Have you ever wondered how long it would take to do your tax if accounts were never trained to use computers or calculators? … guess they’d still be using an abacus.
Have you ever thought about what job you would still be working in if you hadn’t enrolled in that course or finished that certificate or learnt to type? … just look at some of your old friends who took that path.
Now have you ever wondered what type of education your children are getting? Is the classroom and teacher of today just like the one you learnt in? Would you expect it to be better? different? If teachers simply taught students the exact same material you were taught 25-35 years earlier they would only be training them for the jobs and skills that were necessary a generation ago. Do you want that? … Is that what society needs?
The short answer is NO. Of course not, which is why all teachers and educational institutions need to be providing constant, up-to-date, relevant, teacher professional development or TPD. However, it cannot just be TPD for TPD’s sake, it must be of high quality and relevant to teachers’ needs.
A teacher who is receiving regular, relevant TPD is more likely to be a Networked Teacher.
TPD is essentially training that keeps a teacher abreast with the latest research-based pedagogical practices; the latest in educational technology that assists and improves learning in and out of the classroom; and the time to network, connect and share with peers, academics and other professionals in the educational sector about best practices for learners.
There are three common models of TPD:
- Standardised TPD – a centralised model for sharing skills amongst large teacher populations
- Site-based TPD – intensive workshop learning by small groups of teachers which then uses a “mentor” approach for sharing the skills
- Self-directed TPD – independent learning, often via online courses or in-house training materials, also initiated by individuals like post-graduate studies or specialisation certificates
At my current school each of these three models are utilised with perhaps an over emphasis on the standardised model. In the past few years there have been workshops at the start of each school year which utilise a mixture of the site-based model with the standardised model. It is clear that staff enjoy this more as there is flexibility in what areas they choose to attend and the smaller groups allow questioners to be both heard and directly answered. However, each of these workshops are still very much “instruction” based as not enough time is scheduled for them to be “hands-on”. The remainder of the year has TPD scheduled on a weekly basis for one hour after school but that is all there is “a schedule”. There is the usual standardised approach to Child Protection, Risk Assessment, and First Aid which are simply necessities and par for the course. But what about the rest of the time?
At present the remainder of the scheduled time is left up to departments or faculties to plan their own TPD. This has a range of results for a range of reasons. Firstly often senior teachers, teachers in leadership positions and faculty heads are required at these times in other meetings and so are unavailable for planning or leading departmental TPD. In addition to this when they are available every individual has a different interpretation of what TPD means to them and their department, which frankly most of the time means catching up on work. This is not TPD.
The majority of faculty or curriculum based TPD can and is provided by external courses at various times throughout the year. In addition there are faculty based associations that run annual conferences for TPD in those fields. This means that school based TPD time should be programmed to be what the school specifically needs. It should fit with the strategy of the school and be planned / coordinated centrally.
At our school there is need for TPD in the areas of :
- Educational technology theory and research
- Cross-curricula integration (eg. how can we better integrate the teaching of science with maths, or art with web design etc).
- Alternative assessment styles
- Basic software skills from Word, Excel, Powerpoint through to Adobe Photoshop and specialised curriculum software
However this list is not exhaustive. TPD is a dynamic, organic process which will grow as new research evolves and best practices are honed. Each of the areas above could be addressed by our school using site-based TPD. This could be where several individuals are sent to complete training in an area and then brought back to school to teach others via the “Cascade” model. Or where small groups within the school are skilled-up and then they are asked to repeat the process with others via the “cascade” model. There are trade offs and benefits with either model as the cascade approach will often take longer than standardised TPD but the learning and development should be deeper using the site-based approach. The latter would be more appropriate for the school strategy and types of TPD required for our teachers.
Gaible, E., & Burns, M., (2005) Using technology to train teachers: Appropriate uses of ICT teacher professional development in developing countries. (pp. 15-24), Washington, DC: infoDev / World Bank. Retrieved from: http://www.infodev.org/en/Publication.13.html
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