Continuous professional development
What is CPD?
It can also cover the professional development of other school staff such as administrators, but the context here is often different as their roles are more supportive.
To set forth a clear description of CPD, we also need a clear idea about the goals that education must reach. The main benchmark against which we will always evaluate the professional development of a teacher or a school, is how to foster individual learning of the pupils.
The pupils’ learning process is dependent upon the curriculum on the one hand, and their teachers’ competences on the other hand. Both are based on a clear vision on education: there must be transparency in educational goals and a mutual agreement on curriculum.
It’s the responsibility of the Teacher Training Institutes to see to it that beginning teachers are sufficiently equipped with basic competences. In turn, it is the teacher’s own responsibility and moral obligation to continuously strive to become a better teacher. The standards that are set for quality education can be derived from the educational goals and be used by the institutes that inspect and coach the teachers and schools.
The teacher’s professional development process must take into account that the nature of society changes constantly, as do the pupils and their families. Therefore, new knowledge and evolving demands must feed into this process – it’s a natural continuation of the teacher’s own educational experiences as a child. It will never stop as personal reflection must always continue:
Theory – practice gap
Each time when new knowledge has to be applied in educational processes, the teacher needs not only to grasp and understand it, but also practice it. During this time, two processes occur:
- The teacher is uncertain about him- or herself, concerned about the new task at hand, and also concerned about others (for example the pupils and colleagues).
- The educational change has to be learned by the teacher. This is not only about learning the new content but also very much about the teacher’s belief that this new content will really deliver better results with the pupils and make the teacher’s life easier.
This gap needs to be bridged.
How to make CPD work?
There are a number of approaches that need to be taken into consideration:
Theoretical and practice-oriented approach
The purely theoretical approach leads to an immense practice shock, while a practice-only approach leads to an unreflective socialisation of student teachers into the teaching profession. Therefore, the core question is not about which approach is best, but how to integrate both so as to have the best of the two worlds. For example, within VVOB’s SEAL programme, the theory of learner-centred methodology and the TPACK framework of integrating different kinds of knowledge, are combined with on-the-ground practices such as lesson try-outs, demonstration classes, the development of manuals based on concrete experiences, and so on.
Top-down and bottom-up approach
In the top-down approach, CPD is organised from a central, national, ministerial etc. level while ‘facilitators’ are cascading information down to lower levels. Both national and international NGOs are urged to participate, while the inspectorate controls if the information reaches the class teachers and is used in their daily practice. In the bottom-up approach, CPD is treated at school level where local priorities are made and certain goals are agreed upon. In CPD, a combination of the two approaches is essential. Translated into VVOB’s ImAgE programme, the Participatory Technology Development (PTD) framework is a good illustration of this combined approach where solutions are created to meet the real needs of the farmers by looking for local options, adapted to local situations. Likewise, in our SEAL programme we combine both approaches. From the top down, we take the curriculum as a point of reference and look for supportive methods and materials. From the bottom up we start from an analysis of the teacher trainers’ daily challenges with different topics and support them with relevant strategies and materials.
Motivation and accountability
Every teacher must be accountable by society and have the individual moral duty to innovate because they work with pupils as a human capital. But also internal motivations (good relationship with pupils, job satisfaction...) and external motivations (employment regulations, salary raise...) can be the main focus in CPD. At VVOB we aim to motivate the teachers and students by making the lessons more pleasant, captivating and relevant, lowering the risk of teacher and student absentees. External motivations, on the other hand, fall outside of our scope of activities.
The school as a learning environment for professionals
A proper school culture that adheres to the principles of a true learning organisation, is important in building capacity and coherence (for example, mistakes are meant to learn from them, learning is a daily duty, and so on). That’s why VVOB involves school directors in its programmes or even train them on how to support their teachers as happened in our Learner Centred Methodology project.