A look at the Teacher Development CoP in 2016

2016 has seen the Teacher Development CoP exploring key concepts and dynamics of teacher development at various stages of a teaching career.  A number of themes stood out, chief among them:

– the importance of holistic support and development;

– individuals taking active responsibility for their own learning;

– collaboration in the learning process; and

– seeing the various stages of the teaching profession as part of a continuum of development.

John Gilmour took the first step by describing the LEAP schools’ pre-service teacher training model and induction programme – and set the tone for ensuing discussions by emphasising the need to produce teachers who have ‘heart’ and who are able to place the child at the centre of their teaching.  To achieve this, induction has to be seen more broadly as a longer term, transformative process that facilitates getting to grips with the routines, rhythms  and rituals of teaching, the classroom and the school, while developing the new teacher as a self-aware,  emotionally intelligent ‘whole person’.

The second session featured a number of approaches:

– Marina Burger focussed on what was needed for effective orientation of novice teachers, including the importance of integrating orientation into the staff development programme, aligning it with the “real” systems and procedures of the school, and ensuring that it helps novice teachers find meaning in their work.

– Dr Hanno Prins, of Lebone Colleges, explored some of the theoretical underpinnings of mentoring, while providing some very practical suggestions for mentoring as an integral part of teacher induction and development. These included the value and importance of collaboration, of building trust and respect, of allowing for trial and error learning, of acknowledging and giving feedback on strengths and weaknesses, and of reflection.

– Dr Zorina Dharsey described the model used by the Joint Mentorship Project to support first time teachers, developed by the Western Cape Primary Science Programme (PSP). The model focusses on building pedagogical content knowledge through classroom observation and support, together with reflection based on individually defined criteria, by external mentors over a period of two years.

The third meeting of the year hosted Duncan Hindle, the acting DG for the Department of Basic Education, who stressed the need for improved teacher education and professional development to strengthen teacher performance and bring about improved learning outcomes, and for teachers to take responsibility for their own development. While unions have a role to play in ensuring that professional development takes place, professional bodies and relevant institutions should be responsible for delivery.

The fourth and final meeting looked at the role of teaching schools in teacher development. Gadija Petker – of the University of Johannesburg’s Department of Childhood Education – described the value that the teaching school, Funda UJabule Primary School in Soweto, is bringing to student learning by bridging the gap between theory and practice.  The teaching school programme, which includes both classroom-based and extra-mural service learning elements, has become both a source of knowledge and a form of knowledge-making for student teachers and has enriched their learning with respect to reflection, collaboration, general pedagogical knowledge and a better understanding of the teacher’s role.

Another aspect of CoP activity during 2016 has been the formation of task teams that are working towards analysing and mapping what is currently happening in schools in terms of induction.

Click here for a slide presentation giving an overview of the CoP’s activities.