Teacher collaboration and professional development around the world

globes-022Originally posted on International Education News.

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

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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