Debunking the Myth of the Teacher Performance Plateau

Recently, Bryan Goodwin of McREL International and William J. Slotnik of the Community Training and Assistance Center partnered up to write a piece for Phi Delta Kappan exploring the myth that teachers peak as professionals early in their careers and then reach a performance plateau. Excerpts from their piece appear below:

There is a belief, long-held but inaccurate, that new teachers’ expertise and talent is mostly innate, and generally peaks and plateaus within their first few years of teaching. School systems need to abandon this myth of conventional wisdom and instead build true talent development systems that support the career-long development of teachers’ professional practices.

The path forward requires school districts to fundamentally change the way they recruit, hire, train, evaluate, and support teachers over their entire careers. If we want more innovative schools, we must create unconventionally wise systems that focus on helping educators flourish and grow throughout their careers.

People can learn and grow for an entire lifetime. And that includes educators. With that premise in mind, we would create a system that nurtures teachers’ talent at every stage. It might look like this: 

  • Stage 1: Ensure that people who enter the system demonstrate a passion for teaching
  • Stage 2: Provide new teachers with models to follow.
  • Stage 3: Develop the expertise of midcareer teachers through reflection and peer coaching.
  • Stage 4: Create opportunities for teachers to engage in self-directed learning.

If we truly want more innovative, creative schools, then we cannot rely on efforts to select and sort professional talent. We must develop expertise, creating systems that focus on helping educators flourish and grow throughout their careers.  

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