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Continuous Professional Development: An Imperative for Educators

Hargreaves and Shirley (2009) indicate that “our schools are the social embryos of humanity—those institutions that we establish to promote our highest collective values. They should be the embodiment of norms of reciprocity, social trust, and democratic deliberation” (p. 163).  Schools are centres of action in the education system. In most if not all countries across the world, regardless of the myriad of variables that drive education including government, lending agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations and private stakeholders, schools remain pivotal to the change. When schools do well, there is a ripple effect of growth on every other sector.  Indeed, “education has moved up the political agenda… and is seen as the key to unlocking not just social but also economic problems” (OECD, 2001b, p. 48). It is against this background that schools have to be empowered and teachers at every level of the system have to be enabled. Teachers are among the most important persons in the learning and teaching dynamic. Teaching ranks only second to leadership in the vastly researched topic of school effectiveness. (e.g., Sergiovanni 1996; Leithwood 1998; Leithwood et al. 1999; Caldwell and Spinks 2007; Gurr et al. 2006, Hutton, D, 2007). Quality teaching and quality school leadership are therefore non-negotiables in any meaningful discussion on education. We suffer in their absence and only thrive in their presence.


Qualification is not Enough

We teach who we are and we can take people no further than we have been and so whether we realise or not, we project our most fundamental beliefs and the limits of our experiences on the children in our care. Every child is a unique individual with unique needs and backgrounds. Along with the unique nature of the child is the view that the child is complex and multidimensional. How then can we as teachers respond to the multi-dimensional nature of the child on one hand and manage the uniqueness on the other? Undoubtedly, this will require teachers who are able to perform at optimum levels, and who have the competencies, skills, knowledge and dispositions to meet complex challenges. Regardless of the academic and social training that our traditional qualifications afford, it can never be enough to dexterously tackle the existing and emerging demands of the 21st century child. Qualification levels and years of experience, though critical, are not enough to prepare educators to effectively execute their duties in our schools.

Continuous Professional Development

A critical variable then, as shown by the myriad of literature on the matter, is Continuous Professional Development (CPD). Importantly, professions such as lawyers and paralegals, regardless of their levels of experience and success in their work are required to engage in continuing professional legal development for each year in which they are in practice. These are specified by the General Legal Council (The Jamaica Gazette Supplement, Proclamations, Rules and Regulations – Vol.CXXXV1, No. 6, January, 29, 2013). Continuing Professional Development also stands as a professional imperative of every doctor, and at the same time is also a prerequisite for enhancing the quality of health care. According to World Federation for Medical Education (2015) continuing professional development designates the period of education and training of doctors commencing after completion of both basic and postgraduate medical education, thereafter extending throughout each doctor’s professional life. However, CPD can also be seen as a life-long continuing process, starting when the student is admitted to medical school and continuing as long as the doctor is engaged in professional activities. In addition, several professional designations which include engineers, pilots, soldiers, police officers, and financial professionals are required to continually update their skills and knowledge in order to remain professionally competent.

What is required in Education?

Education should not only be required to follow in the footsteps of the revered lawyers and doctors but should be leading the charge in this area of learning. Teachers, by the very nature of the profession, should receive continuous training in curriculum, instructional quality, student development and behaviours, school management and leadership.  Among other things, the quality of training educators receives before they assume their positions, and the continuing professional development they get once they are hired and throughout their careers, have a lot to do with whether they can meet the increasingly tough expectations of their jobs. They must be able to skilfully adapt the policies of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to the school context and measure the benefits to the school. They must be reflective and reflexive, purposefully implementing changes and interrogating practical solutions (Elliot 1996). Importantly, the developmental interventions they receive are to be planned, continuous, specific, targeted and relevant to improve their self-efficacy leading to the improvement of their schools and their students. To be effective that is which is learned has to be implemented, monitored and evaluated.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information would have responded to the call for greater  accountability and as such introduced agencies such as the Jamaica Teaching Council and the National College for Educational Leadership as system checks to ensure the provision of high-quality developmental interventions for educators. However, educators have a professional responsibility to not only engage in these interventions but to chase after them. Educators are pulled in many different directions every day. The growing list of responsibilities necessitates even more skillsets to be viewed as merely “good”. Professional development therefore has to be embraced and reflected throughout the teaching and leadership cycle. Our policies can only reflect more of the need for the advancement of the teaching profession and educators should also demand it. 

 

References

Caldwell, B.J., & Spinks, J.M. (2007). Raising the stakes: From improvement to transformation in the reform of schools. Oxford: Routledge.

Elliot, J. (1996). Two models of professionalism. In A. Pollard (Ed.), Readings for reflective teaching in the primary school (pp. 18–21). London: Cassell.

Gurr, D., Drysdale, L., & Mulford, B. (2006). Models of successful principal leadership. School Leadership and Management, 26(4), 371–395.

Hargreaves, A., & Shirley, D. (2009). The fourth way: The inspiring future for educational change. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

Hutton, D. 2017. Leadership for school success. The Jamaican perspective. The University of the West Indies Press

Sergiovanni, T.J. (1996). Leadership for the schoolhouse: how is it different? Why is it important? San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Leithwood, K.A. (1998). Conditions for fostering organizational learning in schools. Educational Administration Quarterly, 34(2), 243–276.

Leithwood, K., Jantzi, D., & Steinback, R. (1999). Changing leadership for changing times. Buckingham: Open University Press.

OECD. (2001b).  Report on Hungary/OECD seminar on Managing Education for Lifelong Learning

 

Profile of Writer

Taneisha Ingleton, PhD has a performance driven, agile and innovative mind. She believes in the infinite capacity of each individual to bring autonomy, mastery and purpose to their life and work. Dr. Ingleton has expertise in Design Thinking and is a Leadership Development Programme Designer, Educational Leadership Researcher, Capability Development Specialist, Designer of Competency Frameworks and Consultant. She earned her PhD at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. Her scholarly writing, her experiences and her dissertation research have focused significantly on leadership development. Prior to her Master of Philosophy Degree, she had completed her Undergraduate Degree and Post Graduate Diploma from the University of the West Indies [UWI], Jamaica with First Class Honours and, distinction respectively. Dr. Ingleton has over seventeen years combined teaching, research and management experience at the high school level, Undergraduate, Masters and PhD levels in Jamaica and Canada. Her areas of research and teaching include Educational Leadership, Educational Policy and Planning, Instructional Leadership, School Improvement, Strategic Planning, Editorial Writing, Spanish Language, Literature and Culture. She has published papers on the Principalship, Transformational Leadership, and her research has informed, to date, over 90 scholarly articles and dissertations on Leadership, School and Effectiveness.

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