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Towards Comprehensive Professional Development of Teachers: The Case of Kenya

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Towards Comprehensive Professional Development of Teachers: The Case of Kenya
  3 International Journal of Process Education (June 2013, Volume 5 Issue 1) Introduction Two contentious questions are sometimes asked: rst, whether teaching is a profession, effectively distinguishable from an expert passing on information such as in the apprenticeship paradigm, and second, whether teachers are born or made (i.e., have inherent teaching talent as a xed factor or have acquired the knowledge and skills necessary to function as teachers, Elger 2007). These questions often stir polarized philosophical debates in teacher education circles, with responses tending to dene one’s understanding of and attitude towards the meaning of quality  with respect to teacher education. On the topic of teaching as a profession, there are as many notions regarding what characterizes a profession as there are societies. According to the National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE 2009), a profession is characterized by “an organized body of knowledge on which the undertaking is based, a period of academic training in tandem with  practical experience in the eld, and a code of ethics that  binds its members into a fraternity” (p.15). Even though there are arguably many other characteristics that can be used to qualify a given occupation as a  profession, our view is that the common denominator is the contribution that occupation makes towards achieving the stated aspirations of a society in which the occupation functions. Therefore, determining whether teaching is a profession requires an understanding of the important role teachers are expected to play in realizing a nation’s developmental aspirations. It can be said that the destiny of a nation is shaped in its classrooms; as the National Council for Teacher Education (2009) explains, “The status of the teacher reects the socio-cultural ethos of the society; it is said that no people can rise above the level of the teachers.” For this reason, it is important that we seek to continually enhance the quality of teachers who, in addition to bearing responsibility for facilitating learner attainment of disciplinary knowledge as expert practitioners in their disciplines (Collins & Apple, 2007), are also responsible for facilitating student success (Beyerlein, Schlesinger, & Apple, 2007), demonstrating belief in student efcacy and increasing student motivation by setting high expectations (Smith, 2007), and, ultimately, helping students learn to improve their own performance as learners and self-growers (Myrvaagnes, 2007). Towards Comprehensive Professional Development of Teachers: The Case of Kenya Agnes W. Gathumbi 1 , Njoroge J. Mungai 2 , Denna L. Hintze 3 Abstract The quality of the teacher is vital in any country as the teacher not only embodies the sociocultural ethos of the country, but, in practices within the classroom, ensures its continuation and potential improvement. It is also said that no people can rise above the level of its teachers. Developing countries like Kenya peg their development agenda mainly on the provision of quality education. One approach to improving education is through in-service training of teachers, both novice and experienced. Ideally, in-service training programs are professional development programs committed to improving educator practices and growing their facilitation skills. It is through in-service training that educational institutions realize multiple goals, ranging from training teachers in the use of the latest technology, to helping them grow their skills in implementing pedagogical best practices, and sometimes even aiding educators as they innovate in pursuit of improved educational outcomes. This level of professional development requires the support not only of educational institutions, but of cultures and governments as well. For this reason, this paper supports the institutionalization of in-service training as a method of implementing a comprehensive policy for promoting ongoing  professional development for educators. This is a position paper drawing largely from literature and the professional development experiences of teachers, which highlights key challenges worthy of attention by policy makers in order to create a comprehensive policy institutionalizing in-service training in Kenya. It is our stand that a comprehensive  policy addressing these challenges would transform in-service training programs from their current ad hoc  and local tendencies which generally focus on generic aspects of teaching into highly professional development programs which  focus on measures such as student learning outcomes. 1 Kenyatta University, Kenya 2 Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa (CEMASTEA), Kenya 3  Educational Consultant, Norway  4 International Journal of Process Education (June 2013, Volume 5 Issue 1)Our position is that while some people may nd themselves in the teaching profession through initial and sometimes very basic teacher education, it is through committed engagement in a program of continuous professional development that makes a teacher not only an expert who strives to increase prociency within a discipline (improving his or her own learning), but a true scholar and self-grower in the discipline of education (Collins & Apple, 2007). As empowering as this vision of teaching  professionals may be for both teachers and learners, too often it remains merely rhetorical when compared with the reality on the ground in most developing countries. It is this distance between the vision and reality that threatens the achievement of the goals of Education for All (EFA, a global movement mandated by UNESCO), especially the sixth goal which calls for improvement in the quality of education in its entirety (UNESCO, 2005). Further, the EFA Global Monitoring Report, focusing on quality as a fundamental imperative, asserts that education for all cannot be achieved without improving quality (UNESCO, 2005). Though this might, at rst blush, sound tautological or self-reinforcing, it is part of the tacit assumption behind several of the basic principles of Process Education. Principle 1 states that “Every learner can learn to learn  better, regardless of current level of achievement; one’s  potential is not limited by current ability.” Principle 5 holds that faculty must fully accept the responsibility for facilitating student success (Beyerlein, Schlesinger, & Apple, 2007). Only when educators are willing to accept that responsibility and are consequently trained not only to embrace the notion of education as a benet to all but to facilitate learning on that basis, does education truly  become “for all.” As Schwab (1973) and Novak, Mintzes, and Wandersee (2000) explain, quality improvement in education entails providing appropriate support to all elements involved in any educative experience: the learner, the teacher, the subject matter, resources, the social milieu, and assessment. Though continuous teacher professional development (TPD) plays a key role in supporting each of these elements, its focus is most appropriately on the teacher  . It should be obvious, given the discussion about education for all and its relationship to quality, that it is only when TPD programs are grounded in comprehensive  policies (a high-level commitment of education for all educators), that they can effectively and reliably elevate educator performance, giving us the desired teacher. The Desired Classroom Teacher The desired   teacher is one who facilitates meaningful learning. Novak, Mintzes, and Wandersee (2000) dene meaningful learning   as that which occurs when learners seek to relate new concepts and propositions to relevant existing concepts and propositions in their cognitive struc - tures. They further argue that the desired   teacher encour  - ages learners to “construct progressively more powerful explanations; wrestle with and resolve inconsistencies and unnecessary complexities in their thinking; and evaluate and challenge the knowledge and value claims of others” (p.372). In terms familiar to process educators, this means that a desired teacher is an educator committed to using the practices of effective teaching within the classroom, as explained by Burke (2007). These practices are out - come-, process-, and student-centered, and indeed, built on research that indicates that people learn best when they construct their own understanding based on their own pre - vious knowledge, experiences, skills, attitudes, and beliefs (Hanson & Moog, 2007). Such a teacher helps learners improve their learning skills, including those in the affec - tive domain, such that students achieve a positive attitude toward learning, a sense of self-efcacy, the ability to manage frustration, and willingness to take risks in learn - ing (Duncan-Hewitt, Leise, & Hall, 2007). These desired teachers are also masters of scaffolding learning [e.g., “effective teaching is appropriate for the level of student knowledge and learning skills” (Burke, 2007) and “the most efcient and least frustrating learning occurs with a step-by-step process…be prepared to move back a level if the knowledge structure is not strong enough to add the next ‘oor’” (Nygren, 2007)]. Perhaps most importantly, however, these teachers strive to continuously improve student learning outcomes (the level of learner knowl - edge (Bobrowski, 2007)) such that learners move from the level of mere information and memorization through con - ceptual understanding, to application, working expertise (problem-solving), and then possibly to the highest level, that of the researcher who has “innovative expertise which can be used to develop new understanding and problem solutions” (see Table 1). Equally critical for a society is that these desired classroom teachers are also committed to helping their students elevate their performance as self-growers from the lowest level, that of the static individual who minimizes effort and avoids learning, through the level of content individuals, responsive individuals, self-starters, and ultimately star  performers, who have the most to offer for themselves, others, and the society in which they live, as they are the leaders, innovators, and problem-solvers (see Table 2). Table 3, on Becoming a Self-Grower, adapted from Leise (2007), offers a fairly comprehensive prole of a self-grower. It is therefore critical that countries adequately  prepare desired   teachers and support them regularly through continuous TPD.  5 International Journal of Process Education (June 2013, Volume 5 Issue 1) Table 1 Levels of Learner Knowledge (adapted from Learning to Learn: Becoming a Self-Grower, by Pacic Crest, 2013) Level I: Information You can talk about a concept, process, tool, or context in words and can provide denitions or descriptions. You are best with questions about facts.  A learner at this level can answer these questions:   “Where is…?” “Can you list the three…?” Level II: Conceptual Understanding You can construct an appropriate model in your mind pertaining to a particular item of knowledge. You also can link items of knowledge to each other.  A learner at this level can answer these questions:   “How would you compare or contrast…?” “What is the main idea of…?” Level III: Application You can apply and transfer a particular item of knowledge to different situations and contexts. You can generalize the knowledge to determine ways to apply it, testing boundaries and linkages to other information. You are able to teach this knowledge to others.  A learner at this level can answer these questions:   “What would result if…?” “How would you apply what you learned to develop…?” Level IV: Working Expertise You can solve complex problems by applying and generalizing multiple concepts, processes, and tools to produce a quality problem solution. You are seen as an expert in your eld.  A learner at this level can answer these questions:   “Can you propose an alternative...?” “Can you construct a model that would change…?”  Level V: Research You have innovative expertise which can be used to develop new understanding. You often make new linkages among concepts and problem solutions which have not been seen before.  A learner at this level can answer these questions:   “Can you formulate a theory for…?” “Can you think of an srcinal way to…?” Table 2 Performance Levels for Self-Growers (adapted from Myrvaagnes, 2007) Level 5: Star Performers Understand the reasons for deciencies in the current paradigm, and readily construct more appropriate paradigms. Create movements and organizations that often become self-perpetuating. Control their emotions in challenging situations while managing the affect of others. Level 4: Self-Starters Respond to the needs of research communities, adding incrementally to knowledge in their discipline. Initiate and manage social structures to accomplish more out of every hour of their time. Feel frustrated when they are not being challenged to perform at higher levels. Level 3: Responsive Individuals Use their problem-solving, learning, and thinking skills to improve their performance and get higher-quality results. Are positive people whom others enjoy and want to have on their teams. React to challenges with improved performance rather than complaints, feeling good about their accomplishments. Level 2: Content Individuals  Are satised with their modest levels of effort in learning, thinking, and problem-solving. Interact freely with family and friends, but do not seek more diverse contacts and more challenging relationships. Feel like cogs in the machinery, doing little more than what is asked, feeling their contributions are not very signicant. Level 1: Static Individuals Try to minimize or avoid the effort needed to think, learn, or solve problems. Limit their social interactions to like-minded individuals who complain about what they are not getting out of life. Feel that whatever they do will have little impact; that most things are not worth the effort.  6 International Journal of Process Education (June 2013, Volume 5 Issue 1)Given these aspirations for the desired teacher, it is evident that while teachers bear the noble burden of facilitating meaningful learning, it is incumbent upon those at a higher administrative level (i.e., governments) to institute comprehensive policies which ensure that teacher education initiatives actually create desired teachers. However, the reality as pointed out by Novak, Mintzes, and Wandersee (2000) is that:…many pre-service courses in colleges and universities are…a deluge of information or problem-solving algorithms to be memorized and reproduced…the  pedagogy in these courses often do little to foster development of the kind of knowledge frameworks that are needed for effective science [and mathematics] teaching (p.7). As explained by Collins and Apple (2007), even in cases where there is commitment to professional development and use of best practices, “Most centers of excellence in learning and teaching are missing strong direction and needs analysis of faculty because faculties have a hard time determining the gap between expected performance and current performance.” From our experience in Kenya, school teaching is not accorded social status as high as other professions like law and medicine. Teaching is not a  popular rst choice course among most prospective tertiary (higher) education students . As a result, one is likely to nd a signicant number of unwilling and restless teachers in Kenya’s classrooms, always on the lookout for “greener     pastures.”   Compounding this problem, as a desperate measure meant to counter the serious shortage of teachers, especially in developing countries, is the lowering of entry grades required for admittance to initial teacher education  programs. For example, the entry grade to teacher training colleges for prospective primary school teachers is a ‘C’ grade. For those joining universities, the entry grade for a  pre-service teacher is a ‘C+’ as opposed to, for example, the ‘A’ grade for prospective doctors and engineers. This situation has led to large-scale recruitment of unmotivated teachers (ironically, closer to the description of static individuals than even responsive individuals; see Table 2), rather than accomplished professional teachers, let alone desired teachers. The high percentage of poorly trained and uncommitted teachers in classrooms undermines the  provision of quality education, and makes achievement of Education for All (EFA) goals by 2015 little more than wishful thinking, especially in developing countries. As the  National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) rightly observes, this attitude of resignation towards pre-service education, coupled with ad hoc  in-service education, has degraded the teaching profession and the status of school teaching (2009). Once recruited into teaching, most teachers tend to teach the way they were taught. Considering that teachers are constantly under pressure for their learners to perform exemplarily on high-stake national examinations, their focus is no longer the teaching process but the product of teaching. As such, teachers tend to individually decide how to prepare their students to meet examination goals, adopting teaching strategies that suit themselves, rather than the students in their classes. Such strategies include rote learning and memorization of facts, and no matter how many facts are included, never take learners and learning beyond Level 1 (Information) in the Level of Learner Knowledge (2013). The appropriate intervention here is to provide teachers with professional development opportunities in order to Table 3 Prole of a Self-Grower  A self-grower... 1. Thinks critically in different contexts so as to be efcient while producing quality results from the processes utilized.2. Uses information in an efcient manner to limit “overload” by maximizing consistency of choices with values.3. Seeks to improve his or her own performance with every experience.4. Puts himself or herself into challenging environments that require increased levels of performance.5. Self-assesses and self-mentors to facilitate his or her own growth.6. Takes positive action in responding to external challenges that are personally critical or important to society.7. Has a strong desire to grow and develop in all aspects of his or her life.8. Creates his or her own challenges in order to take control of his or her own destiny.9. Has a high degree of self-condence and emotional maturity reected in his or her ability to set realistic priorities and to take meaningful risks.10. Serves as a mentor to others and is a model of service.  7 International Journal of Process Education (June 2013, Volume 5 Issue 1)enhance their understanding of appropriate knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are needed in bringing about meaningful learning. One way of ensuring this is conducting in-service teacher education programs which are expected to nurture, support, and expand this understanding. At the  backdrop of such an expectation, Levine (2006) laments the conicting and competing beliefs globally on “issues as basic as when and where teachers should be educated, who should educate them, and what education is most effective in preparing teachers” (p.12). This observation, combined with tradition (that teachers tend to teach as they, themselves, were taught) and the ad hoc  approach it tends condone in teachers striving to meet the most common teaching challenges (i.e., preparing one’s students to perform satisfactorily on national exams), most likely this explains the unsatisfactory status of in-service teacher education in most developing countries, which are struggling to attain EFA goals (UNESCO, 2007; infoDev, 2010). The response we advocate, that of a comprehensive education policy aimed at helping teachers improve their own performance in order to improve the performance of their students, would address each of these problems and concerns, not only speaking to the issues raised by Levine,  but also removing teacher improvement and practices from the realm of mere tradition and individual judgment, both of which tend to perpetuate low-performance educational strategies (such as memorization). Towards Quality Teacher Education in Kenya As a developing country, Kenya, through its Vision 2030 development agenda, is focused on becoming a middle level economy by the year 2030. Realization of Vision 2030 is underpinned by three pillars: social, political, and economic (Government of the Republic of Kenya, 2007). Under the social pillar, education is expected to play a key role, which would ensure that Kenya has an educated  populace to be in a position to compete in a global market and sustain a democratic society. Her young citizens need to not only have access to education, but also meaningful and high-quality education. This will largely depend on the quality of classroom teachers, which implies that the future of Kenya is in the hands of its teachers. That being the case, it is incumbent upon the government to ensure that quality education is offered to all teachers. In an attempt to enhance the quality of both primary and secondary school teachers, the Ministry of Education (MoE) has made progress towards the institutionalization of Teacher Professional Development (TPD) programs. Towards this end, the Kenya Institute of Education (KIE) which is the national curriculum development center, and the Center for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education in Africa (CEMASTEA), have been conduct - ing in-service training (INSET) for secondary and primary school teachers. The main emphases in the INSET activi - ties include sensitizing teachers on the need to adopt a learner-centered approach to teaching, and nurturing their  prociency in designing learner-centered lessons. This is done through an approach by CEMASTEA called: AC - TIVITY, STUDENT, EXPERIMENT, IMPROVISATION -PLAN, DO, SEE, IMPROVE. This is popularly referred to as the ASEI-PDSI approach (CEMASTEA, 2009). A learner-centered lesson, which the ASEI-PDSI approach aspires to achieve, is based on constructivist theory where the aim is to actively engage the learner in the learning  process (Vygotsky, 1997). The Transformation of Edu - cation: 14 Aspects (Hintze-Yates, Beyerlein, Apple, & Holmes, 2011), which is wholly based on the precepts of Process Education, notes that “control” or the locus of the power/authority for a learning situation or experience has traditionally been faculty-centered but should move toward being learning-centered (a mid-point on the con - tinuum between traditional and transformed practice) and eventually learner-centered. In a typical ASEI-PDSI lesson, the teacher is expected to  plan for activities/experiments that will create opportuni - ties for students to learn intended concepts, acquire needed skills, and in the process enjoy learning the subject. Re - ection on what is being learned is encouraged to improve the lesson and learning of similar concepts in future les - sons. While formal assessment is a model for consistent  performance improvement (Baehr, 2007), as expressed by Hare, “When one practices reection with a mindset to - ward assessment, one focuses on helping performers im -  prove the quality of their future performances rather than simply analyzing and evaluating past events,” (2007). Un - fortunately, the INSET, like many other similar TPD pro - grams across the world, encounters many challenges that inhibit the achievement of intended goals. Based on our experiences, several challenges have been found to affect the success of institutionalized INSET in Kenya. These are discussed in the following sections and solutions are sug - gested for consideration by policy makers. Shallow Coverage of INSET Content Shallow coverage of INSET content is a major challenge facing in-service education programs, particularly those that use the cascade model. This model means that “training messages ow down from experts and specialists through several layers of personnel and eventually to the teachers,” (Dove, 1986). It is estimated that Kenya has about 240,000 teachers and a shortage of more than 64,000. Due to such a large shortage, and the government’s pressure for teachers to improve the quality of education, a cascade model is used to conduct INSET. For secondary school
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