Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

Refresher professional development courses for in-service teachers are essential to ensure quality education at all times at the classroom level. In these refresher courses, several classroom teaching strategies are discussed with the participants. They experience them and share their reflections about the effectiveness of these strategies. But unfortunately, most of those strategies remain at the reaction or learning level (Kirkpatrick model 2006) it does not become a daily routine of participants’ practice. To make the shared teaching strategies part of participants behavior, SIPD academic staff developed an assignment where the participants are engaged in conceptualizing a strategy, integrated into their lessons, review the success related to students learning, identify the challenges they faced during the implementation, and developed strategies to overcome challenges in next lessons.

In the context of Sindh, there are several Pre-service programs offer by the Government College of education and other private universities. They all conclude by awarding degrees. Similarly, in-service professional development programs also do not have intensive classroom-based component. These professional development programs for teachers are passive due to ‘sit and get’ training. Teachers are invited for training, they attend the workshop and they apply few teaching strategies from training in a classroom context. Gould (2008) indicates that such a model will not provide an opportunity for improvement in teaching and learning. That is why many professional programs do not achieve the goal of improving instruction at the classroom level.

Action-oriented assignment and Teachers’ professional development

Professional development is a process that is fundamental to all professionals and spans over their entire careers. It is an agreement that continuous professional development is a ‘good thing’ and all teachers should be part of the process. The basic argument is that the change should continuously happen. To overcome this continuous change, a teacher should continue learning (Roscoe, 2002).

Improvement of student learning is the ultimate goal of in-service teachers’ development courses. Engaging teachers in professional development courses through workshops do not necessarily promote desired professional learning where the goal of professional learning is changing in classroom instruction and improvement in student learning. Involvement in process of action-oriented assignments helped teachers to up-to-date themselves in their curriculum knowledge, be smart enough in the selection and use of appropriate pedagogy for their students learning, and clear about their learning objectives.

Context of the study

SIPD has organized a two-week professional development program for one of its partner schools. To make it a result-oriented program, SIPD Academic staff include an action-oriented assignment as one of the compulsory requirements of the program to get the certificate of course completion.

In the action-oriented assignment, participants are required to select one or more teaching strategies shared in the course, integrate it in their lesson plan, record their experience as field notes, and finally write around 500 words report which includes;

  • A brief introduction of the selected strategy
  • Rational of the selection
  • Describe the process of implementation in the classroom
  • Their learning from the experience
  • Challenges they faced

In the following paragraph, this paper will share the experience of randomly selected course participants who completed the action-oriented assignment. Findings are based on information gathered from participants by using different sources: lesson plans, reflective journal, action-oriented assignment report, and a questionnaire to record their overall experience.

Curriculum Enrichment

Course participants have learned the process of curriculum enrichment. By analysis of their developed lesson plan and worksheet, it finds evidence of curriculum enrichment. They have made changes and improvements in classroom learning. They implement some new student-centered teaching strategies learned during the course and contribute with creative worksheet and materials which have been prepared by them. They become skillful in developing innovative activities that are more focused on involving students in the learning process; in the meantime, they contextualize the national curriculum. In this way, the action-oriented assignment will help to enrich the curriculum as resources to learn self-critical teachers in planning, acting, collaborating, and reflecting.

Jargon becomes familiar

Jargon is different from dialects and is used in particular settings and purposes (Chaika, 1980). In an education setting, there are several jargons used for specific meaning and purpose which are not part of dialects. Initially, course participants are afraid of carrying out an action-oriented assignment. They believe that it is beyond their capacity. But by with time, they realize that action-oriented is within their reach and it encourages them not only to continue with their assignment but to develop their capacity as a thinking teacher. Jargon such as reflective practitioner, problem solver, innovation, change, critical thinking, brainstorming, mind maps, etc become part of their familiar vocabulary list, looks horrible at the beginning. As one of the CPs shared his/her experience;

At the initial stage of the program, phrases like ‘reflective practitioner’,’ critical thinking’ confused and threatened me a lot, but by doing the assignment it has become part of my conversation also. I feel comfortable to use in my oral and written communication.”

A Contextual Lesson Plan

In most professional development programs, new teaching strategies are introduced with the help of globally accepted content. It is left on participant wisdom to fit the strategies in their context. Most of the time strategies are appreciated in the training program evaluation sheet and never become part of participants’ behaviour. But by introducing the action-oriented assignment, participants got an opportunity to fit the shared teaching strategies in their lesson plan with appropriate content and experience it in their context. As one of the participants reflected;

during developing lesson for the assignment, I went through all my notes, reflected on each strategy share by facilitators and picked the strategies which look appropriated to my selected content area. In this way, I got confident that these strategies are appropriate and implemented in my context also.”

The practice of reflection on planning a lesson

Teachers usually see the context and select a few teaching strategies and write their lesson plan. They usually do not think critically about other aspects related to teaching and learning. By working on action-oriented assignments teachers got the opportunity to see other factors that affect students learning like what challenges do students face learning these concepts? how can I modify the worksheet to fit with students’ proficiency level? What support does my student need to understand while working on strategies? As course participants shared;

After working on this assignment, I understand the importance of reflecting on points before doing project-based learning with students as a demonstration. Further, I just need to know about the challenges students face during the process of project-based learning.

Become Problem Solver

In rural Sindh, teachers usually teach in isolation. They get limited support from their headteachers, colleagues, and other professionals. So, they teach what they are confident of and leave alone what they don’t know. The action-oriented assignment provides an opportunity to take the challenge to work with newly learned strategies by integrating them into their lesson plan. The report writing forces the participant to think critically about the action they took and explore the alternatives strategies to overcome the challenges they face.

Conclusion

It is suggested that teacher development program should have action-oriented assignment to get its impact at classroom level. It is a tool to take continuous professional learning from appreciation to result level.

References

Chaika, E. (1980). Jargons and Language Change. Anthropological Linguistics, Vol. 22,(No. 2), pp. 77-96.

Gould, M. (2008). Teacher as a researcher: A paradigm for professional development. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 45(1), 5-7.

Kirkpatrick, Donald L. (2006). Evaluating training programs: the four levels. San Francisco: Emeryville, CA: Berrett-Koehler; Publishers Group West

Roscoe, J. (2002). Continuing professional development in higher education. Human resource development international, 5(1), 3-9.

By Muhamamd Yusuf

The writer is Pedagogy Expert at SIPD. He can be reached at m.yusuf.edu@gmail.com

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