Newsletter 157 - NEEDU - Schools That Work II - Professional Development & Collaboration
THEME 5: PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND COLLABORATION
The statement of best practices that follows expresses key study findings about the role of professional development and collaboration in school improvement. These findings convey convictions and practices common to high-performing schools. Teachers receive professional development in a variety of ways, ranging from selecting workshops from a menu of options offered by the district to required attendance at workshops that take place in the school, facilitated by HODs. Most of the professional development programmes focus squarely on improving teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogy.
Best practices are presented under four sub-themes namely, school-based programme, teacher own development, teacher collaboration, and networking.
BEST PRACTICE 5.1—SCHOOL BASED PROGRAMME: Time is provided for meaningful staff development to occur; and development activities are scheduled and paced. Emphasis in high-performing schools is placed on training staff in areas of most need as identified through the IQMS processes, the analysis of learner assessment results, and findings of SMT members’ observations during class visits. These are schools with a strong sense of professional community. The schools devote time to departmental meetings and whole-school meetings, run by HODs or directed by teachers, to common planning, teacher conversations about curriculum issues and empowerment of teachers to deal with issues that affect learners beyond individual classrooms at the school such as bullying, racism and HIV/AIDS.
During formal and informal class visits, SMT members observe “a lot of good things going on” and then ask teachers if they would share some of the good teaching strategies at departmental meetings, so that teachers can learn from one other. Departmental meetings are also used as forums where teachers are given space and time to discuss problems that they experience in their respective classes and share possible solutions. Schools also use departmental meetings to analyse and discuss learners’ work. Three schools describe their school-based teacher development programmes as follows:
BEST PRACTICE 5.2—TEACHER OWN DEVELOPMENT: Teachers take responsibility for own development and empowerment. Teachers mentioned different strategies they used to take responsibility for their own empowerment. Among other things, these teachers:
· Analyse and interpret learner data in order to evaluate and review their teaching strategies:
On a monthly basis, we do the analysis of the results to see the performance of learners—to see how best we can improve. The analysis of results shows us two things: (1) Learners who underperform, and (2) teachers who underperform.
· Evaluate their own practice including feedback from learners: Learner performance in any tests that I administer to my learners, is like a mirror. I see myself in that mirror. If learners perform badly, it reflects my image of failure but if they perform well, that’s my image of success.
· Engage with research
· Use the internet
· Participate in courses, e.g., e-learning, distance learning opportunities and undertaking formal studies
BEST PRACTICE 5.3—TEACHER COLLABORATION: The schools explore different scheduling and grouping practices to reduce teacher isolation and to provide teachers with collaborative settings for planning, problem solving and peer support. Teachers in the schools that work place a very high emphasis on teacher collaboration. Teachers are committed to working together in a culture of continuous improvement, not only to develop shared understanding of learners, curriculum and practice, but also to design and produce materials and activities to improve them. All members of the school community engage in reflective dialogue to consider new ideas, to openly evaluate the strengths and weakness of current practices, and to foster a shared sense of responsibility to the school and its learners.
· Observe colleagues conducting lessons and provide feedback
· Mentor, coach, model and do team-teaching
· Help colleagues identify development needs
· Lead staff meetings, workshops, etc.:
· Provide teachers with common preparation time
BEST PRACTICE 5.4—NETWORKING: The school networks with other schools to develop instructional and leadership skills as a strategy for providing quality professional development activities Teacher collaboration in high-performing schools extends beyond their individual schools to networking in a broader education community involving other schools. The school networks with other schools to develop instructional and leadership skills as a strategy for providing quality professional development activities. Teachers forge local networks so that they are not left to “flounder and struggle on their own.”
Some of the networking strategies mentioned by schools include the following. They:
· Link with or set up links with other high-performing schools. Following are benefits proffered by different schools for devising links with other schools
· Set up and devise links with primary feeder-schools.
· Share practices, lesson plans and other materials in cluster/partnership networks.
· Take part in teacher exchanges
• BEST PRACTICE 5.1 SCHOOL-BASED PROGRAMME: Time is provided for meaningful staff development to occur and development activities are scheduled and paced
•BEST PRACTICE 5.2 TEACHER OWN DEVELOPMENT: Teachers take responsibility for their own development and empowerment
•BEST PRACTICE 5.3 TEACHER COLLABORATION: The school explores different scheduling and grouping practices to reduce teacher isolation and to provide teachers with collaborative settings for planning, problem solving and peer support
•BEST PRACTICE 5.4 NETWORKING: The school networks with other schools to develop instructional and leadership skills as a strategy for providing quality professional development activities