Rohan Parikh has attained a BSc in Economics from Wharton Business School, an MBA from INSEAD, and has more than 10 years of experience in the Real Estate and Hospitality industries. In 2013 Mr. Parikh entered the field of education by founding The Green Acres Academy in Chembur, and simultaneously pursuing a Master’s degree in Education through Johns Hopkins University. His aim is to provide affordable yet holistic, and well-rounded education by adapting the latest research in teaching and learning techniques within the Indian context. What started as one campus of The Green Acres Academy in Chembur, Mumbai, has grown to a total of 3 campuses across Mumbai and Pune, as well as the latest Seven Rivers International School (an IGCSE affiliate school).
Years of research has shown us that teachers are one of the most significant influences on student learning. This means that teachers’ abilities must be of utmost importance to educators, parents and policymakers!
Educational institutions must make an active effort to train teachers, build their capacity and upskill them constantly and consistently.
More so because teacher professional development in India historically has been known to be poor. Teachers often find that they receive too little professional development or irrelevant professional development. Additionally, the workshop format, most commonly used in India, is ineffective when run by itself once a year.
So what kind of professional development should educational institutions invest in to empower teachers to be highly effective in their classrooms?
Powerful professional development is
- Focused on content that teachers will take to their classrooms,
- Continuous and takes place for an extended period of time, so teachers have enough time to learn, practice and refine their learnings,
- Inspired by effective practice, so teachers are being exposed to and replicating practices of a high quality that are evidence-based and known to work,
- Actively engaging because, much like students, teachers also benefit from chances to practice, implement and interact with what they are learning,
- Full of opportunities for feedback and reflection, which means teachers receive input on how they are doing, how they can improve, and themselves think deeply about their learnings and how to use them.
What are some ways in which educational institutions can create professional development programs that work?
Schools, colleges and other such institutions can run a combination of workshops, professional learning communities and provide coaching to their teachers.
Workshops are a great way to build teacher content knowledge and expose them to new pedagogical approaches. The most potent workshops explain content and model, how to use the new learning, and provide learners with opportunities to practice their learnings. They also continuously evaluate how learners are doing and provide specific and timely feedback geared towards improvement.
Workshops must be supplemented with other formats of capacity building that are continuous. One great example of this is a professional learning community. These communities are spaces where teachers belonging to the same grade level or discipline come together frequently (weekly, bi-weekly or monthly) to discuss their problems of practice. This may include teaching a challenging topic, engaging students better, student performance data, how to use new technology in the classroom, or a new idea or approach someone has tried. Via such discussions, professional learning communities allow teachers to collaborate, inspire each other, explore effective practices, receive feedback and reflect on their personal practice.
Lastly, educational institutions can also provide their teachers with coaching. Coaching is where an expert teacher supports, guides and provides feedback to teachers with less expertise. This means the coach will observe the coachee, discuss their performance, areas of strength and improvement and then provide specific feedback and guidance to help the coachee make progress. They will also support the coachee as they implement their new learnings until they no longer require such support.
Most educational institutions are likely to have the resources to set up this combination of professional development as they are not very resource-intensive and can be done using existing expertise and infrastructure. Although not very resource-intensive, these approaches have the potential to transform teaching at institutions over time. And this is certainly worth the effort because we are aware of how greatly teachers impact student learning.