Professional Development as a Concept

                Professional development in education has many facets as evidenced by numerous terms used to refer to the process.  Some call it professional growth, in-service education, on the job training, continuing education, recurrent education, staff improvement or renewal. In this paper the term is used to refer to the process through which teachers attain higher professional competence and expand their understanding of self, role, context and career. It is any experience that teachers engage in to widen their knowledge, appreciation, skills, and understanding of their work inline with goals, values of the schools and the interests and needs of teachers (Duke& Stiggins, 1990; Beerens, D.R., 2000; Norton, M. S., 2008).  This definition is premised on the fact that organizations will progress to the extent that people grow and develop. It submits to the idea that teacher development must be linked with the schools strategic plan together with the short and long range work force assets. 

Justification for Professional Development of Teachers

                In the 21st century education is becoming a competitive human enterprise. Like all other investments, people spend money, effort and time in education and expect good returns. This makes education to be rated on the basis of its cost effectiveness.  The outcome calculated in terms of economic, social and at times political gains is what motivates people to invest heavily in education. According to Darling-Hamond (1998) each dollar spent on improving teacher’s qualification nets greater gains in student learning than any other use of an educational dollar. However, these gains are dependant on the quality of the teachers and yet it takes time for one to become an effective teacher. At whatever cost, it is notable that good instruction accrues from the professional development of teachers (Glickman, C.D., et al 2004; O’Donnell, Reeve& Smith., 2009).

                Unfortunately, there is little knowledge and understanding about the kinds of the programs which work best, their optimal organization , content and what needs to be done in specific circumstances. Developers do not usually conceptualize the methodological underpinnings of professional program development or its paradigm. Even though administrators, teachers and supervisors usually go through staff development period with a mere endurance of attitude not hoping to gain much from it, a number of teachers are beginning to report potential gains from the programs . Management consultants have also indicated that the largest single factor to job satisfaction is the opportunity for growth and career development (English, F.W., 2004; Bathurst, P.2007; Preez, du P & Roux, C. 2008).

                Teachers also indicate that they need continuous up grading in all the activities they engage in their services as teachers (Allan, P., 1983). Since they play a major role in curriculum development process, their competence needs appraisal to match with a wide array of curriculum demands. With influx of knowledge, education has become an ever growing field that calls for retraining of teachers if they are to cope with the latest professional practice, and avoid getting into “shock Professionalism”. (Lundgren, U.P., & Forsberg, E., 2004).

                The individual teachers should be provided with common skills, and assisted to become adaptive to the changes as they participate in planning at instructional level, otherwise a new curricula would have little worthwhile impact until teachers have time to understand and assimilate it. Experience of managing change activities indicates clearly that the form and timing of staff development is what counts. The need for clarity on the purpose, nature and benefits of the innovation, can not be underrated (Ornstein, A.C., & Hunkins, P.F 1998; Kelly, M.P & John, R. S., 2005; O’Donnell, A.M., Reeve, J.K., 2009).

                Glickman, C.D. et al (2004) narrate an analogy of “the Car “as given by one of the presenters at a Michigan school board to illustrate the importance of professional development of teachers. In the analogy it is argued that when a customer buys a new car costing about of $ 30,000 or more, for preventive maintenance and fine tuning he needs to continue to put ting additional money into the car to prolong its life and performance.  Similarly when a school board higher s a professional teacher and pays an initial amount of investment, it needs to invest further resources for fine tuning and reinvigorating the teacher otherwise it runs him into the ground.

                Another justification can be captured from a research study in which Torff (2003) compared three groups of teachers – the novices, experienced and expert teachers; he discovered that while each category of teachers had unique needs, in some areas they had common needs. He therefore recommended that all teachers at whatever level will need continuous upgrading not only in areas of skill, knowledge and abilities, but through various forms of experiences and reflection on personal experience.  According to Fullan, M (2001) “Teachers of today and tomorrow need to do much more learning on the job, or parallel with it- where they can constantly test out, refine, and get feedback on the improvements they make” p 266. This assertion puts an urgent call for supervisors to develop a proactive rather than a reactive approach to professional development of teachers. Proactive approach is ideal in the sense that it goes beyond reactive assumptions of the “missing education” and focuses on the needed skills to meet as well as building essential human resources to invigorate the school system for immediate and future needs.

Programs for Professional Development of Teachers.

                There are different ways of enhancing professional growth of teachers ranging from professional practicum, in-service, workshops, faculty conventions, teacher centers, and visitation to other schools, teacher conferences, travel/cultural tours, readings, video and audio cassettes and attendance at professional development schools and membership in professional organizations to mention a few. Arguably these categories can further be divided into two broad categories as in-service and advanced preparation. In-service serves the purpose of improving skills and knowledge while advanced preparation is done with anticipation of future needs of the school (Norton, M.S., 2008; Samuel, M. & Wyk, M. V., 2008; Kauchack, D., Eggen, P., 2009).

                For the purpose of this paper professional development programs will be discussed under four headings that correspond to teacher’s needs, these include; induction, refreshment, extension, and conversion. The differentiation coincides with teachers’ career stages and developmental needs. For instance, while those in initial training require pre-service, the novice has needs to understand the operations and complexity of the school system- however, both require directive informational supervision. On the contrary, the experienced teachers seek for further competence to handle their multifaceted roles, and require more of collaborative and nondirective supervision (Glickman, C.D., et al 2004). Each category of teachers fit in one of the following programs. 


                Induction is a systematic program of professional initiation, guided experience and further study for beginning teachers. It provides the novice with systematic and sustained assistance to ease the transition into teaching. Thus, the notion of introduction is used to describe any form of in-service guidance, and assistance offered to acclimatize the new teacher into his new responsibilities. This is can also be referred to as beginning teacher programs. It includes orientation to the school and community and intensive assistance in classroom management and effective teaching. Characteristically, the induction process tends to place less reliance on a need for attendance at formally organized in-service courses. The novice teacher is often mentored through individual discussions and observations by immediate supervisors or mentors so that he develops teaching efficacy. Research has revealed that a novice teacher’s self efficacy flourishes if there in a positive school climate, encouragement, support during difficulties and strong mentoring by an experienced teacher (Woolfolk Hoy, 2000; Yost, 2002; Kauchak, D., Eggen, P., 2009)

Supervisors need to ensure the following factors if they want to carry out successful induction programs; make a systematic attempt to help beginning teachers with both classes and opportunities to observe and dialogue with experienced teachers, offer special help in the beginning years of the teacher’s career to help them link their instruction to district and national standards, design professional development activities to increase mentor’s effectiveness and compensation for mentors, develop a mentoring support with everyday problems and encouragement so that the neophyte develops a reflective professional attitude . (Fullan,M (2001);Gilbert, 2005; Wayne, Y. & Fleischman, 2005; Wong, B., & Ganser, 2005; O’Donnell, Reeve & Smith., 2009).


                This is a kind of personal intellectual stimulation. It refers to the in-service program that is intended to provide professional and academic substance to teachers who have been performing the same type of tasks for a long time, perhaps many years (Paisy, A., 1983). The refresher course puts stress on refurbishing method skills and techniques, especially in subject areas with a practical lesson bias, for example Mathematics, physical education, home economics and science. Refreshment activities may take place any time after induction while a teacher continues to perform a particular function or skill. For teachers who wish to develop their professionalism, the refresher course must continue to rank as an important form of study experience that may take the form of several workshops, which eventually contributes to career advancement.


                According to Kauchak, D. & Eggen, P. (2008) in the context of in-service education, extension studies take two dimensions. It may involve work, which extends the normal range of a subject or allows for the pursuit of related interests or extension studies which include interdisciplinary work designed to develop teacher’s personal maturity and skills through medium of their personal interest. Usually, the acquisition of unfamiliar skills and techniques and the absorption of new knowledge call for processes in which learning is brought by factors such as regular practice, continuous reinforcement and concentrated memorization. Consequently extension studies, unlike refresher work tend to take a long duration, occupying periods that may span a term more than one year. For this reason, extension courses often tare as advanced and lead to higher- bearing qualifications such as postgraduate diploma and masters degrees


                This refers to a response to a teacher’s professional needs arising from taking on, or wishing to take on a new and unfamiliar jobs or tasks in the education service. A conversion course can help to prepare a teacher to move up (promotion), sideways (lateral relocation) or out of profession (redundancy). Teachers who are decided on their career, strategy and timetable can benefit from vertical conversion courses or programs that would suit their professional needs. Lateral conversion includes in-service programs designed to train teachers for dealing with a new age- range of unfamiliar subject area. Their purpose is to assist teachers in attaining lateral mobility, open up a prospect of career development that secures a teacher from the problem of redundancy. The programs run for a long time to allow for sufficient time for relating theory into practice (Glickman, C.D et al 2004).

                 Since the beginning of 1990’s teacher’s roles are rapidly expanding beyond the school into district curriculum committees. Teachers now participate in making wide policies on issues such as grading, writing grant proposals for student- or teacher development projects, arranging school business partnerships, initiating and facilitating school-to-work activities and conducting action research. The later is emerging as a new program in conversion aimed at enhancing teacher autonomy and reflection. Other versions of conversion include developing teachers as writers through networking, partnerships and experiencing of collegial support at seminars, conferences and at teacher centers (Darling-Hammond& Harmmerness, 2005).

    Supervisory Strategies in successful Professional Development programs

                While the cost of professional development is on the rise, the gains are minimally realized as most of such programs lack focus, intensity, follow-up, evaluation and continuity (Kauchak, D. & Eggen, P., 2008). For maximum gains, Glickman et al (2004) have noted the following tips from a synthesis of 97 research studies carried out by Lawrence in 1994. Involvement of administrators and supervisors in planning and delivering the program, differential training experiences for different teachers ( matching professional development to teacher characteristics), placement of the teacher in an active roles, putting emphasis on demonstrations, supervised trials, feedback, teacher sharing and mutual assistance, linking of activities to the general professional development program, allowing for teacher choice of goals and activities and having teachers to initiate and direct training activities.

                From the foregoing list it can be argued that mutual adaptation is a fundamental factor in the success of professional development programs for teachers, this includes Involvement and inclusion of all the parties. Mutual trust, commitment and consistent leadership proceeding from a non- threatening and incremental pace of development are necessary. Factors that foster mutual adaptation are concrete, teacher-specific and extended training, classroom assistance as a way of follow up, teacher observation of similar projects in other classrooms, schools, or districts; regular classroom project meetings that focus on practical programs,  participation in project decisions, use of local materials and supervisor’s participation in the training (Glickman, C.D. Gordon, S.P., Ross-Gordon, & J.M., 2004).       

Further research indicates that, skill development programs that use presentation, demonstrations, practice, monitoring and mentoring are more effective than those without such coaching and feed back. These findings suggest that teachers acquire and use new skills only if there is engagement and subsequent follow up into their own classrooms Joyce, B. R., & Beverly, S. 1983; Guskey, T.R., 1986; Landry, H.S. et al 2009).

 For this reason, and as suggested by Glickman et al (2004), professional development should progress from orientation, integration to refinements levels taking into consideration teachers characteristics and personal needs .

                    For skill development, small- group driven workshops appear to be more successful than those with larger groups (Stallings, 1980).  Mohlman- Sparks (1986) compared three models of such groups. The first model had presentation, demonstration, and practice and feed back. The second contained presentation, demonstration, practice and feedback followed by peer observation. The Third one had presentation, demonstration, practice, feed back and trainer coach. Interestingly, the results showed there were higher gains in classroom skills with the second model that used peer observation followed by the third one which included trainer coach. There were no meaningful gains with the first model. These findings make a strong argument for peer and supervisory involvement, and additional component of orientation, integration and refinement of learnt skills – in procedures such as application, experimentation and reflection. A properly conceptualized staff development philosophy, policies and procedures should be in place to guide the context, content and process of the development as suggested by Dejarnette, C.S. (1989) & Samuel, M. & Wyk, M.V., (2008).

                    It is not only important to align the programs with the school wide goals, both of individuals and groups within the school, but also to base the program on research findings from action research on the best practices on school and instructional improvement. In doing this administrative support should be solicited for funds, planning and implementation. There is also need for long range planning that incorporates assessments and feed back; so that professional development becomes part of the school culture. Operational procedure for staff development should go through the following five steps (1) adopting a guiding policy (2) developing statement of program goals and objectives (3) planning program activities (4) implementing the activities and (5) evaluating the outcomes (Briggs, A. R. J., & Coleman, M. 2007).

Major Themes of Professional development of Teachers in the 21st Century

                    Following the current reforms in the educational system, there are new themes for professional development of teachers that the 21st century supervisor needs to be conversant with. Teachers should be trained in self regulatory skills, use of technology such as computer, cell phones as metaphors of teaching , Subject matter, methodology, classroom management and meeting needs of special students. There is also need for developmental programs that will strengthen teachers’ philosophy inline with his conduct as a professional (Brand, G.A. 1997; Humphrey, B. & Stokes, J. 2000; Irujo, S. 2005; O’Donnell, A.M et al., 2009; Kramarski, B. & Michalsky, T. 2009).


               The ultimate task of the 21st century supervisor is to help teachers to cope with global educational changes through professional development. In this task the supervisor needs to be knowledgeable about the essence, justification and the nature of the development intended. In order to improve the productivity of the process, the supervisor needs to be conversant with the core problems of teaching and learning in order to seek for their solutions. The understanding of teacher’s stages of development and developmental needs are essential in planning training programs. For maximum gains the programs should be incremental, varied, fulfilling and mutually adaptive to individual, school and district goals. Teachers should be involved in the initial plans, process and follow ups as this contribute to relevance and effectiveness of the programs. 


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