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  • Writer's pictureThings Education

The best TPD programmes…

have continuity.

Hello and welcome to the 63rd edition of our fortnightly newsletter, Things in Education.


In one of the earliest editions of our newsletter, we had written about the general reasons why teacher professional development (TPD) programmes fail to show the desired effects in certain schools. One of the reasons that we had stated was that teacher professional development sessions happen as episodic events. In multiple schools, “PD sessions” are front loaded in the week/weeks before the students come back for the new academic year. This is a good practice and crucial to do – topping up teacher skills, knowledge and attitudes at the beginning of the academic year. However, continuity is important in TPD. In this edition, we delve deeper into why TPD needs to be continuous and how the school management or education boards can go about making TPD continuous.


Why is continuity important in professional development? 


CPD helps to reinforce ideas better. Annual PD sessions are not enough, as the continuity in learning from these sessions is broken for teachers. Teachers will not recall a lot of the discussions/takeaways if there is a one-year gap between them. So the primary reason to have some professional development avenues available to the teachers all year long is to ensure that the takeaways from sessions at the beginning of the year are reinforced and supported. 


CPD helps break and form habits. Teachers, like any of us, are creatures of habit. It is not easy for any of us to break out of our habits. It is important to have a process to check how the teachers are interacting with the students in the classrooms. Are they actually changing what they do in the classroom based on the TPD sessions? Having observation-feedback-practice cycles helps teachers break their older habits and make new ones. They need constant feedback and support. We have articulated this in one of our earlier editions


CPD creates a culture of support. From a basic educational psychology perspective, continuity in exposure to a topic is important for the learning of the topic to be long lasting. Furthermore, continuity is important as a form of support to the teachers. Having a few sessions at the beginning of the year and expecting teachers to recall the tenets of the sessions and to apply them in the classroom may overwhelm the teachers. The school management or government body should find a way to build on the beginning-of-the-year sessions throughout the year and hence support teacher learning.


CPD creates a culture of learning. Making TPD continuous helps create a culture of learning among the teachers. For a school, it is key to build this culture as teachers will then see themselves as lifelong learners with a growth mindset. For example, when new research in education comes in or when new technological advances happen in education, teachers may need to change their approach or practice in the classroom. Continuous and regular TPD with teachers helps.


Through building culture and mindsets and supporting teachers, meeting the goals of the PD sessions becomes easier and more effective. Goals of TPD at the school level or the state level are nuanced, affected by multiple variables and often complicated to implement. They will almost never be single-step processes. 


For example, if the school wants teachers to use the project-based learning approach in 20% of their classes, the school may conduct a PD session or two at the beginning of the academic year on project-based learning. However, conducting PBL classes is nuanced – teachers need to decide which topics are best suited for the PBL approach, they need to understand the change in roles of the students and teachers in a PBL classroom as compared to a direct instruction classroom, etc. Being able to conduct PBL classes is dependent on multiple variables – teacher ability, teacher confidence, student mindset to learning, resources in the school, etc. And due to these, it is not straightforward to implement PBL in the classroom after a few sessions on PBL at the beginning of the year. 


So continuity in TPD is important to build school culture, which would include support for teachers and accountability of the teachers’ behavioural change in the classroom.


How do we build continuity in TPD?

Once we accept that TPD needs to be continuous, then the next question is how? How do we have continuous professional development of teachers? One of the ways is to have more TPD sessions where teachers get to spend more time with the content, get to think about the pedagogical approach more, get more information to support their process, etc. These sessions can be feedback sessions based on the classroom observations. These observations-feedback sessions can be top-down or peer conversations.


Teachers can be asked to do some self work to ensure that there is professional development. For example, after the beginning-of-the-year session on project-based learning, time should be carved out where teachers can create their own lesson plans based on the PBL approach. Self work can also be in the form of a structured reflection process for the teachers, where they can reflect on what they took away from the start of the year session and follow it by reflecting on how it has changed their processes in the classroom. 


Apart from the actual sessions, there can be resources that the teachers can be given as part of their continuous professional development. Offline resources like books in the library or online resources like TEPS for lesson planning, this newsletter, videos on pedagogy, classroom management, educational psychology, etc. or small nuggets of discussions between educators always help in keeping the beginning-of-the-year sessions active in teachers’ minds. A survey of Indian schools shows that teachers having informal conversations among each other regarding their experiences or challenges have a higher positive impact on student learning than teachers who don’t speak to their peers. Even so, structures around such resources can make these professional development in teachers continuous. 


Continuous teacher professional development is important, and it does not only have to be sessions with experts. It can take the form of independent self-work and reflection, peer conversations and feedback, using resources available and many more.


Things Education is building an ecosystem of resources to ensure data-informed and continuous professional development for teachers. If you’d like to plan out professional development for your school, get in touch with us at info@things-education.com or +919898469961.

 

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Edition: 3.11

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