’n Konseptuele raamwerk vir voortgesette professionele ontwikkeling van onderwysers in die Suid-Afrikaanse onderwysstelsel.
Keywordscontinuing teacher education
National Policy Framework for Teacher Education and Development in South Africa
Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development in South Africa
official documents of the South African Council of Educators
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AbstractStudies unequivocally indicate that teachers have a more significant effect on learner performance than any other school factor and that their professional development leads to improved teacher learning and increased learner performance. However, the conceptualisation of professional development for teachers for the sake of meaningful change in education remains a great challenge. In line with international trends, professional development has become a key priority in South Africa. For this reason the National Policy Framework for Teacher Education and Development in South Africa and the Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development in South Africa, 2011–2025 are regarded as government initiatives to meet the need for qualified professional teachers. This article focuses on the matters that should be taken into account in order to apply continuing professional development successfully according to South African teacher education policy documents in order to improve teacher learning, learner performance and, eventually, education itself.
In this article I use primarily adult learning and the different orientations of teacher learning to understand teachers' professional development and to maximise opportunities for teachers' growth and development in order to improve teaching and learning practice in schools. According to current organisation learning, adult learning is proposed on two levels, namely individual learning and collective learning, which means that individual learning is an essential but insufficient condition for collective learning in the development of personnel. Because teacher learning is a dynamic process, it cannot be clearly understood unless teachers' development is separated from the school environment in which they work. A further extension of the model identifies three types of influence on teachers' learning: individual learning orientations, school-level or collective learning, and the way both of these affect the learning activities in which teachers participate. Individual learning orientations lead to values, experiences and instruction practices, while school-level orientations with regard to professional development are the result of interaction and collective values relating to teacher learning and development. Both individual and collective learning then imply changes in teacher learning that can bring about changes in convictions, in teaching practice and in learner performance.
In light of the above, a number of guidelines are proposed according to which the policy of continuing personnel development for South African teachers can be better understood. Criticism of the two current frameworks – the National Policy Framework for Teacher Education and Development in South Africa and the Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development in South Africa – indicates that there are insufficient guidelines for the effective application of professional development. The following guidelines are proposed:
1. Professional development should be ongoing and intensive and should be linked to classroom practice. Development programmes usually take the form of a passive transfer of knowledge and are often not contextualised, with little cooperation among colleagues. When professional development is reconceptualised in order to meet the needs of adult learners, workshops are replaced with learning opportunities that become part of teachers' daily activities and responsibilities, experimenting with new ideas and the analysis of these actions in schools.
2. Continuing professional development should focus on specific curriculum content and learner achievement. Development activities that are aimed at the improvement of subject content and skills in teaching the subject promote teachers' knowledge and skills. These developmental activities are effective because they make the professional development applicable and authentic for teachers' daily classroom practice. However, in practice it would seem that professional development programmes often bear no relation to teachers' classroom practice and for this reason teachers' needs are not being sufficiently met. When teachers are involved in identifying their needs, the learning experience will be practical and applicable to their classroom practice. One condition for effective professional development is, however, is, however, the teachers' willingness, desire and dedication to learn and develop professionally and to apply the new knowledge and skills in practice. 3. Personnel development should be brought in line with school development priorities and objectives. Professional learning is strongly shaped by the context in which the teacher works. This means that the teachers’ professional learning can be better understood when the role that schools play in teachers' learning is thoroughly understood. Studies have shown that teachers make greater changes to their classroom practice when they actively participate in professional learning activities at school. Therefore, professional development programmes should be mainly school-based and should focus on the learning processes of teachers and on methods to improve their teaching practices.
4. Professional development implies strong collective relationships among teachers. Collective participation by and cooperation between teachers are regarded as extremely important for effective teachers’ learning. This implies intensive interaction in which teachers openly participate and during which they examine their beliefs and practices and then debate them. In teams, teachers take responsibility for using a cycle of continuing learner improvement to identify learners' needs and the areas in which teachers should meet these needs in order to create the learning experiences required to do so, and that will enable them to apply the new skills in the classroom. These skills should then be evaluated and, finally, the improvement cycle repeated using new objectives. In these communities teachers also have the opportunity to share their teaching experiences and instructional material and also to receive feedback on their classroom practice in a safe, supportive environment. This community practice framework rests in particular on the assumption that individual knowledge construction does not take place in a vacuum, but that the construction of knowledge, skills, attitudes and convictions is culturally and socially situated. Because intensive involvement is required, mere membership of such network practices is inadequate for improving school and learner performance. The connectedness has to be strong and profound.
5. The school leadership plays an important role in professional development. In particular it is the school culture that school principals create that can contribute to the way in which personnel associate professionally and that fosters the community culture, collegiality, support and trust that is firmly grounded in democratic convictions and values. In this regard the following matters play a role: the development of a vision of new learner possibilities, involvement in own professional development, giving guidance for learning, organising of learning opportunities and monitoring of and feedback on professional development.
6. The influence of professional development on practice should be evaluated. Without it the effectiveness of teachers' professional development with regard to practice is questioned. Currently, the quality of the evaluation of professional development programmes and systems is not as desired. However, evaluation is important because it provides decision-makers and funders with proof of the effectiveness of programmes, it can lead to the improvement of such programmes and it reassures teachers that their time and investment in professional development are not in vain.
Although, according to the literature, ongoing attempts are being made to refine key aspects of professional development and much progress has already been made, the professional development of teachers is a complex issue. For this reason the effective application of professional development policy holds certain challenges. The key question is whether the implementation of the proposed policy for continuing professional development can really contribute to improved classroom and teacher practice. The implementation of this policy and the questions over its effectiveness in turn raise the following questions:
• Are the duration and intensity of the various professional development activities sufficient and are they adequately related to classroom practice and teachers' responsibilities? How are professional development activities linked to school contexts?
• Do professional development activities focus sufficiently on curriculum content and learner performance?
• Does professional development make sufficient provision for strong, collective relationships among teachers? How can teachers be given feedback when they apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills?
• How can the crucial role played by school leadership in the professional development of teachers be emphasised?
Until there is a sound conception of the way individual teachers and schools influence each other it will remain difficult to indicate the ways in which the professional development of teachers can be made more effective. Nevertheless, the findings of this study could enable policymakers to conceptualise the professional development of teachers further by creating professional development opportunities that are of longer duration, supporting schools to create more cooperative learning environments and developing opportunities for teacher feedback after the establishment of programmes and suitable evaluation in order to determine the results of professional development.
This work is based upon research supported by the National Research Foundation in South Africa
Educational Leadership and Management
Steyn GM. 2013. ’n Konseptuele raamwerk vir voortgesette professionele ontwikkeling van onderwysers in die Suid-Afrikaanse onderwysstelsel. Litnet 10(2):365-392 Available from http://www.litnet.co.za/Article/n-konseptuele-raamwerk-vir-voortgesette-professionele-ontwikkeling-van-onderwysers-in-die-