Teacher Development, its Nature and Classroom Observation as a Tool

-By Thakur Prasad Bhusal
SOS Hermann Gmeiner School, Kavre

Teacher development can be taken as a process of becoming “the best kind of teacher and it starts from the very beginning and continues until the retirement professionally and until the deathbed personally. Generally, we as teachers, learn a lot from our own experience of teaching and being acquainted with new ideas and development through personal reading, formal training, conference, net working sharing, following the guidelines from course book, experimenting the new curriculum, taking a new role, changing the course books, collaboration in teaching like team teaching, joint work, peer observation, supervision and so on. This paper mainly talks about teacher development, its nature and about classroom observation as a strategy of teacher development.

Teacher Development, as its name suggests, means change and growth of teachers in terms of his/her professionalism during his/her profession. In this sense Teacher Development is the ongoing process of keeping on learning, always to keep alive a sense of challenge and adventure in his/her career and to avoid getting into rut (Underhill, 1988 as cited in Head and Taylor, 1997, p.7). It intends to increase the skills, knowledge or understanding of teachers and their effectiveness in schools. It also maintains a certain level of professionalism and it has positive impact on teachers’ belief and practices. For this, although, we can benefit from being trained by people with more experience or expertise, we have to be innovative in terms of motivation, planning, decision making, research, focus, implementation, updating ourselves .So, it is the process of becoming “the best kind of teacher that one personally can be with changing context regarding curriculum design, materials selection, teaching methodology as well as testing and evaluation (Underhill, 1986, as cited in Head & Taylor, 1997, p.1). This definition mainly focuses teacher development as to refer to the teachers’ own inner respire for change. In other words, it is mainly centered on personal awareness of the possibility for change. Here, it is better to link the idea of Underhill (1986, as cited in Head & Taylor, 1997) that teacher development is a continuous process of transforming human potential into human performance, a process that is never finished (p.12). This transformation is a lifelong process. So, teacher development starts from the very beginning and continues until the retirement professionally and until the deathbed personally (Gnawali, 2008).
Gnawali, (2008) states that teacher needs to be update themselves as a part of their development to adjust themselves in the new kinds of issues and challenges coming by and new ideas and concepts coming up in the disciplines and also to act accordingly with the changing needs and desires of the learners with time and economic, social and technological change. He says without teacher development, the profession will be monotonous, tedious, slow and uninspiring.
We, as a teacher, ourselves are responsible for our own development. Wanjnryb (1992) is of the opinion that teacher development is voluntary and it comes from the individual teacher or the group and that nobody can force teachers to develop. Supporting this idea Gnawali (2008) argues that development is voluntary and they can not be forced but they can be helped to develop because not every teacher will be able to diagnose their problems and areas of weaknesses and be able to find appropriate solutions. Many teachers knowingly or unknowingly develop themselves learning from their own experience, working with and learning from the experience of others and becoming more active in their own continuous process. However, there are some common strategies a majority of teachers adopt to develop in their professional development.
Many teachers in our context think that when they start teaching after having certain degree, they have attained their own personal best and have nothing more to learn. Some decide to go on to a further course of academic study such as master degree or some kind of in-service training so that they can and should advance in their professional experience and knowledge throughout their career. However, adult development is voluntary; no one can force a person to learn and grow (Wajnryb, 1992) and also each teacher is unique in important ways. Thus, it is impossible to create single centrally administered and planned strategy of professional development that meets everyone’s needs and desires. Generally, we as a teacher, learn a lot from our own experience of teaching and being acquainted with new ideas and development through personal reading, formal training, conference, net working sharing and our own classroom research. Sharing and discussion among the colleagues is another important strategy for teacher development. James (2001) says …. “teacher can best learn through their own experience, following the guidelines from course book, experimenting the new curriculum, taking a new role, changing the course books and trying out different ideas in classroom practice”. He also says that collaboration in teaching like team teaching, joint work, peer observation, supervision, support, discussion plays an important role in teacher development. Similarly, according to him innovation and research help in developing professionalism in teaching (p. 161). It is difficult to discuss about all these strategies in a single paper. So, I discuss about classroom observation as a strategy of teacher development in this paper.
Classroom Observation
Wajnryb (1992) defines observation as a focused activity to work on while observing a lesson in progress which focuses on one or a small number of aspects of teaching or learning and requires the observer to collect data or information from the actual lesson ( p.7). It is done with some aim, goals so a teacher and the observant may have pre-conference, post conference as Gaies & Bowers (2010) presents the three stages of observation like pre- observation consultation, observation itself and post observation analysis and discussion which they call clinical supervision; a process by which teaching performance is systematically observed, analyzed and evaluated (p.167). Regarding the purpose of observation, Maingay (2010) presents the four purposes of observation like for training, for development, for assessment and for observer development where as Sheal (1989) presents three types: diagnostic, formative and summative. It can be done as SOI (supervision of instruction) by administrator or coach or senior teachers, in fact to observe and to suggest. In fact, in broader sense, Peer Observation is very useful to learn from each other’s idea in terms of methodology, teaching materials design, preparation, selection and their effective use, studentsteachers interaction and so on. .Highlighting the significance of observation, Maaggioli( 2003, p. 7) writes:
“….. through observation, teacher can explore the effectiveness of their own practice or incorporate new methods and techniques into their teaching. Similarly, expert coaching is ideally suited for marginal plateau and collaborative coaching can become a mutually beneficial process”.
But as Sheal (1989) highlights the common trend of not using the observation tool as development but as evaluation, specially, and says many observations have been conducted by administrator, are seen as, judgmental observers use themselves as a standard impressionistic and are used as teacher evaluation purpose and the feedback from observers is often subjective, impressionistic, evaluate and teachers tend to react in defensive ways (p.242-47). In fact, this kind of trend in observation doesn’t help in teacher development. In this regard, Wajnryb (1992) states that one needs to remember that the observation experience has to be meaningful, rewarding and non-threatening to all involved: teacher, observer, learners, colleagues, tutors etc. Thus, observation’s focus needs to shift more towards colleagues working together and toward teacher development rather than teacher evaluation.

References:
Bartlett, L. (1990). Teacher development through reflective teaching. In Gnawali, L. (2010). A course pack on teacher development in ELT. Kathmandu: KU.
Ellis, R. (1985). Activities and procedures for teacher training. In Gnawali, L. (2010). A course pack on teacher development in ELT. Kathmandu: KU.
Gnawali, L.(Commpiler, 2010). A course Pack on Teacher Development in ELT.
Kathmandu: Kathmandu University.
Head, K. and P. Taylor (1997). Readings in Teacher Development. Oxford: Heinemann.
Maggioli, G.D. (2003). Options for Teacher Professional Development. English
Teaching Forum. April, 2003.
Wajnryb, R. (1992).Class room observation tasks: Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press.
Gaies, S. & Bowers, R. (2010).Clinical Supervision of Language Teaching: the supervisor as trainer and educator. In Gnawali, L.(2010). A course pack on teacher development in ELT. Kathmandu: KU.
Gnawali, L. (2008). Teacher development: what is it and who is responsible? Bodhi: An interdisciplinary Journal. P.219-220, 2(1).
Maingay, P. (2010). Observation for training, development or Assessment? In Gnawali, L. (2010). A course pack on teacher development in ELT. Kathmandu: KU.
Sheal, P. (1989). Training classroom Observers. ELT journal. 43(2). April, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2 comments

  • Thank you so much for the useful article. Well, it is a MUST to adopt teacher development for further existence in the teaching field. It all depends on how the teachers have taken the teaching job. It is too complicated to make it adoptable to many more teachers in our context. Until and unless teaching jobs turn the jobs of high prestige and lucrative economic source, it would be wise to leave it to the teachers’ desires as Wanjryb has defined it as a voluntary act. We can’t force any teacher to suffer an economic loss or loan to make themselves updated, can we?

    One thing I would like to add here as my confusion regarding the definition of TEACHER DEVELOPMENT in the first sentence. Teacher development as defined in the line is a process of becoming “the best kind of teacher”. It means our act of updating ourselves will be meaningful only attaining the best position!? What is that best kind? How to measure it on the ground of past and future? What about shifting it to “contextually more efficient kind of teacher”?

  • The brief article explicitly talks about teacher development or professional development of teachers linking with classroom observation as one of the strategies for gaining professionalism. I believe there are mainly three types of teachers. The first type gets employed and stops updating himself or herself, the second type looks at others, attends different programs and follows certain strategies for professional development with his or her friends/colleagues and finally, the third one keeps update oneself through different learning strategies and always finds himself busy in doing something to promote professionalism within him or her. Mostly, the third type is motivated towards professionalism, so he always keeps on bringing innovative and creating new ideas that helps in development of professionalism. Later, development of professionalism using such ideas are scaled up by sharing with the rest of the world through publication in the magazine, journals and newspapers and other means. Blogging can be one of the effective and innovative means of scaling up. The NeltaChoutari itself is an example before us how it helps in development of professionalism in Nepalese ELT.

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