03 February, 2022

5 Points On Why We Need Robust Teacher Professional Development Programmes

It is incumbent upon us to understand how much is invested through research, academic credentials, high–quality long-term courses, quality master trainers, professional community of practices, recognition and acknowledgement in their professional development.

Teacher professional development (TPD) is an integral part of any reform initiative in a country. Over the last 5 years, Online TPD courses have gained traction (for various obvious reasons – scale, cost and durability) and, more recently, due to the pandemic. Given the changing times, it is imperative that TPD is not only enhanced and updated, but also made more collaborative for teachers to develop their skills, and grow in their profession. After all, teachers’ professional learning is the epitome to initiate the learning process and inspiring children to grow.

1. Teachers can A. C. E. their training

Assessments, Content and Engagement are the three important criteria for building an effective Teacher Professional Development Course. It is vital that those developing this content keep in mind the ACE model. Engagement with and around the content is the key! There should be ample opportunities for engagement through activities that let teachers ask, observe, discuss, reflect, ponder, analyse, critique the content given to them. Adequate scope for engagement helps in the effective understanding and application of new teaching methodologies and practices.

2. Teachers evolve through reflection and feedback on their practice

Like in any other profession, teachers also need a chance to put their learnings into practice, make their set of mistakes, come back to the facilitator/trainer and ask their questions, and listen to their peers' failed or success stories. This gives them an opportunity to reflect on their practice. So, any TPD course/programme should have a built-in time for reflection by the teacher. A course that allows for theoretical learning and time for practical application is one that will wholly help evolve a teacher’s knowledge and skill-set.

3. Continuous engagement results in actual change in pedagogy

Teachers need a programme that engages them on a continuous basis at regular intervals. Teachers teach what they believe in. So, to bring about a change in teaching methodologies, they should be convinced at the belief level, and that happens over time. Therefore, any TPD programme should be continuous in nature; the continuity in terms of consistent handholding by a nurturing facilitator.

4. Need for quality upskilling courses offered at regular intervals

Just like in any other profession -- medical, law, management, etc. -- professionals are required to consistently review their professional knowledge through upskilling courses.

Similarly, in teaching, it is necessary to widen a teacher’ perspective, and up-skill them as they are the source of energy and spirit in the classroom and school. This can be done by developing quality TPD courses, and revamping the existing ones, and offering them at regular intervals over the course of their careers, to be pursued off their own volition. Thankfully, the National Education Policy 2020 lays a great emphasis on tackling this gap!

5. Teachers learn best through collaboration

Learning is a complex phenomenon and it requires both individual time and social interaction with peers.

However, research in teachers’ professional development indicates that teachers learn best when they are part of a progressive professional learning community, called communities of practice (CoPs).

These CoPs, operated by the teachers and for the teachers, provide them with an essential safe space to share one’s raw ideas without the fear of being judged. It is also a source of strength and inspiration, a place for unconditional and continuous support. Learning together, failing together and rising together is heartening! Therefore, all TPD courses should provide scope for CoPs for teachers.

Teachers draw their satisfaction when they see their students learn and grow. They DO want to go the extra mile to meet their students’ needs. While it is easy to blame teachers for students’ outcomes, it is incumbent upon us to pause and understand how they are nurtured, and how much is invested (through research, academic credentials, high – quality long-terms courses, quality master trainers, professional community of practices, recognition and acknowledgement) in their professional development.

by Anusha Ramanathan, Asst. Professor, Centre of Excellence in Teacher Education at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and Bobby Abrol, Tata Trusts’ Education Team

This article was first published on Businessworld on January 3, 2022.

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