‘It takes a village to raise a child’ … and it takes a system to develop a teacher.
We know there is a huge problem facing education systems around the world. Children aren’t learning. That is clear. But perhaps what is discussed less often is that teachers often aren’t learning either, and this is likely to be a critical factor in improving student outcomes.
In many countries, teachers undergo formal pre-service training – which sometimes has an overreliance on theory rather than practice – while in-service teacher education is often given less attention. This can be attributed to many different factors including a lack of time, low motivation levels on the part of the teacher and a lack of awareness about the importance of ongoing development. These factors all need attention. However, it’s not all down to the teacher. Ongoing professional development needs to be positioned as a shared responsibility, among all the stakeholders operating within the education system: teachers, teacher educators, head teachers, government officials, policy makers, etc. Only when opportunities for professional growth are shared, clearly articulated and adequate support provided at the school, state and national level will ambitions around teacher’s continuing development be realised.
This is the premise on which the Teacher Education Planning Handbook was conceived by the British Council India team, drawing on our experience of working in partnership with 15 state governments and many NGOs and other agencies across the country since 2007. Over the last ten years, our teacher education programme team has had some significant successes, made some mistakes and learned lots of lessons and in identifying ‘what works’ when it comes to on the ground, large-scale in-service teacher education. This knowledge and learning has been distilled into the current handbook – edited by Dr Martin Wedell, Senior Lecturer and Head of International Education at the University of Leeds. The resource is aimed at all those who are involved the designing and planning of educational change programmes.
How is the handbook structured?
The handbook uses a roughly chronological structure that follows the teacher education programme planning process. Although we have presented a relatively neat-looking, linear sequence, in real life plans for and the design of change processes (such as teacher education programmes) is recursive; often what has been planned will need adjustment in the light of evidence emerging from the experience. The handbook is therefore primarily designed to be a reference tool, a resource that can be dipped into for ideas on what needs to be thought through or considered during a particular stage of planning or designing these programmes. The handbook can be used by individuals, or as a training and development resource in groups. Whilst scenarios in India are used to exemplify many of the concepts, the handbook is relevant for similar contexts worldwide.
What topics and themes are included?
The handbook is organised around four key themes that broadly encompass the different aspects of large-scale educational change projects. It opens with an initial focus on continuing professional development contexts, models and approaches – the thinking around these topics will inform programme design. A substantial part of the handbook looks closely at project management, including topics such as planning for change, managing risk and costing projects. Specific project activities are also explored, of which doing a needs analysis is just one example. Underpinning all of these is content and ideas related to monitoring, evaluation, and learning.
What are some of the handbook’s features?
At the beginning of each section a ‘Key points’ box presents the most pertinent information in the section, with a reflection on ‘Why this is important’ to further orientate the user. Another feature running through the handbook is the practical tasks – each section has at least one. These have been designed to engage the user with the content, encouraging them to apply their own knowledge and/or context to the topic; this can be completed on an individual basis or used as part of a workshop.
How is the handbook being used?
Since launching the publication in June 2017 we have made a concerted effort to engage stakeholders who are involved in the planning and implementation process around the country. One example is a one-day workshop we co-delivered in November 2017 in partnership with the National University of Educational Planning and Administration in Delhi. The university convened a group of officials and administrators from 13 states and union territories who have a role in overseeing or implementing in-service teacher initiatives.
Prior to the workshop a survey was sent out to find out about the participants’ work and responsibilities; this also provided an opportunity to conduct a mini needs analysis to identify where their interests lay. As a result, the workshop focused on four areas: Doing a needs analysis, models of teacher education, planning for change and establishing a simple monitoring, evaluation and learning framework. The handbook provided the basis for the sessions as we lifted tasks from the handbook and delivered them in an interactive, participant-centred manner. We asked the participants to put together an action plan detailing how they expect to take their learning into their professional contexts. We will be checking in to see how they got on with this at the start of the New Year in 2018.
The British Council’s Teacher Education Planning Handbook is full of practical, easy-to-use ideas, tools and templates to help facilitate workshops like these and the participatory planning and designing of teacher-focused change programmes. It is freely available for use by all. It is it hoped that it will contribute to an increase in the effectiveness of in-service teacher education and ultimately improve quality in the classroom.