By: Prof. Francis Owusu-Mensah, Founding Principal, College for Distance and e-Learning, University of Education, Winneba & Riche-Mike Wellington, Chief Programme Specialist, Ghana Commission for UNESCO
Teachers have a more significant influence on student learning and achievements than any other school factor. As the demand for teachers is growing, evidenced by UNESCO’s projection of about 17 million teacher gap in Sub-Sahara Africa by 2030, there is a pressing need for more teachers to approach their practices in new ways to address the skills gaps. For this reason, teachers should be offered opportunities and support for continuous learning through Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities. Teacher CPD refers to “those processes and activities designed to enhance the professional knowledge, skills, and attitudes of educators so that they might, in turn, improve the learning of students” (Guskey, 2000, p. 16). By implication, teachers’ participation in CPD must be seen in the changing practices of the teacher to support student learning and achievements. For instance, when teacher CPD is effective, it can improve teachers’ continuous learning and adaptation, allowing teachers to develop complex pedagogical repertoire that can be used in variety of practices for different purposes (De Vries et al., 2013). This makes teacher CPD one of the most important elements that support educational improvement efforts and quality education.
It must however be noted that, to participate in teacher CPD programmes and activities without the needed quality and efficacy imperatives may not guarantee teacher development and quality education. In fact, it is argued that many teacher CPD activities are fragmented and disconnected from teachers’ actual practice, resulting in their ineffectiveness in the classroom. Additionally, there are concerns about teacher CPD Providers’ design and structure of interventions as a supply for pre-packaged knowledge to be distributed to teachers. Again, Service Providers’ conception of teacher development as an isolated venture in an off-site training workshop, rather than an ongoing collaborative on-site experience of practice-oriented development and learning, affect the effectiveness and quality of teacher CPD programmes offered to teachers (Calleja, 2018). To increase teacher CPD programme’s effectiveness, there is an equal need to focus attention on the learning and development of teacher CPD Service Providers themselves. These Service Providers must be supported by education service agencies of governments to build capacity to deliver effective programmes to support teacher learning and professional development.
This article argues for the need to build the capacity of teacher CPD Service Providers in Ghana by establishing an effective operational structure and standards for the design and implementation of CPD for teachers. The article also serves to contribute to discussions about the need to improve teacher quality through CPD programmes, especially at this time that Ghana yearns to become a ‘learning nation’.
Policies that regulate teachers’ actual participation in CPD programmes vary by jurisdiction. Nevertheless, generally, participation is linked to either license renewal and career advancement or income benefits, and it may be mandated or optional. For instance, CPD participation is obligatory in Australia, Germany, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, and United Kingdom, while it is optional in Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain, but it is related to career advancement and financial benefits for teachers.
In Ghana, the Pre-Tertiary Teacher Professional Development and Management (PTPDM) policy (2012) required teachers to participate in CPD activities. Recently, the National Teaching Council (NTC) Framework for Continuous Professional Development (2020) links CPD to a point-based system and mandates pre-tertiary teachers in Ghana to participate in CPD activities. What this new policy has done differently and importantly, is to awaken teachers’ consciousness and zeal to participate in CPD programmes. In addition, the policy has resulted in increase in the number of teacher CPD Service Providers thereby giving many offerings to teachers in their CPD endeavours. What is more questionable is the extent to which teachers’ participation in CPD is changing their classroom teaching practices. Indeed, there are legitimate concerns about the quality and suitability of programmes offered to teachers, as well as the motivating factors driving both teachers and CPD Service Providers alike, that is, whether to develop capacity and competencies or to earn CPD points; or whether CPD Service Providers are equipped with the needed competencies and resources to deliver effective CPD programmes. What is again problematic is whether CPD Service Providers are able to deploy evaluation mechanisms to track teacher learning and classroom performance after participation in CPD programmes.
Some countries have institutionalized measures that regulate CPD Service Providers to ensure their content are fit for purpose in delivering quality training that influences teachers’ practices. In Australia for example, CPD Service Providers are accredited, certified, and reaccredited regularly to deliver training that enables teachers to achieve their professional goals. It is also the function of the Australian State and Territory Teacher Registration Boards to register/certify teachers, accredit initial teacher education programs and approve professional development programs. Presently, the NTC in Ghana has accredited over 100 teacher CPD Service Providers running mandatory CPD programs for teachers. It will be interesting to know how these Service Providers are evaluated and assessed in delivering quality programs for teachers’ development. How do we get teacher CPD Service Providers to deliver effective and meaningful programs that reflect teachers’ actual practice? How do these Service Providers assess the needs of participating teachers as a basis for CPD program content? How do Service Providers evaluate teachers’ learning and classroom performance after engagement in CPD activities? These are relevant questions needing answers if teacher CPD is to positively impact teaching and learning in Ghana.
Embracing the training of trainer model in Teacher CPD Service Providers
Like the cascade model of training, the train-the-trainer approach has been widely employed to develop master trainers who can then train the less experienced ones. For CPD providers, the success or failure of a programme is determined by the quality of the experts in delivering them (Calleja, 2018). As a result, while we consider teachers’ uptake of CPD to improve their practices, CPD Providers must also be resourced to deliver CPD in ways that have a direct influence on teachers’ practice. The NTC (the teacher regulating authority in Ghana) and the Ghana Education Service (the teacher employer) must assume the responsibility for organising refresher programmes for CPD Service Providers on a regular basis in order for them to be equipped with current trends and practices to serve teachers in both public and private schools in Ghana.
Developing the competence of teacher CPD Providers is critical to establishing a self-sustaining professional development ecosystem of trainers and Providers. In doing this, Providers will be able to build the capacity of their members as well as members of other cohorts to ensure program efficacy and sustainability. For example, embracing the training-the-trainer model can foster a culture of continuous learning and growth among CPD providers, allowing them to stay current on new research areas in their practice, instructional approaches, and technological tools critical to providing relevant and impactful training that meets the classroom needs of the 21st-century teacher.
What do we look for in a standard Teacher CPD Programme?
Three key areas may be considered in the Ghanaian context:
· Knowledge about effective CPD practices
Teacher CPD must be offered in a way that has a direct impact on teacher practice to be regarded as high-quality. Effective CPD, according to researchers, is “structured professional learning that results in changes to teacher knowledge and practices, as well as improvements in student learning outcomes” (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017, p. 2). To administer effective CPD programmes, Providers must first understand the features of good programmes. Researchers argue that effective teacher CPD must have the following characteristics: Content focused; sustained duration; active and collaborative learning; offer opportunities to integrate new knowledge in classroom situations; as well as meet the continuing needs of teachers as learners in a changing society. In fact, it has been argued that teachers demonstrate a greater change in their knowledge and skills when CPD activities are built on the teacher’s prior knowledge of the subject and aligned with the pedagogical needs of students. This also support teachers to develop intensive and sustained professional learning communities which encourage peer learning.
· Adult learning principle
Teachers are adult learners and therefore the conditions of adult learning must be deployed for their effective engagement and learning. CPD Service Providers must be trained in adult learning principles that emphasises self-directedness; bite-size and practical approaches; active learning; competency-based; peer learning and social engagement; immediate applicability as well as reflective practices. These methods could assist CPD Service Providers to be more effective and responsive in their practice and more importantly to the needs of the teachers they serve. Such an understanding can improve CPD program delivery where Service Providers deliver content that addresses teachers’ classroom needs. CPD programme delivery can also be improved as teachers are involved in identifying their own challenges and learning needs. Teachers must also take part in programme planning, design, and implementation leading to autonomy and self-directedness in teacher capacity building.
Moreover, with emerging technologies in education, teachers will be better served when CPD Service Providers adopt EdTech solutions to address, more importantly, issues relating to access, equity, and inclusivity challenges in teacher professional development.
· Evaluation as a necessary tool for Teacher CPD Service Providers
Evaluation is a necessary tool for tracking teacher learning and determining the effectiveness of CPD programmes. CPD Service Providers must acknowledge that assessment methodologies should be able to measure teachers’ learning and progress. Teacher CPD programme evaluation, whether formative or summative, is important for Service Providers to monitor the success of their programmes and make necessary changes to improve future offerings. For example, Service Providers can analyse the impact of training on teachers by collecting data on their knowledge, abilities, and attitudes before, during and after training. This information could help identify areas where additional assistance may be required, enabling focused activities to address specific challenges. Evaluation also allows teachers to acknowledge and celebrate their accomplishments and growth in their professional development journey. Teacher CPD Service Providers can contribute to knowledge, based on effective professional development methods by collecting and evaluating data in a systematic manner. They can uncover trends, best practices, and research gaps, advancing the field and encouraging evidence-based approaches to teacher development.
Undoubtedly, teacher CPD Service Providers are important levers that promote quality education and lifelong learning opportunities. Their work enhances the teacher’s skills and competencies in the classroom resulting in positive learner outcomes in schools. For this reason, the knowledge, expertise, and experience of teacher CPD Service Providers require constant evaluation and assessment with a view to retool and upskill in line with best practices. It is important for teaching regulatory authorities and education service agencies of governments, particularly in Africa, to institute robust mechanisms that enjoin teacher CPD Service Providers to be constantly evaluated against a set of deliverables, especially at a time when the impact of Covid-19 pandemic has brought about learning losses in our schools. The teacher, as the instrument of change, should be given the right information, training, and resources to build back better, the lost times for the needed transformation in education. Indeed, the expectation of the Africa Union for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena will be a mirage if teachers learning resources fail to address the education needs of ‘the Africa We Want’.
Calleja, J. (2018). Teacher participation in continuing professional development: Motivating factors and programme effectiveness. Malta Review of Educational Research, 12(1), 5-29.
Darling-Hammond, L., & Bransford, J. (2007). Preparing teachers for a changing world: What teachers should learn and be able to do: John Wiley & Sons.
De Vries, S., Jansen, E. P., & van de Grift, W. J. (2013). Profiling teachers’ continuing professional development and the relation with their beliefs about learning and teaching. Teaching and teacher education, 33, 78-89.
Guskey, T. R. (2000). Evaluating professional development. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin press.