Professional development of Teachers

Introduction:

“A teacher can never truly teach unless he is still learning himself. A lamp can never light another lamp unless it continues to burn its own flame”.

-Rabindra Nath Tagore

In India, education has always been viewed as a moral and teaching has been valued for its transformative impact on learners. Transformative, because it transforms the learner as well as the teacher in a deep, mysterious and abiding manner. A teacher’s work requires mastery over a body of knowledge to be taught as well as the development of personal knowledge about what is worth teaching and which ways are relatively more effective. The pre-service teacher education programme formally teaches them the technique of teaching. But most of what experienced teachers learn about teaching, is learnt on-the-job, by making sense of one’s day to day experiences. And it needs to be constantly restructured in the light of subsequent experiences.

For a school, the most important asset is its teaching force. And, the most important investment a school management, administrators, and parents can make in a school system is to ensure that teachers continue to learn. Continuous, high-quality professional development of teachers is essential not only for a school, but also for the nation’s goal of high standards of learning for every child.

Background:
Till the late 1940s, there was hardly any mention of “professional development” or “professionalism” in the literature on teacher education in India. Education was held in such a high esteem by people that referring to it as a profession was considered derogatory. It is a bare fact that these expressions have been the contribution of the west. They became more relevant with the growing demand for and rising expectations from education. With the advent of Globalisation and Liberalisation, it became imperative for the teachers to develop professional orientation and act as professionals. Even though Teaching has not been accepted as a profession in India, still there is a lot of talk about teachers’ professional development.

Professional Development: Present context
The role of a teacher has undergone great change during the past three decades. He is conceived as a ‘change agent’ and not as a mere transmitter of knowledge and culture. He can work wonders provided he is prepared and well equipped in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes to meet the challenges posed by the future. Hence, such an intervention is required that will enable the teachers to teach in ways different from the traditional ones.

Professional development refers to the process that encourages and enables the teachers to acquire knowledge, skills, values and behaviours which are essential for them to discharge the duties and roles they are expected to play in a classroom, school as well as the society. It should enable teachers to offer students the learning opportunities that will prepare them to meet world-class standards in given content areas and to successfully assume adult responsibilities for citizenship and work. Professional development is a continuous process of individual and collective examination and improvement of practice. It evokes the image of a long-term, non-linear process.

Professional Development activities can only be successful when the teachers willingly participate in the whole process, as a proxy cannot do the reflection on their behalf. Reflection is said to be not merely an intellectual process. It involves emotional commitment on behalf of the teacher to reflect on one’s practice. The process of professional development of teachers can only bear fruits if teachers are committed to their work and these activities are based on the realities of their work situations. It should empower them to make complex decisions, to identify and solve problems, and to connect theory, practice, and student outcomes.

National Council for Teacher Education’s Curriculum Framework for Quality Teacher Education held that “professional development of teachers begins with pre-service and gets renewed through in-service programmes”. According to it, these activities should be built around ‘transformational objectives’ and their thrust should be on developing qualities that would enable the teachers “to become receptive, perceptive, reflective, innovative, and dynamic”. It was further proposed that the impact of these activities should be assessed in terms of:

  • Personality development
  • Motivation and commitment in matters relating to professional and self-growth
  • Awareness of social realities, and
  • Communication and evaluation skills.

Face-to-face Institutional model, Cascade Model and Media-based Distance Education model, were the three models that were proposed in that document. It was also recommended that Institutes of Advanced Study in Education (IASEs), Colleges of Teacher Education (CTEs) and District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) should function as networks with the State Council for Educational Research and Training (SCERTs) as nodal agencies in each state for promoting integrated professional development.

The following measures were proposed for supporting the professional development of teachers during the Tenth Plan period (2002-2007):

  • Re-structuring and improving Pre-service Teacher Education
  • Instituting innovative Pre-service Education
  • Launching level-specific post graduate Teacher Education programmes
  • Ensuring professional quality control
  • Career development programme for untrained teachers and Para-teachers
  • Forum for exchange of experiences
  • Use of ICT in Teacher Education institutes
  • Organising professional support services for Teacher Educators
  • Networking in Teacher Education

Challenge Ahead:
It is a known fact that education drives development. In the absence of teachers’ professional development, education cannot optimally contribute to the nation’s development. During the past decade, the issue of professional development of teachers has taken the centre stage in India. Professional development activities in India have, by and large, been sporadic and seldom rooted in teachers’ classroom work and the roles they perform in school and local community.

Professional development activities should be built into the ongoing work of teachers and it should address their concerns and questions. Unfortunately, Indian schools do not have any school-based induction programmes. But, lately they have been appreciative of the crucial role played by these professional development activities in attaining the goals of education.

Successful professional development for teachers can take place through conducive work situations. In the Indian context, what is required is the availability of professional development activities for teachers in a sustained manner and during all phases of their teaching career. In a country of the size like ours, with its wide ethnic and cultural diversity, the task of providing professional development facilities for all teachers seems an almost an impossible task. However, it is in these impossible challenges that there lies an opportunity for us to grow and scale new heights. Hopefully, by the end of the Tenth Five-Year Plan, we may be able to develop new understandings and lay foundations of a new professional culture.

This paper was accepted for the UGC sponsored National seminar on “Innovative practices to improve the quality of Teacher Education” organized on 10 & 11 March 2007 by Marathwada College of Education, Aurangabad and was published in its proceedings.

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