Schools across the country, are resorting to the best of practices to change the face of education. With each passing year and generation, tools and techniques, students and their learning preferences, and attitude towards learning continue to change. A dynamic learning environment requires teachers to be up to date with the industry standards, learning requirements, digital toolset and the necessary skills needed to effectively complement the ever changing factors that affect student success.
Continual Professional Development (CPD)
Education is no longer limited to the idea of imparting knowledge on students from a text book in a typical class room setting. Over the decades, education has become more learner-centric, taking into account every physical, mental, emotional and technological aspects that affect and influence students. Just as with any other profession, teachers too, must stay on par with the current needs of the field, and familiarize themselves with constant changes and upgradation. Teachers can no longer resort to age old teaching methods, and must keep themselves updated with the constant change, through formal trainings and learnings. Continual Professional Development, is this system of educating teachers, to help them keep their professional knowledge and skills up to date.
Types of Continual Professional Development
Continual Professional Development may be conducted and supervised by schools through formal and professional channels, or through informal channels such as activities, self-directed learning, or peer learning. Here are a few channels of CPD that are often made available to teachers.
- Education conferences and seminars
- Lectures and trainings
- Professional development network
- Research, projects, and journals
- Accredited educational courses
- In-house and digital learning
- Formation and involvement in professional groups and committees
- Guidance material and information leaflets
- Assignments and assessments
- Procedural Documents
- Personal development plans
- Work shadowing
- Reviewing informative material
- Online sources
- Role expansion or stretch goals
- Study groups
- Feedback and evaluation
- Site visits
Attributes of Effective Continual Professional Development
Consistency: It is important to make CPD a consistent part of teachers career development plan, to inculcate the importance, need, and culture of continuous professional development. On-off professional development, with no specific plan or goals, fails the purpose of CPD. To realize the true potential of CPD, schools must have specific plans and procedures in place, to ensure teachers get the necessary guidance and training from time to time, to upgrade their skills and learning. Periodic assessments and evaluations, feedback and tracking of the utilization of learning, would also ensure that professional development does not get lost in the humdrum of meeting curriculum deadlines and everyday classes.
Clear vision: The development plan must entail a clear vision and purpose. Both teachers, and the ones delivering CPD must be familiar with the vision, and the planned outcome. A clear vision ensures seamless delivery, timely implementation, relevant action plan and effective evaluation.
Personalized: Teachers are more likely to follow up through CPD when it relates to their everyday needs and concerns. They must be able to relate the context of professional development learnings, with their everyday job, and find ways in which they can implement what they learn. The “One Size Fits All” approach is best avoided, to ensure the goals of CPD are met. Personalized CPD also relies on existing observations and data, to customize a teacher’s learnings as per their strengths and areas of improvement, while providing them with real time results and feedback.
Collaborative: Effective CPD is collaborative and interactive. It must engage teachers in activities, share best practices amongst each other, and utilize examples from their classrooms as learnings. Collaborative learning, enables teachers to share their view points, values, and learnings, while also being exposed to best practices and learnings of others. Learning communities, mentoring, peer coaching, group assignments are a few examples of collaborative CPD. Collaborative CPD must also enable teachers to colalborate with students, to come up with strategies that create an effective learning environment. Collaboration between teachers, and between teachers and students, won’t just benefit the teachers with their professional development, but also create better teaching practices in general, thus raising the educational standards of the school itself.
Focus on students: The end goal of CPD is to help teachers do their job effectively, for the overall success of students. Therefore, it is imperative that CPD be student centric. Teachers must be trained to adopt changing pedagogical approaches, understand learners more subjectively, and use resources and learnings to the best of their ability, in the interest of students’ success. Subject knowledge and curriculum are often inculcated in CPD with the intent of helping teachers teach better.
Pedagogy: Effective CPD introduces teachers to various forms of pedagogy, and how their approach effects student learning and behavior in class. Teachers may lose focus from adopting the right pedagogy, or be completely unaware of some, restricting the effectiveness of their teaching, while also limiting student experiences. Focusing on different pedagogical approaches, helps teachers evaluate their teaching strategies, and make changes accordingly.
Qualified Sources: From the wide range of available professional development resources, effective CPD chooses relevant formal and informal channels, tools and techniques, to best meet its vision and goals. Qualified and competent professionals, both internal and external, with relevant expertise and skill, are relied upon, to deliver learning.
Not limited within the school: Professional development may not necessarily be confined within the walls of the school. Effective CPD recognizes this notion, and does not limit teachers’ professional development to collaborations and trainings in the school environment only. Teachers are encouraged to enroll in interschool professional development programs, or external learning sources, that eventually benefit the school.
Other Benefits of Professional Development
Apart from the evident purpose of upgrading teachers’ skills, to help them deliver better learning to students, here are a few more reasons, schools must opt for Continual Professional Development.
Competence: CPD introduces teachers with new techniques and skills, increasing their competencies, and helping them stay on par with industry standards.
Classroom management skills: With a broader view of education, pedagogy and student psychology, teachers will be able to manage classrooms better.
Better student-teacher relationship: When teachers invest time in learning to teach better, they don’t just excel in teaching, but also understand their students better, thus building a better bond with them.
Motivation in teachers: Upgradation of skills, and new learnings, act as constant motivation in the teaching field, which tends to get redundant and demotivated with time.
Motivation for students: When teachers put in time and effort to learn how to customize learning as per student needs, learning becomes less intimidating.
Self-evaluation: CPD acts as an effective self-evaluation strategy for teachers who wish to make continuous progress in their career.
Increased awareness: Teachers who constantly learn and upgrade skills, are more aware of the happenings in the teaching and learning community, enabling them to easily adopt practices that benefit students.
Better contribution: Professional development helps teachers contribute more to the learning community, and also broaden their horizons, to take up opportunities outside their limited scope.
Creative approaches: Constant upgradation keeps teachers from losing interest, and take critical or creative approaches to challenging situations.
Better school environment: Upgradation of skills, better collaboration among teachers and students, effective teaching strategies and increased standards, eventually result in a better learning environment in the school.
How Can EdSense Help?
EdSense uses artificial intelligence, to track each student's learning, both within the school, and from external sources. This demarcation gives the school a clear picture of the learning a student receives from the teacher, bringing in teacher effectiveness in focus. The platform also enables teacher feedback - both professional and behavioral - that parents and students can contribute to. With such detailed, accurate and in-depth information, schools will be able to appropriately judge the areas of improvement for each teacher, and constitute relevant professional development plans and trainings accordingly. New courses and projects can be created by the school management, assigned to teachers within EdSense, track their progress closely and ultimately drive teacher effectiveness towards institutions overall vision or goals.
Every educational institute aims for student success. Continual Professional Development can be an important ally in this regard, provided schools base their CPD on reliable data, with a clear goal in mind. When teachers realize that in their progress, lies a student’s progress, CPD ends up being a seamless collaborated effort towards student excellence.