During my work on the assignment on Teacher Professional Standards and Reflective Practice, I have learned how important teacher professional standards and reflective practices for teaching are. I have learned what should be done to effectively use these issues. Now it is time to realize how I can apply this knowledge in my own career.
I work as a teacher educator of the Faculty of Education of Maldives College of Higher Education in the Maldives. I teach academic Mathematics for secondary student teachers and pedagogy of teaching secondary Mathematics. The assignment was written to the teacher professional standards of Mathematics and Science developed in South Australia. Both Science and Mathematics standards appear to have common domains, however, in this assignment I will focus on Mathematics standards only. In the current paper, I will also discuss the purpose of standards, their importance, and benefits for teachers and the education system as a whole.
Moreover, I will consider the programs that can be used while implementing the components of the standards, as well as the target groups. My teaching experience shows that introducing new ideas into the education system is impossible without difficulties and challenges to face with. Therefore, I will speak of the most predictable difficulties that I may face at the implementing stage and will offer several ways to overcome the problems that might appear.
Teacher Professional Standards
The importance of teacher professional standards is revealed through the functions they perform. First, standards serve as a framework to ensure that teachers know what has been expected from their profession. Second, standards are a way to maintain the quality of teaching which is directly related to students learning. Furthermore, professional standards are used to evaluate teachers and to provide assistance in the required areas.
Professional standards for teachers are generic in nature; they define knowledge, skills, and abilities that all teachers in the system of education of the country should possess. The major aim of establishing teacher professional standards is to celebrate, articulate, and support the complex and varied nature of teacher’s work (Ingvarson & Kleinhenz, 2007). Achieving this goal will help to sustain high-quality education in all the schools within the country.
The education system of Maldives does not have any teacher professional standards. The lack of common standards for teaching and learning is one of the greatest obstacles to establishing good quality teaching in schools. Since I am not working in the Ministry of Education, it may not be an easy task to convince senior staff of the Ministry in developing the standards of the kind. Still, I can do a lot in promoting and establishing elements of the standards among teachers that will definitely enhance the quality of education.
My point is that the teacher education program curricula consist of too much abstract theory and too little real practical help. The discussion sessions are focused on the understanding of the concepts in order to increase the content knowledge.
Revising the Curriculum
This is done by incorporating elements of the standards developed by AAMT into the current curriculum of “Teaching and Learning of Mathematics I and II”. Basically, the present curriculum emphasis is given on the subject content and the assessment. I believe the assessment segment is important for teachers, however, instead of spending time on preparing teaching aids, some of the components could be included. So I believe my first concern will be revising the current curriculum and organizing workshops for department staff. Unless staff is not exposed to the importance of it, it would not be easy to implement it.
Some of the important elements that I will include in the curriculum are:
- Social and cultural backgrounds: getting precise information about the students’ social and cultural backgrounds is extremely important for teachers when planning their lessons. This information would enable teachers to understand the level of Mathematics students have learned and the strategies that they had been exposed to. For example, if students are used to teacher-centered learning then they would feel very uncomfortable talking or participate in the class. Therefore, teachers should plan the lessons in such a way so that the transformation of the teaching approach is done as smoothly as possible without making the students feel uncomfortable. By doing this the students will develop confidence and pleasure in learning the subject. Thus, studying social and cultural backgrounds is important for the development of positive attitudes among students (AAMT, 2006). In fact “Lack of confidence is a major inhibitor to a student’s learning of mathematics” (AAMT, 2006). Therefore, I feel that it is crucial for teachers to know the
“… strategies to maintain positive attitudes and confidence, and to build confidence in those students who lack it — monitoring and knowing about their students’ confidence with, and attitudes to, mathematics in an ongoing way enables them to do this most effectively” (AAMT, 2006)
- The second important element that I would include in the curriculum is the “knowledge … of students learning of Mathematics”. In this component, emphasis is given to the current learning theories and how they can be used to teach Mathematics. This enables the development of Mathematical ideas and self-confidence in using and applying them appropriately. Often, Mathematics is treated as an isolated subject and this was clearly seen from the discussions we had in the lectures. Some students often find it difficult to relate the Mathematics concepts to different spheres of life. However, like other subjects, Mathematics can be related to events and activities in everyday life. The clearer the students see how current theories and concepts of Mathematics can be related to real life, the better they understand the purpose and the meaning of the subject they learn.
- Integrating Information Communication and Technology into the curriculum is crucial for the current education system development. Ministry of Education of Maldives is working towards “Mainstream[ing] ICT into … curriculum [and use it] as a tool for learning” (2007, p. 97). The stress on the usage of ICT in teaching and developing ICT skills is one of the very important elements missing in the present curriculum. Faculty of Education has good quality computer labs and classrooms with projector and computers. But educators are not using these facilities, whereas the use of professional educational software designed to teach certain topics will enhance significantly students’ understanding of the problems studied. Convincing the head of the department in getting the software to the faculty is one of the tasks I have to do.
Develop Rubric to Evaluate Student Teachers
On the AAMT website, they have developed a rubric to use to evaluate teachers. In fact, this kind of rubric can be used to evaluate student teachers in their practicum. At present, the performance of student teachers is observed according to the criteria given.
However, often educators do not use the criteria for evaluation. Student teachers are simply given written feedback based on the teaching of the student. This feedback is very subjective and students do complain that the feedback does not present an adequate reflection on the lessons they performed. Thus, I feel it is important to have specific rubrics for different subjects when evaluating teachers. Furthermore, this would clearly define what should be included in their teaching. In addition, this enables student teachers to practice significant elements.
Professional Development Programs and Workshops
To succeed in promoting and establishing the above-mentioned ideas seminars and workshops must be conducted to the management staff of schools and the established teachers.
“Professional development is an integral part of current efforts to transform and revitalize education. The promise of high-quality education for all children is dependent not only on a total restructuring of schools but also on the knowledge and commitment of practitioners to restructuring” (Dilworth, 1995).
Management Team of schools
One-day workshops or seminars can be designed for the senior management team of the school. The main purpose is to give them information about the current education system and available facilities. Without getting support from the management team it would not be easy for teachers to implement new ideas in their teaching.
Management teams of the schools will further organize workshops or information sessions of the same kind with their staff. As stated in the global development report, teachers do not get support or professional development programs. Most likely this happens because management teams of the school are incapable of identifying the needs for the current education system. The workshops and the information sessions mentioned above will encourage management teams to analyze the current situation in education and to solve the existing problems.
I would like to stress the fact that in case the senior staff of the school is not convinced of the importance of the proposed elements, it will be rather difficult for junior staff to implement them. The Maldivian schools serve as an illustration of this fact. The senior staff of the Maldivian schools is not exposed to any professional development programs, which hampers the development of the education system there. It is also observed that most of the heads of departments of the schools are expatriates who have done their teaching qualification quite a long time ago. The programs under consideration are thus aimed at minimizing the gap between the recent developments in education and the current stage at which the Maldivian schools are.
I do realize that conducting seminars and workshops for senior management staff will be rather challenging. Eileen Borgia’s research (1996) proves that it is sometimes difficult to convince teachers that change is necessary or practicable (Borgia, 1996). DeSimone & Parmar (2006) also admit that
“[t]here is a relationship between teachers’ beliefs and knowledge and pedagogy is affected by teacher beliefs. Beliefs are developed early in an individual’s teaching career and are not very easy to change” (p.339).
Fortunately, difficult does not mean impossible. It means that it may take some time for management staff and for teachers to believe that the changes are appropriate and useful for teachers’ development and students’ learning. To convince them of the necessity of these changes, research findings and examples should be used during the workshops and information sessions along with the activities for teachers to experience the changes for themselves.
Difficulties that Might Appear
May not get leave from school to attend
As was mentioned above the highest effectiveness of the workshops and information sessions will be achieved when management teams, senior and junior teachers are involved in the process of discussion of the most burning issues. Getting all the staff involved in workshops and seminars presents certain difficulties due to the differences in the teachers’ workload. The discussions of the important changes to make should be organized at a time that in no way impedes an effective education process.
Facilities may not be available in the school
The bulk of the essential physical infrastructure in Maldivian schools is now in place for a 7-year cycle and the shortfalls have to be taken care of (Policy Directions for the Future). The use of facilities during Mathematics classes becomes of much importance as facilities do not only help teachers to offer a visual presentation of the material studied but to model various Mathematics problems. The absence of the facilities thus hampers implementing new ideas both into the whole education system in terms of which the school works and into Maths class, in particular.
Have to give information on using technology
It often happens that due to the fact that teachers were educated at times where there was neither special need nor opportunity to use technology they do not feel it appropriate to implement technology even at the current stage.
This unwillingness often comes from simple unawareness of both the benefits of technology and of the ways it can be used. As a result, computers available at schools sit idly glowing and investments appear to be a waste of funds, whereas new tools could help students significantly to master the key concepts and skills embedded in Math science. Workshops and seminars are expected to inform those teachers who are reluctant to implement technology about its importance and to demonstrate how the effectiveness of the teaching process increases with the appropriate use of technology.
Suggested Solutions to Overcome the Difficulties
Workshops and seminars could be arranged during the school holidays
To get as many participants in workshops and seminars as possible those who are responsible for the organization should consider the time when they will take place. School holidays seem to be the most appropriate time for this as the teaching staff has more time at their disposal to think over the challenges they face at work and to present reports as far as these challenges are concerned. As effective workshops and seminars last for more than one or two days, as a rule, school holidays are beneficial for the participants as they will have more time to reflect upon the ideas discussed and to present their own views on them.
Can conduct workshops where these facilities are available
The workshops and seminars should be conducted at schools where the facilities are available to offer their practical significance. Teachers from other schools, especially, those where there are no such facilities should be invited to experience the benefits of teaching where the demonstration is an integral component of the Mathematics class. Realizing the benefits of work with facilities management staff is more likely to find ways to supply the schools with them. Involvement of sponsors in the workshops and seminars, if possible, seems to be a very important factor for finding funds for providing schools with the needed facilities.
Teachers who do not know how to use, have to start from the basics and also can suggest school run a crash course for those teachers
Workshops and seminars should foster in teachers the burning desire to know the benefits of technology use and to implement this knowledge into their lessons. Special groups of teachers who are experienced in using technology should be organized to help inexperienced ones. I believe that the management team should be responsible for controlling the way the classes for these teachers are performed. Moreover, special programs for checking the teachers’ progress in this field seem to be of much importance as they will significantly improve the teachers’ responsibility for learning how to use technology in class.
Much effort should be made to see teacher professional standards work for teachers and for students. The standards need to be carefully worked out with respect to the current stage in the Maldivian education system development.
They need both to count on the previous teaching experience and to foresee the future of the country’s education system. The difficulties that might appear while implementing the basic concepts of the standards can be overcome in case the participants understand the purpose and the significance of the changes to make. For this, active work in promoting the basic issues of the standards should be done. In the long run, promoting and establishing elements of the standards among teachers will definitely enhance the quality of education that Maldivian schools offer.
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