Professional Development and Teachers’ Performance in Public Primary Education

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Definition of Primary Education

Primary education has been globally credited upon as the foundation of education although there is no universal clear-cut definition of what it is, the period of formal schooling, following preschool and prior secondary education which oftentimes occurs in either a primary school or elementary school (Anna, 2014), presenting the academic skeleton to ensure that other degrees of studies are correlated (Etor, 2013). Thus, primary education is just like the backbone in schooling (Umoh, 2006) which educates learners knowledge upon basic, literate, numeric, scientific, communicating, adaptive and advancing apprehension of the world (FRN, 2004).

Teacher Professional Development

Teacher professional development (PD) can be denoted as procedure implemented to assist educators regarding their personal, professional and social aspects to become more critically and responsibly competent in decision-making and behaving (Valencic, 2001). According to Speck and Knipe (2005), PD refers to the undertaking of obtaining or bearing professional qualifications regarding academic grades to formal coursework, participating conferences, discussion, coaching, and any possible learning opportunities occurred as rigorous, conjoint and incorporate forms.

Research Objectives and Research Questions

Though many studies prove that effective teachers can be promoted by continuous professional development, there is little reasonable proof elaborating how teachers working in primary education can learn and grow through professional development in the existing literature. The primary objectives of this study are chiefly to explore whether there are significant effects of professional development on teachers’ performance in primary education and to uncover key factors which support or hinder effective professional development.

The major research questions are:

  1. 1. In what ways does professional development affect the professional performance of public primary school teachers?
  2. 2. What makes professional development effective to teachers’ performance in public primary education?
  3. 3. What factors influencing the effective implementation of professional development in public primary education?

Literature Review

Characteristics of Effective Professional Development

According to Yoon et al. (2007) and Timperley et al. (2007), the obvious features of effective teacher professional development include content knowledge, pedagogy, and on-going support regardless of the duration of the workshops or summer courses provided. The authors further supported the idea that effective content for professional development program integrates the practical activities and theories followed by an assessment to enhance teacher’s self-regulation.

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Furthermore, effective PD should focus on specific subject areas in order for the PD conductor and the teachers can emphasize and grasp the practical theories and content explicitly (Blank & Alas, 2009). There is a collective consensus that opportunities for practice and application for PD ensure the absence of passive reception of new techniques and teaching ideas (Timperley et al., 2007; Blank and Alas, 2009). The authors also claimed that collaborative and sustained PD guarantee the teacher-peer collaboration practice, allowing them to challenge and clarify any contrasting perceptions about their teaching pedagogy with the sustainability of the PD sessions for teachers; they are collectively becoming the network of potential teachers after a particular period of time.

Lastly, the external expertise involvement is proved to make PD more realistic and challenging as the teachers in each institution are prospectively participate in unexpected context of learning and activities from expertise who come from various backgrounds and cultures (Timperley et al., 2007; Wei et al., 2009).

Importance of Professional Development for Teachers

Generally, there are a number of reasons why teachers ought to participate in viable professional development (PD). Harnett (2012) demonstrated that effective PD provides teachers with opportunities to stay relevant and up-to-date to the changing trends and improving teaching skill in the teaching profession. The author further emphasized that teachers who choose to stand still without creating a chance to upgrade themselves will get left behind as their current knowledge and skills will gradually become outdated.

Moreover, well-crafted PD allows teachers to share and learn from other teachers’ experience regarding problems or concerns arising during teaching hours (Whitworth & Chiu, 2015). Teachers are then able to build up their confidence in tackling classroom problems and undertaking fresh initiatives, thereby benefiting to both teachers and students in the long run (Harnett, 2012; Whitworth & Chui, 2015). In addition to lifting up teachers’ confidence, it is obvious that most teachers adopt the right combination of teaching philosophy after participating in PD (Mizell, 2010). That said, teachers do not consider students as passive consumers of knowledge but rather active co-generators of it in the 21st-century teaching and learning community.

More practically, participating in PD provides an opportunity for teachers to make a meaningful contribution to their schools (Harnett, 2012). With knowledge and experience of PD, teachers are able to become more participatory in establishing effective support structures to maximize students’ learning outcomes. Teachers can, most specifically, advance their teaching career and move into vacant positions where they can lead, manage, coach, and mentor junior teachers and colleagues (Mizell, 2010; Whitworth & Chui, 2015).

Challenges of Professional Development Implementation on Teachers’ Performance

Burns (2015) pointed out four barriers which refrain most teachers in fragile contexts from receiving effective PD. Burdensome working conditions are the first major obstacle, caused by irregular salary, stuffed classroom, and a lack of appreciation from principals and community. This creates negative impacts on the motivation and professionalism of teachers. Burn (2015), moreover, explained systematic challenges which usually result from poor leadership or insufficient budget is another great barrier, leading to unsatisfactory teaching evaluation and broken communication among entities involving training and evaluation employees.

What is worse, conflict relating political issues and inadequate infrastructure makes professional development tough or impossible to achieve as it is too risky for teachers to attend (Burns, 2015). Most crucially, the author emphasized the profound impacts of poorly designed PD as some PD may be done episodically, causing confusion of who trains teachers, what and how they should learn. Worst of all, some teachers underestimate PD as of low-quality and irrelevant as it is not carefully designed (Burns, 2015).


  1. Anna, Z. (2014). Primary and Secondary Education in USA and China: Comparison of Approach and Purpose (published bachelor thesis). Masaryk University, Brno.
  2. Blank, R. K., Alas, N., & Smith, C. (2008, February). Does Teacher Professional Development Have Effects on Teaching and Learning? Evaluation findings from programs in 14 states.
  3. Retrieved from Council of Chief State School Officers website:
  4. Burns. M. (2015). 4 Barriers to Teachers’ Professional Development in Fragile Contexts. Retrieved from
  5. Dy, S. S. (2017). A Roadmap for Teacher Policy Development in Cambodia: Learning from International Experience and Application and Good Practice. Cambodia Education Review, 1(1), 69-94.
  6. Etor, C.R., Mbon, U.F., & Ekanem, E. E. (2013). Primary Education as a Foundation for Qualitative Higher Education in Nigeria. Journal of Education and Learning. 2(2). 155 164.
  7. Federal Republic of Nigeria. (2004). National Policy on Education. Yaba: NERDC.
  8. Harnett, J. (2012). Reducing Discrepancies between Teachers Espoused Theories and Theories in Use: An Action Research Model of Reflective Professional Fevelopment. Educational Action Research, 20(3), 367-384.
  9. Mizell, H. (2010). Why Professional Development Matters. Oxford: Learning Forward.
  10. Speck, M. & Knipe, C. (2005). Why Can’t We Get It Right? Designing High-Quality Professional Development for Standards-Based School (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.
  11. Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar, H., & Fung, I. (2007). Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration. Auckland: NZ Ministry of Education.
  12. Umoh, G.G. (2006). Path to Quantitative Education: A Standard Book for Students, Teachers and Educational Administrators. Uyo: Inela Ventures and Publishers.
  13. Valencic-Zuljan, M. (2001). Modeli in Nacela Uciteljevaga Profesionalnega Razvoja [Models and principles of the teacher’s professional development]. Sodobna pedagogika, 52(2), 122-141.
  14. Wei, R. C., Darling-Hammond, L., Andree, A., Richardson, N., & Orphanos, S. (2009). Professional learning in the learning profession. Washington, DC: National Staff Development Council.
  15. Whitworth, B. A., & Chui, J. L. (2015). Professional Development and Teacher Change: The Missing Leadership Link. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 26(2), 121-137.
  16. Yoon, K., Duncan, T., Lee, S. W., Scarloss, B., & Shapley, K. L. (2007). Reviewing the Evidence on How Teacher Professional Development Affects Student Achievement. Issues and Answers Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
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