I have been part of the education ecosystem for the last decade and have a view of this world as an outsider - I am an edtech consultant focusing on how we can leverage technology in education.
As part of my job, I have interacted with several teachers and administrators across geographies primarily US and India. And one thing that really hit me is teachers don’t get the attention they deserve-either here or there.
There have been lots of discussions and debates on how content can reach the end user using technology more effectively, cheaper etc. and how online courses are the way forward. We see lots of money being put into virtual classrooms and online apps. But there has been very little in terms of investment to improve this most important entity of the TAPS ecosystem - Teachers.
I sometimes find it difficult to understand when someone says teacher is just a facilitator or a bridge between content and the student. Same content could be handled completely different by two different teachers which make a great impact on students. When I was pursuing my engineering in one of the top-rated engineering colleges in TN, we had different sections of classes in our first year. Though the content/curriculum was the same across sections, I clearly remember how a math teacher handling one of the sections could enable a completely different level of student understanding compared to others. We used to sit and learn from the students of that particular batch and get a better understanding of the concepts. That’s what a good teacher can do - she can completely change the dynamics of how a particular content reaches to student.
But unfortunately, I don’t think we have helped the teachers to improve in ways which could benefit a larger student community. The focus has directly shifted to the students while the teaching fraternity has been left behind. Hopefully we understand this and correct the course and help teachers to improve.
How do we improve Teacher Quality?
We already have enough evidence to show unequivocally that good teachers are vital to raising student achievement and closing achievement gaps. The challenge for governments is to ensure that every classroom is staffed by a skilled, qualified teacher. The importance of employing good teachers cannot be over-emphasized on account of the positive impact they have on student achievement – in the short run – and the nation itself – in the long run.
There are a number of actions to take:
- There is a great need for developing institutional mechanisms for periodic monitoring of teacher training institutes – which are largely sub-standard and unregulated currently – with strict adherence to quality parameters. An important but overlooked aspect is the candidates’ aptitude for teaching, clear selection criteria for testing these skills need to be in place before accepting them into teacher training institutes.
- Teacher’s performance should be periodically appraised and rewarded with adequate opportunities for growth.
- Although one does not have teachers’ value-addition estimates at the time of hiring, teachers’ regularization/promotion decisions should be based on it. This can be estimated reliably only if teachers have spent some time on job and have taken at least a few classes.
- Schools should establish intensive, long-term induction programs for newly hired teachers that focus on helping new teachers meet challenging professional performance standards.
- Teachers need to be made more accountable through enhanced involvement of the school management committees, recognizing the need for supportive supervision and incentives to ensure teacher performance and accountability, as well as use of technology to monitor teacher attendance and curb absenteeism.
EFFECTIVE TEACHING PATHWAY
Teachers’ Professional Development
“Professional development is defined as activities that develop an individual's skills, knowledge, expertise and other characteristics.” Here the term refers to a variety of specialized training, formal education or professional learning intended to help teachers, administrators and others improve their professional knowledge, competence and skills.
Common consensus that has emerged about Professional Development:
- PD is today considered to be the primary mechanism that institutions can use to help teachers continuously learn and improve their skills over time.
- Teachers need to be viewed as professionals who require multiple skills to do their job, and accordingly professional standards need to be built into all teacher education programs. These programs must focus both on building an essential knowledge base, as well as skill sets required for making a difference in the classroom.
- Short term workshops, especially those not related to a school’s academic program or to what the teachers are teaching, are generally considered to be less effective than long term training and directly connected with their day-to-day tasks. In developed countries, Job embedded professional development is a new paradigm that has been gaining momentum where PD is made as an integral part of Teachers daily routine.
- Finding adequate time during the school hours for teachers to participate in professional development is major impediment.
- Other common challenges include insufficient support for professional development from the administrative leadership, a lack of faculty interest or motivation, or overburdened teacher workloads.
Effective professional development is on-going, includes training, practice and feedback, and provides adequate time and follow-up support. Successful programs involve teachers in learning activities that are similar to ones they will use with their students, and encourage the development of teachers’ learning communities. There is growing interest in developing schools as learning organizations, and in ways for teachers to share their expertise and experience more systematically.
Educator effectiveness is one of the areas that has been under immense focus in education sector where technology can be leveraged to assess a teacher across multiple data points – leading to the development of Professional Development Management Systems (PDMS) that help to manage, monitor, evaluate, analyse and drive Professional Development in schools, harnessing technology to create customized PD courses, section scheduling and tracking in the form of attendance and roster management.
And that brings us to Transcend, a PDMS solution designed to address the educator effectiveness requirements that are required in this challenging environment. Transcend integrates Teacher Effectiveness solution with job-embedded Professional Development, providing Professional Development courses aligned with evaluation standards and goals to make it more meaningful and effective to teachers.
It supports multiple forms of PD content delivery including online, offline and self-paced courses, customized and tailored to meet each individual teacher’s requirements or on the basis of school, grade, job title and subject. And a host of schools in the US will agree with us!