Tag Archives: professional development

Professional Learning in Top Performing Systems, part 2

PDinfographicv2The National Center on Education and the Economy’s (NCEE) Center on International Education Benchmarking has released two reports on professional learning environments in top performing systems: Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems and Developing Shanghai’s TeachersTo explore and share the findings of these reports, the NCEE held a conference last week featuring presentations and panel conversations with the leading voices in education from around the world. This conference was also streamed live and can be viewed online. Moderated by Marc Tucker, president and CEO of NCEE, speakers included Ben Jensen (author of Beyond PD) and Minxuan Zhang (author of Developing Shanghai’s Teachers).

Ben Jensen began his presentation with the questions, “What is at the core of high performing professional learning systems? What is the strategy to ensure effectiveness?”

Jensen argued that we need to move past the idea that there is a single answer. Instead, we need to understand the fundamentals behind effective professional learning. We need to think about an overall strategy for change, rather than specifics, such as how many hours should be required, or the regulatory environment. According to Jensen, high performing education systems around the world all have one thing in common. They are all really clear in their belief that school improvement = professional learning.

While countries such as Australia and the United States set high expectations for outcomes and leave it up to schools and teachers to meet those expectations in any way they see fit, top performing systems such as Shanghai and Singapore don’t take the same approach. Instead they look for broad policies that will make sure organizations have great professional learning, and talk about accountability as being a cornerstone of good practice for professional learning. While Australia and the U.S. see a dichotomy between development and accountability, higher performing education systems look at the two as interconnected, with several individuals directly accountable for the quality of professional learning.

Jensen explained that assessment of student learning is at the heart of professional learning in high performing education systems. These systems recognize how difficult it is to assess student learning well, and yet how fundamental it is to good teaching. They start by identifying student learning needs, and then how to change instruction. They look at evidence, try new things, work together, and evaluate impact. This inquiry approach has different names in different countries. For example, Singapore has Professional Learning Communities, while Shanghai has Learning Groups. Yet, these approaches are all focused on teacher learning and aligned with accountability (not focused solely on outcomes). Responsibility is shared, and individuals are held accountable for how well they collaborate with each other.

To read the full report: Beyond PD

Deirdre Faughey

Professional Learning in Top Performing Systems, part I

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 10.38.08 AMThe National Center on Education and the Economy’s (NCEE) Center on International Education Benchmarking has released two reports on professional learning environments in top performing systems: Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems and Developing Shanghai’s TeachersTo explore and share the findings of these reports, the NCEE held a conference last week featuring presentations and panel conversations with the leading voices in education from around the world. This conference was also streamed live and can be viewed online. Moderated by Marc Tucker, president and CEO of NCEE, speakers included presentations by Ben Jensen (author of Beyond PD) and Minxuan Zhang (author of Developing Shanghai’s Teachers).

In his opening remarks, Tucker asked the audience to imagine working in a high performance law firm:

You start as associate. If you work hard, you have a chance to be partner. If as partner you succeed, you can be a senior partner. Then, you have a shot at managing partner. What happens as you move up? You get more compensation, authority, responsibility, status in the firm and community, and also you get esteem. How do you get to move up the ladder? You get better at the work. But if you look at how the firm works it depends on your capacity to develop others. The way you get to move up is by having people higher up take you under their wing. You learn from them. There is a craft and the way you learn a craft is from a master. That’s how it works. It depends on how well you develop others. Also, depends in part on meeting others, to get the work of the org done. Unless people moving up ladder have leadership skills, those committees won’t work well. Everything depends on you getting better at these things. 

How do you get better? You read everything you can get your hands on. You ask people to critique you. You get people to mentor you, and you get the most out of them. You are learning all the time. It’s all about learning, but the learning does not take place in an off-site scheduled workshop. It’s built in to the work.

Tucker went on to contrast this law-firm model with the U.S.  model of professional development in schools. As he argued, U.S. teachers “get workshopped.” This workshop model often involves lectures directed at teachers, agendas set from those in higher up positions, and as a result teachers think of this as time away from the work they need to do. This professional development model is often disconnected from the classroom and the life of the school. Tucker noted that teachers in the United States get better and better in the first 3-4 years of their career, but then it tops out. He described this as a disaster, because research on expertise tells us that in any field it takes about 10 years to become an expert. Therefore, teacher expertise is not being developed. After 3-4 years most teachers have learned how to do their jobs well enough, and there is no incentive to get better. There is no increase in pay, authority, responsibility or status. Teachers are treated as if they do the same job equally well.

In contrast, teachers in Shanghai experience a very different model of professional development. Tucker argued that the Shanghai model–which applies to other high performing countries as well—looks a lot more like that law firm example. There is a career ladder, with a focus on developing the expertise of others. Teachers in the upper range of the career ladder are responsible for mentoring and everyone has a mentor. Teachers are also taught how to do research and they are regarded as researchers. They work together to collaboratively define projects with specific goals. They engage in a highly disciplined approach to improving the school and every aspect of it.

Tucker summarized,

In this model, where is the professional development? It’s woven into work. Teachers are in each other’s classrooms – observing, critiquing. Teachers are doing research-action research published in journals read by other teachers. Teachers are taking workshops of their choosing – to build expertise that will be rewarded in career advancement.

*Stay tuned for an upcoming post focusing on Ben Jensen’s presentation: Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems. Jensen’s presentation expanded on Tucker’s introduction and argues that high-performing countries have in common the belief that school performance = professional learning.

For more information:

High Performing School Systems Do Better Job at Collaborative Professional Development, Report Finds (www.educationworld.com) http://buff.ly/23chwli

Lessons From Abroad on Professional Learning (EdWeek) http://buff.ly/1Kp6gq8

How Turning Teachers Into Researchers Helps Shanghai Schools Thrive (EdWeek) http://buff.ly/1PdWe2x

Deirdre Faughey

Teacher collaboration and professional development around the world

Last month, at the American Educational Research Association Conference held in Chicago, I attended a presentation that offered multiple perspectives on the recent findings in the 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) report. As the OECD explains, the TALIS report asks teachers and principals who they are, where they teach and how they feel about their work.

Linda Darling-Hammond focused on what the TALIS report can teach us about teachers in the United States. She explained that teachers in the U.S. have insufficient time for planning and collaboration during the school day, which means that they are often left to do this work alone at home. U.S. teachers report that they experience less helpful feedback (coming from principals more often than peers), and sporadic professional development. Yet, collaborative practices and self-efficacy were indicated as drivers of job satisfaction.

Andy Hargreaves argued that while collaboration can be important to job satisfaction, we need to develop a much deeper understanding of what effective collaboration looks like. He argued that we need to know more about why collaborative practices are not always embraced by teachers. As self-efficacy was also related to job satisfaction, Hargreaves suggested that we also think about collective efficacy—the belief that we have in what we can do together, not just alone. Further work needs to be done, he explained, to develop our understanding of when collaboration is useful, when it is simplistic, and when it takes the form of “contrived collegiality.”

With this attention to collaboration and professional development, I decided to conduct a scan of education news around the world to see what I could learn about how different countries are addressing the topic. This scan showed that countries are grappling with several issues, such as the quality, time, and funding for professional development.

In British Columbia, the government is proposing to create professional development standards. Education Minister Peter Fassbender views the establishment of such standards as an act that would put the teaching profession on par with other professions, such as the legal, accounting, or nursing professions. While teachers are currently required to attend professional development sessions, new legislation would determine what those session cover; however, Fassbender says there will be no increase in funding to support the new standards. Concerns have been raised about the privitization of professional development, and the lack of teacher input.

In Australia, ACT teachers have spent a year arguing that they need guaranteed time each week for professional development and collaboration. According to Union Secretary Glenn Fowler, “Teachers do not trust their employer to protect them from snow-balling workloads, and we say to the employer if there is no guaranteed and quarantined time made in the new agreement, we will never see it, and that time may continue to get stripped away from teachers.”

Meanwhile, teachers in Ireland oppose a plan for mandatory continuing professional development (CPD). While most Irish teachers place high value on CPD, a majority fear that “if compulsory, it would promote a ‘compliance mentality’ with minimal real engagement.”

New Zealand has established Communities of Schools as part of their Investing in Educational Success initiative. These schools will set their own achievement goals and will be funded to allow teachers the time to “work with and learn from each other, supported by new teaching and leadership roles.” While funding for these new positions is proving controversial, as one principal shared, “You have to change things. You can’t stay in your same structures, if you do you will end up with the same result: busy schools that are too busy to share.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), has noticed how busy teachers in Scotland are as well, and called for a period of “consolidataion and calm.” Flanagan said teachers needed breathing space after the delivery of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and new exams:”The last thing Scottish teachers need to hear at the moment is that the pace of change needs to be stepped up.” He called for additional resources and support for professional development.

Deirdre Faughey

Individual and Collective Professional Development in Finland

We had a fascinating visit recently to the Koulumestari School in Espoo (a small city just outside of Helsinki), a school of almost 350 students from first through 6th grade (ages 5-12). The school is designed specifically to support students with special needs (20% of the students have that designation) and also focuses on the integration of new technology into learning. The visit gave us a better understanding of several aspects of the Finnish education system, particularly around professional development and the sharing of knowledge among teachers.

While there is considerable emphasis on teacher education in many of the reports on the Finnish education system, professional development for teachers often gets less attention. In part, that lack of attention may stem from the fact that, reflecting the autonomy that Finnish teachers have, decisions about what kind of professional development to pursue are generally left up to teachers to decide. Many choose to participate in courses or workshops offered by Universities, the National Board of Education, or perhaps their municipality.   Furthermore, for the most part teachers in Finland develop their own class and work schedules, and when they finish teaching their classes they can go home for the day (more on teacher autonomy and scheduling in a later post). While there may be a mandatory meeting of a whole-school faculty once a month, in many schools, teachers can also decide when and to what extent to meet with their colleagues in grade level teams or for other purposes. In other words, from a US point of view (and the perspective of many other countries), collective and collaborative professional development seems to be relatively limited.

The Koulumestari School, however, offers an example of the effort that some in Finland are pursuing to develop more collective professional development. In another indicator of the respect for the autonomy of teachers and schools, these efforts often focus on a networking strategy: creating opportunities for teachers and schools to come together to share information, resources and expertise. For example, the staff of the school has decided to have what they call a “pedagogical café” four times a year, during their regular monthly staff meetings. At these times, the teachers share with one another what they are doing with their students, particularly pilot experiments using different technologies. Participation in a variety of other meetings, including meetings among grade-level teams as well as theme-based teams (such as one focused on assessment and evaluation) also facilitate networking and collaboration. “Benchmark” days—in which the teachers can choose to visit the classroom of another teacher or grade level—and “headmaster’s hours”—in which school administrators and teaching assistants take over the regular classes of a group of teachers so they can meet together—create more time for common work. One outcome of these opportunities has been the development of “combined classes” in several grades in which two teachers with classes of about 20 students and one teacher with a class of about 10 special education students all work together to share the teaching for all of the roughly 45-50 students. These combined classes grew out of an initial experiment when several teachers at one grade level decided to try combining their classes; as other teachers learned how it was working, it spread to other levels and groups of teachers. (Interestingly, for the purposes of coordination, the school leader needs to know when teachers are planning to be out of the classroom for professional development, but the teachers themselves are responsible for getting substitutes.)

Illustrating a network approach at a municipal level, Koulumestari opened in 2007 after the City of Espoo put out a call for applications for new schools that could serve as “learning centers” with particular themes (something akin to “demonstration” schools). These learning centers were designed to focus on issues like special education and the integration of technology (in the case of Koulumestari) and to share what they were doing and learning with other schools in the area. As is often the case for new US schools in places like New York City, the application process included a formal proposal with a design for their school that was submitted by the current leaders and selected from a number of applicants. In addition to participating in meetings and visits with members of other schools in the network, teachers at Koulumestari have now started to offer professional development classes for other teachers in the municipality as part of the regular roster of professional development courses that Espoo offers every year. The school is also pursuing the same networking approach at the national level, as the school applied for and was awarded funding to serve as national learning center for technology and innovation. Through that network, the Koulumestari school is working with 65 partner schools throughout Finland, sharing practices, participating in joint professional development, and working together to develop a model for innovative schools. They also started piloting a global innovation network this past spring

While these networking efforts illustrate one approach to professional development in Finland, it is also important to point out that these efforts share many features with networking initiatives in other countries but they run against the grain in some ways of the same professional autonomy that is often cited as a key strength of the Finnish system. While teachers can choose to work together and share ideas, they also can choose to work on their own. There is a fundamental tension between autonomy and the kind of interdependence and collaboration that many would argue is needed to enable workers and organizations of any kind, including teachers and schools, to be more effective.

Tom Hatch and Karen Hammerness

 

Japan

5,274 Teachers Took A Leave From Work Due to Mental Health Reasons

Nikkei Shinbun (December 24, 2012)

*Link in Japanese

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) reported that the number of public school teachers who took a leave from their schools due to mental health reasons in year 2011 was 5,274. While this number is down 2.4% since 2010, the number is still twice as many compared to 10 years ago. The main reason for the increasing depression is a decrease in a healthy work-life balance.To improve the working environment for teachers, the ministry proposed two plans. One is to assign experienced teachers to new teachers as mentors. The second is to implement training programs for returning teachers, who took a leave from their work, to facilitate their re-entry.

For more information:

Depression, mental illness among Japan’s public school teachers increasing

Teachers too busy to deal with struggling students