Teacher Professional Development (TPD) Program: Boon or Bane?
Recently, the focus of teacher education in the Ministry of Education has shifted from teacher training to teacher professional development with the view to transforming today’s schools from a place of knowledge-transmission to the knowledge-creating/generating space that considers classrooms as a learning-community. This means teacher professional development program has been introduced in our teacher education programs to promote teachers with creative and critical ideas and skills to bring changes in their teaching. Moreover, from this program we have high expectations from the teachers with regard to their personal and professional development. Our planners, who do not have to train and teach, at the policy making level have envisioned bringing substantial changes in current educational scenario by implementing the teacher professional development program.
The term ‘Teacher Professional Development’ (TPD) has already become a buzz-word. People who are working under the Ministry of Education (MoE) always produce this word as it is one of the crucial parts of the MOE’s School Sector Reform Program (SSRP). TPD has already been implemented for three years. People working in the field have experienced both opportunities and challenges of this program.
We cannot deny the contribution of teacher training to teachers’ professional development. It plays a prominent role in teacher professional development. But, the teachers on-the-ground usually perceive that teacher training and teacher professional development program are synonymous. They think that TPD is the continuation of the previous training programs. This kind of belief system of the teachers, head teachers and PTAs and SMCs create a big gap between the 98.2% data of the trained teachers from community-based schools (NCED-2066) and teachers’ demands about the what ‘aspect’ and how ‘aspect’ of their teaching in the TPD program. I find a significant gap between the expectations of the policy makers and teachers. It is, therefore, necessary to make teachers clear about the difference between training and professional development. Here, I don’t mean to say that training does not have any role for the teachers’ professional development and empowering them. As mentioned above, to a large extent, it facilitates to enhance teachers’ professional development, but the activities and the way they have to be performed in these two areas of teacher education differ largely. Head and Taylor (1997, p. 5) have presented following differences between teacher training and teacher development:
-Competency based -Holistic
-Short- term -Long- term
-Skill/ technique/knowledge based -Awareness based
-Product/certificate weighted -Process weighted
-Done with experts -Done with peers
This distinction indicates that in comparison to teacher training, teachers are expected to perform higher level activities in teacher development. But unfortunately, what has happened is whatever the data of trained teachers we have gathered in statistics, the teachers’ classroom behaviors have not changed a lot. They still need the toolkit of some techniques and specialist knowledge of classroom teaching and classroom management. NCED has made a claim that it has brought this program after a series of discussions and interactions with various stakeholders. NCED (2011 in TPD policy guidelines) purports that:
A working framework was developed and stakeholders’ observations and aspirations were gathered through consultative meetings and workshops. It is worth mentioning that national consultative workshops were conducted for two rounds with participation of representatives from universities, teacher unions/professional organizations, implementing agencies and national/ international experts.
An issue arises here. NCED’s, the sole responsible MOE’s agency for taking initiatives in implementing every provision of the policy guidelines, claim does not match with on-the-ground reality. Based on my conversations with teachers, I have indentified following key issues;
- Most of the teachers have native attitude about their own teaching profession.
- The teachers have only heard about the term TPD but they are not fully aware of it.
- Some teachers are not ready to fill out the demand-collection form.
- The TPD program has been conducted without collecting teachers’ real needs.
- The TPD module has not be prepared and implemented in accordance with teachers’ needs and contexts where they are working. Same module is used in many TPD hubs. There is the system of copy and paste. It neglected the concept of “site-based TPD”.
- The teachers who are going to retire soon are not ready to fill out the TPD form. They feel that action research and project works are extra work.
- The Roster Trainers seem less competent and confident in their subject matter although ETCs ‘ka’ is providing a 12-day TPD TOT program every year.
- In some cases, the Resource Persons are biased in selecting the roster trainers from their Resource Center (RC) areas.
- The Head Teachers did not pay much attention to help their teachers in academic and technical aspect. They always seem to be running for the administrative work.
- The Resource Persons (RP) think that the present framework of TPD is time consuming. It demands a whole year to finish.
- Teachers feel that TPD is compulsory than necessary and,
- Most importantly, there is lack of conceptual clarity of TPD among practitioners
Based on these voices of teachers on-the-ground, we can say that in real field, whatever the beneficiary points it has in its literature, the teachers and head teachers have faced myriad challenges to tackle while grasping the essence of teacher development as outsiders’ i.e. planners, implementers, managers, facilitators and so on, expect from them. It is because of this I have given the title of this article as the TPD: Boom or Bane?
Then what is teacher professional development?
Different scholars have viewed it from different standpoints. Richards and Farrell (2005, p.1) assert that ‘professional development is next step when once teachers’ period of formal training is over’. Craft (1996, p. 6) says professional development ‘ is sometimes used to describe moving teachers forward in knowledge or skills’. Similarly, Victoria (in Burn, 1999, p. 216) argues ‘professional development or growth means enabling teachers to generate their own ideas about classroom practice’. After going through these views on TPD, it will be fruitful to mention Reimers-Villegas’s (2003, p. 1) ideas here. What Reimers-Villegas says is that TPD should move towards achieving ‘double roles of teachers’, that is to say, both subject and object of educational reforms. Firstly, teachers are the object of the educational reform. This means their professional development should be considered. They should be brought in such activities which help them ensure their professional development. Secondly, they are the objects of the educational reform. This means by their involvement they are responsible to bring changes in their classroom in particular and in education at large. They will be expected to be professionals and to play the role of change-agents. In our context as well we ‘outsiders’ are expecting this kind of dual roles of teachers from the TPD program. We expect to change teachers’ role from technicians to classroom researchers to equip them with the skills to deal with their own pedagogical problems in their own settings. It is not always possible to bring teachers in the Educational Training Center (ETC), Lead Resource Center (LRC), and Resource Center (RC) to discuss all the issues they have. Therefore, if they are able to carry out action researches, they can solve their own problems. This is what we expect from our teachers.
Now, to achieve the above mentioned goals of TPD we need to engage our teachers in the following activities (most of them are from Richards and Farrell, 2005):
- Teacher support groups
- Keeping a teaching journal
- Peer observation
- Teaching portfolios
- Analyzing critical incidents
- Case analysis
- Peer coaching
- Team teaching
- Action research
- Subscribing to ELT magazines and journals
- Joining professional organizations such as NELTA, IATEFL and TESOL and attending their conferences wherever possible
- Forming local teachers’ groups and holding regular meetings to discuss common problems
- Inviting fellow teachers / teacher trainers and guest speakers to contribute lectures and workshops
- Reading professional publications
- Publishing an ELT newsletter on a local or national scale
- Self-directed study
- Using distance learning materials
- Receiving on-the-job coaching, mentoring or tutoring
- School-based and off-site courses of various lengths
- Job shadowing and rotation
- Experimental ‘assignments’
- Collaborative learning
Although the TPD program is necessary for the professional development of teachers in Nepal, due to lack of teachers’ efforts to engage themselves in doing professional development activities most of the teachers are confronting many challenges in the classroom. They have experienced the TPD program as as obligatory condition (in the sense of the top-down approach and a formality) than the necessity to enhance their professionalism. It is therefore, time has come to reflect on the whole idea of the TPD program and critically discuss how we can go further for better result.
Craft, A. (1996). Continuing professional development: A practical guide for teachers and schools. Rutledge Famer: London; New York.
Head, K. k Taylor, P. (1997). Readings in teacher development, Oxford: Heinemann ELT.
Richards J.C. and Farrell T.S. (2005). Professional development for language teachers; strategies for teacher learning. Cambridge: CUP
Reimers-Villegas, E. ( 2003). Teacher professional development: An international review of the literature. UNESCO: International institute for educational planning.
Teacher development policy guideline (2011). Preparing for effective implementation of school sector reform plan 2009-2015. NCED.