for how to stop absorbing stressors, manage challenging situations, build long-term self-care strategies for all areas of your life, and track your progress through a series of somatic and emotional self-evaluations. This course gives you the opportunity to invest in yourself so you can build a more grounded, inspired, and sustainable career in education.

7. Home/School Life Balance Strategies

When school and online learning follow you everywhere, teachers and students need to learn balance. Additionally, as students are completing instruction and asking questions 24/7, educators need to know how to balance and set healthy boundaries to continue teaching effectively in the long term. If more educators cannot establish firm home/school life balance strategies, then I sadly predict that we will see many more incredible educators leave the profession.

Work and Life Balance Courses

Creating Work-Life Harmony in Teaching – Using the techniques from this course, you’ll be able to create a personalized set of practices that will help you maximize what’s most important in your personal and professional life.

Becoming a Calm, Happy Teacher – The techniques will help you create more life balance so that you can cultivate more well-being for yourself and your classroom. The strategies will not only help you be more engaged, present, and fulfilled as a teacher, but you’ll also apply your learning to your classroom and your students.

Online and Digital Instruction

As we work to instruct students in blended learning and online classrooms, we should continue to update our abilities to instruct students in digital spaces.

8. Online Instructional Engagement

Students are ghosting. In fact, sometimes students who turn on their cameras are the exception. How can teachers engage students when they cannot require students to turn on their camera? How can teachers in classrooms engage students in the digital platforms used to supplement and personalize learning? These are the questions of the hour right now for educators everywhere.

Courses to Improve Online Engagement

Engaging Students in Online Learning – Using the tools from this course, you’ll be able to plan fun and interesting online instruction that meets a variety of learning needs. 

Fostering Student Interaction in Online Learning – Using the best practices from this course, you will be able to help increase student-to-student engagement and foster a greater love of learning.

9. Online Assessment

Assessment must respect learners, provide actionable feedback, and motivate. Sometimes this feels like a Herculean task, but there are best practices to help all of us get better at assessment. When you take time to improve assessment, students can improve their learning.

Courses About Online Assessment

Jumpstarting Online Assessments – By incorporating dynamic, engaging online assessment into your class, you will be able to help your students navigate the online learning space and achieve the same standards as a face-to-face classroom. 

Designing Online Assessments for Students – Using the techniques from this course, you’ll be able to incorporate online assessments in your class in a way that makes sense for your context and that will help your students learn and grow on a deeper level.

10. Student Accountability in Online Learning

How can educators hold students accountable while still respecting individual family situations? Student accountability is a hot topic this year, but it’s not a new topic. Best practices already exist for holding students accountable in a way that motivates them. We can all improve in this area.

Student Accountability in Online Learning – In this course, you’ll learn to harness the power of authentic learning experiences to help students see how their learning is meaningful and connected to the real world. You’ll learn the importance of developing students’ executive functioning skills to foster independent learning and investigate ways to create classroom spaces and curricula that are inviting and engaging. In addition, you’ll explore ways to get families involved and build support systems that empower students to learn. 
Finally, you’ll assess your school and classroom practices to ensure they are equitable for all learners, and that they motivate students to achieve their highest potential. Using the techniques from this course, you’ll be able to put students in the driver’s seat by teaching them to manage, measure, and be excited about their own learning. 

11. Education Technology Accessibility for All Students

Many technology tools require teacher customization in order for all students to access the content. Additionally, other tools limit the accessibility for those who learn differently or have physical challenges. Accessibility is another hot topic that also relates to equity and inclusion in the digital classroom. We all must improve the accessibility of our digital content.

Courses About How to Make EdTech Accessible

Accessibility in the Digital Classroom – By the end of this course, you’ll have the knowledge and tools you need to create or modify digital learning materials to be more accessible to all students

Equity in the Digital Classroom – By the end of this course, you’ll have a roadmap for how to avoid the pitfalls of online learning and plan an equitable learning experience for all your students. 

12. Fun Learning Strategies for Engaging Students Who Have Been Disengaged (Game-based Learning)

We can play games and learn with digital games and activities that engage learners in the face-to-face and online classrooms. Level up and have fun while learning with courses that help you improve your ability to play games, learn, and teach at the same time.

Game-Based Learning

Let’s Play! Creating a Playful Classroom – Using techniques from this course, you will transform your classroom into one that is meaningful, relevant, and most of all, fun!

Level Up! Student Achievement Through Gamification and Game-Based Learning – By the end of this course, you will be equipped with strategies for creating and selecting educational games that are best suited for your content, your grade level, and your students’ unique interests and needs.

Topics for Every Classroom: Online and Face-to-Face

13. How to Help Students Who Have Been Disengaged by Learning Gaps

Learning gaps are the hot topic of the moment as schools and teachers wrestle with the reality that some students will return to school behind by a whole grade level — or more. What does a teacher do when a student isn’t even on the first page of this year’s textbook? The traditional problems of helping students who are behind is magnified by the struggles with student engagement during the pandemic. Helping students progress quickly is the challenge facing schools everywhere.

Summer Learning Strategies: Combatting the Summer Slide — This course offers tools that teachers can quickly and easily implement so that their summer learning suggestions are ready to go long before the end of the year nears. During the course, you’ll learn how to increase motivation through student choice and get parents involved so they can support student learning even in the midst of summer travel and vacation plans. You’ll also see how you can set up e-mail templates so you can stay in touch with students and parents without having to compose e-mails over the summer. 

14. Reaching Every Student Through Differentiation.

If teachers continue to use the same approach for every student, some learners will disengage. Differentiated instruction is one of my favorite methods to help students learn and engage with content as I use technology. This topic will benefit teachers in face-to-face and online classrooms everywhere.

Differentiated Instruction – In this course, you will master the skills necessary to effectively differentiate instruction for optimal achievement by all students. You will learn how to identify individual students’ needs and learning styles, and create activities and tiered lessons that will meet those needs. You will cultivate different strategies for grouping students, arranging your classroom, and using cognitive approaches that help students take ownership of their learning.

15. Equity and Inclusion

Including and engaging all students is vital to helping every child thrive. Courses in cultural sensitivity and inclusion can help educators everywhere bring everyone into the learning.

Courses on Equity and Inclusion

Fostering Cultural Awareness and Inclusivity in the Classroom – After participating in this course, you’ll be able to approach instruction with an awareness of your own biases and will be more adept at fostering inclusion and better meeting the needs of your learners. 

Implementing Culturally Responsive Teaching Strategies – Whether you’re looking to make your classroom and lesson plans more culturally inclusive or start a school wide initiative, this course will give you the tools you need to be truly inclusive, culturally responsive, and capable of understanding and reaching all children.

Cultural Diversity in the Digital Classroom – By the end of this course, you’ll have practical, meaningful strategies and ideas to become more culturally responsive in a digital learning environment and help your students feel more included and motivated even when they’re physically far apart. 

16. Helping Special Needs Students Succeed

Students who struggle to learn and have special accommodations require adjustments for teachers, particularly in online classrooms. However, there are methods to make it easier for educators to reach every child. 

Courses to Help Special Needs Students

Communicating with Parents of Students with Special Needs – Using the tools and techniques from this course, you will be able to cultivate a positive, caring relationship with your students’ families and effectively share their progress so you can work together toward their child’s success.

The General Educator's Guide to Special Education – With the strategies and best practices from this course, you will be equipped to better serve students with disabilities regardless of your grade, subject area, or teaching context.

Cultural Competency in Special Education – By the end of this course, you will have the self-reflection and pedagogical skills you need to continually grow and respond to the needs of your special education students.

17. Classroom Management

For me, the concepts I learned in Harry Wong’s The First Days of School changed my classroom for the better. If behavior is a problem, often learning better classroom management techniques can help teachers provide students with more opportunities for success. I know that better classroom management has helped me.

Courses to Help Teachers Improve Classroom Management

A Well-Managed Classroom for 21st-Century Educators – With the tools and techniques from this course, you’ll be able to build a thriving, positive learning environment for your students—and for you. 

Curbing Disruptive Behavior – Using the proven, practical solutions from this course, you will be equipped to take back control of your classroom—starting today.

Classroom Management for Online Learning – By the end of this course, you’ll be able to confidently build and manage an online classroom to maximize learning for all students.

18. Digital Citizenship and Self-Control for Students Using Technology

Appropriate online behavior, online safety, and personal privacy are all topics for students to master as they move to learning that is strongly technology-enhanced. Self-control has also loomed as a vital issue. Digital citizenship topics can help students and teachers get on the same page and create a safer online space.

Digital Citizenship Courses for Educators

Developing 21st – Century Skills in a Digital World – With the knowledge and techniques from this course, you will be equipped to support your students in developing the 21st-century skills they need to succeed in our tech-focused world and workforce. 
K-5 or 6-12

Respect, Educate, and Protect: Cultivating Digital Citizenship in 21st-Century Learners – Using the techniques from this course, you will be able to instill in your students' important 21st-century skills and empower them to use technology in a safe and responsible manner throughout their lives.

Teaching Media Literacy in a Post-Truth World – From the design of the learning environment to expectation setting and more, it’s critical to create an environment in which all students, regardless of their opinions or background, have an opportunity to fairly express their thoughts.

Teacher Leadership and School Health

19. How to Retain Excellent Teachers at Your School

Teachers (and substitute teachers) are becoming scarce. The best schools will retain and attract the best teachers. Administrators and teacher leaders need to understand the techniques to do this and help their school succeed.

Recruiting, Retaining, and Reengaging Excellent Teachers – By investing your time in this course, you will be able to proactively build and keep a great staff for years to come, saving yourself time and headaches down the road. 

20. Effective Instructional Coaching Techniques

Whether online or face-to-face, all of us teachers (me included) can improve. However, instructional coaching can be done in a way that either fosters improvement or resentment. Learning effective instructional coaching techniques is essential for those empowered to help teachers level up their pedagogical approaches.

Creating an Effective Instructional Coaching Program for Your School –  By investing your time in this course, you will be able to proactively build and keep a great staff for years to come, saving yourself time and headaches down the road. 

21. Teacher Leadership and Helping Teacher Cohorts Progress Together

Teachers can create powerful learning communities as they band together to progress and learn with one another. Effective schools create nurturing Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and use other techniques to help teachers level up and learn together. Learn the techniques and develop plans to help your school improve.

Teacher Leadership and Learning Courses

Teachers as Leaders – With the knowledge and techniques from this course, you will be able to sharpen your leadership skills so you can better serve your colleagues and improve your team, school, and district.

The Seven Domains of Teacher Leadership – By the end of this course, you’ll be equipped to make a meaningful impact on your school’s improvement efforts and create a more equitable learning environment for your students.

Maximizing Teacher Success Through Small Group Collaboration – Using the techniques from this course, you will be able to form and manage productive, growth-oriented groups for better collaboration among your peers. 

Pick A Course and Make Progress

I recently shared how I selected my summer professional development and which course I’ll begin taking in June. I like Advancement Courses because they have practical outcomes and give me six months to complete the work. Remember to use my offer code COOL20 to receive 20% off your course registration.

Let’s do this!

This blog post is sponsored. When a blog post is marked as a “sponsored post,” the company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to edit and post. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this per the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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JANE February 3, 2022 - 8:57 am

I would love to improve my learners’ reading skills.
Please help

Vicki Davis March 16, 2022 - 8:34 pm

Here is a post on reading stamina – https://www.coolcatteacher.com/5-ways-to-build-reading-stamina/ – you can also search “reading” in the search box.

Lorin Chandler February 19, 2022 - 3:09 pm

It is so important to understand mental illness and trauma to even begin to understand how we as educators can reach the children who suffer from them. I love that the first few things you listed were about mental illness, trauma, relationships, and even taking care of ourselves as teachers. Its so easy to get bogged down in work and overlook things like that even without meaning to, but true learning can not happen without focus on those topics!

Emma September 14, 2023 - 5:50 am

These teacher professional development topics are important because they improve classroom dynamics and enhance student well-being. They enable teachers to have a significant impact on a variety of students while encouraging participation and peer development.


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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere