Education has been subject to what is called ‘The tyranny of normal’: uniform schooling worldwide, standardised curriculum and time tables. The demanding academic content and testing do well by the brightest, and weaker pupils quickly are left behind and find it hard to catch up. Inequality in education has increased over the decades.
A simple question to ask is, how has the world of a child changed in the last 150 years? And the answer is: it is hard to imagine in any way in which it hasn’t changed! But if you look at school today versus 100 years ago, it is more similar than dissimilar.
Education is changing. The world is your classroom and learning is lifelong. Lifelong learning will soon be the world’s greatest growth industry. Teaching is not merely the act of transmitting knowledge, but an inherently collaborative, interactive and relationship based enterprise. Schools of the future will thrive upon the relationships they build across.
Bright young students are reinventing a new society of unlimited choices, unlimited options and unlimited personal potential. Humanity is facing an unprecedented change and how can we prepare ourselves and our coworkers for a world that is going to witness such unprecedented transformation and radical uncertainties. There is no denial of the fact that humans could never predict future with accuracy, but today it is even difficult than ever before.
How we will live in a world, where profound uncertainties is not a bug but a feature. The past experience of self as well as the whole mankind become less reliable guide. Humans individually and collectively will have to deal with things, nobody ever encountered before. Future has no precedent and future is no more the function of past. The technological revolution might soon push billions of humans out of job market and create a massive useless class, leading to social and political turmoil that no ideology knows how to handle.
Having witnessed technology and disruptive innovations at an alarming pace, unprecedented in human history, the innovation and creativity should be at the heart of any successful organisation. Change is exponential and to stay ahead of changing times the rate of learning and innovation in any working environment must be higher than the rate of change in the external environment. The provisions for R&D to assess innovation and development with reference to the measurable benefits and impact must be the norm, the coherent and integrated approach to technology and innovation led developments and overview of strategic partnerships for support as well as ensuring the digital ecosystem is fully aligned and serviceable across the network.
If we consider professional development as the processes and activities designed to enhance the professional knowledge, skills and attitudes of teachers, leaders, and support staff so that they might, in turn, improve the learning of students, we have a mental map from which to start. We know, through research that the quality of teacher has a direct relationship with the level of student achievement.
Figure 1 represents current data into why the quality of teaching makes a difference.
Figure 1: Cumulative and residual effects on future student academic achievement
Creating a culture for in-school professional development
For an effective teacher professional development is critical. Schools that thrive in creating an environment where learning is central, which create multiple opportunities for teachers to meet together, analyse student, work together and learn together, definitely thrive. Some strategies learning schools have successfully used to create opportunities to deepen teacher learning are:
• Collaborative planning time – timetable is developed to allow teams of teachers (grades, subjects, inquiry groups) to meet weekly or bi-weekly to plan, learn and focus
• School-wide learning coaches – trained staff who provide collaborative developmental coaching using classroom observation as real data to support colleagues
• Inquiry-based or action-based learning – groups of teachers within the school identify a school priority that is based on student data and adopt a collaborative way of problem-solving
• Linking learning with standards – where each individual’s annual performance is measured against clearly defined teacher, leader or classroom standards. These standards guide targeted and self-directed teacher learning
• Professional-reading circles and online networks – opportunities for teachers to collaborate online and through structured time to have meaningful conversations around improving learning and teaching
• Use of staff development time/staff meetings – whether a sign-up, targeted or centred on school priorities, staff actively participate and embed learning immediately in their practice
• Instructional rounds – similar to the medical concept of ‘rounds’, staff in small groups visit classrooms and use their observations as the basis of rich conversations around improving their own and colleague learning and teaching
• Tapping into expertise from other schools – there are times when bringing in a bright teacher or leader from another school can create a buzz and lead to immediate energy and insight to a key priority.
The following key findings from international research is a good starting point for reflection
It is a fact that the schools I have developed and worked in different and diverse geographies have some outstanding approaches to professional development. The ongoing collaboration, sharing of resources, people and practices will continue to support the collective knowledge creation of the staff leading to the ultimate goal of ongoing improvement of student achievement, school performance and staff performance. I leave you with some final questions to think about at the school-level:
• What do the performance data of our students say about the learning and development needs of our teachers and leaders? “
• How are we organising professional development within our school so it causes our teachers to take greater responsibility for their students’ learning as well as self-learning?
• How are we organising professional development as a catalyst and opportunity for our teachers to learn from each others’ successes, and collaborate to learn from experts elsewhere?, and
• What is the evidence that our professional development is increasing teachers’ effectiveness in ways that also raise levels of student achievement?
Dr. Farooq Ahmad Wasil, a published author, and an educationist, is Consultant and Advisor, Thinksite Services Private Limited ( TSPL). He has over 3 decades of experience in the field of education Management – setting up, operating and managing schools.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.