The educational “culture” (or “educational literacy”) of a country can have a powerful effect on how individual educational leaders and institutions “see” (or don’t see) professional development – and whether or not they “walk-their-talk” when they say “people (meaning teachers) are our most important asset”! Turkey, like many other countries, does not do too well on that scorecard.
The lack of real attention to the professional development of teachers within many institutions (and the lack of meaningful educational leadership) can lead to teachers themselves “switching off” – coming to view professional development as a “waste of time” or something they simply cannot manage to “fit into” their very busy schedules. People who commented on Aisha’s post whole-hearted agreed:
The “examocracy mentality” still dominates school life – and undermines efforts to promote real learning in students (and teachers)
School and university leaders do not have a clue what in-service training is
“Flavour-of-the-month projects” that by their very nature do little to promote real teacher learning - distract from longer-term, meaningful projects
Schools building their professional development opportunities around the freebies offered by publishers (“coursebook capitalists”) just end up offering irrelevant, cut n’ paste (or one-shot) workshops
Conferences are a "waste of time" – used more as PR vehicles rather than opportunities for teacher learning
Don’t hold your breath waiting for this, Tony! I know – but forever the optimist, I have to believe that we can make some form of progress or improvement (if not a radical transformation of how we do business in teacher learning and professional development). A short while ago, I did a post on andragogy – and attempted to summarise many of the “needs” of adult learners. In retrospect, this could have been a list of the needs of teachers – in terms of the approach to professional development that works. I’ve re-worded it to reflect what might be a good start for educational leaders, if they want to get serious about real learning for teachers:
Teachers do NOT need: More stand-and-deliver, one-shot workshops that have little relevance to how they do business in the classroom!
to be involved in diagnosing and formulating their own learning needs
to participate in setting their own learning and professional development goals
to be involved in the planning their own learning opportunities
to be in control of choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies
to be encouraged to identify meaningful learning resources / materials
to be seen as “proactive learners” (rather than “reactive trainees”)
to feel that their experience and backgrounds are valued – and that they are respected as a “whole person”
to learn in a “warm, friendly and informal climate” that provides for flexibility in the learning process
guidance and support that maintains their motivation to learn and keeps them actively involved in their own learning
to know why they should bother to learn something
opportunities to solve real-life (and school-based) problems (not be spoon-fed training content)
opportunities to discover, critique and create
to learn-by-doing and engage in active experimentation (and reflection on mistakes)
“just-in-time” professional development (not the “just-in-case” variety)
training support that is task-oriented and contextualised (rather than the “same-old, same-old” workshops)
peer support and group-based activities, as well as individual attention from trainers
to know that their needs form the basis of any PD programme and that self-direction is the core principle of these programmes
to share responsibility for and take ownership of monitoring the progress of the learning experience
to be involved in evaluating learning outcomes and measuring their success
to experience a sense of progress towards their goals – and a sense of real learning and growth as professionals
Dream much, Tony? Come on – it’s a start. But, there’s also the option of doing it for ourselves – till then!
STEP 1 – Read, learn and discuss more about “professional development” and the things educators are talking about – and what they “mean” for your learners and your learning-and-teaching context !STEP 2 – Be the change you want to see in education ! ( nuff said – who is going to disagree with Gandhi )!STEP 3 – Begin with the end in mind ( Go on – click on it – dare you )!STEP 4 – Just do it! STEP 5 – Start small , begin slowly and focus on doing a few things “differently” and “well” ( Rome was not built in a day… )!STEP 6 – Know that for real improvement in learning and teaching, we need to build in a “ curriculum perspective ” into our planning ( what do they say – “a lack of planning is almost as bad as planning to fail” )!STEP 7 – Remember that for real change in learning and teaching, we need to build in an “ assessment perspective ” into our planning (after all, we all know that if it ain’t “tested”, it don’t get done )!STEP 8 – Use technology – but remember learning is not about the hardware, the software, or the webware… it’s the “headware”, dummy !STEP 9 – Review, evaluate and upgrade – Microsoft does not still “control” the world because it always gets-it-right-first-time ( actually, it hardly ever does ), it does well because it learns from our frustrations and pumps out upgrades faster than you can say “ where’s my credit card ”!STEP 10 – Remember “best practice” is seldom ever enough – it is, more often than not, about somebody else’s solution to somebody else’s problem. Surely, it’s better to heed what Covey tells us about the “end” and “bearing it in mind” – and look for “Next Practice” for ourselves!STEP 11 – Know thy learners, their needs and their current “headware” (you never know – you may not have to “teach” as much as you thought) ! STEP 12 – Damn! Why can you never think of a 12th Step – when you need one! Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference … I think the 12-steps work quite nicely for teachers! Afterall, teachers are some of the best professional learners around – and the idea of “NIL ILLEGITIMUS CARBORUNDUM” is something many of us use to survive in less-than-perfect educational climates!