Reflective professional development for teachers

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2015

70 Pages



Executive Summary

Chapter 1 Introduction
1.1 Reflective Practices and Continued Professional Development (CPD)
1.2 Research Background or Rationale
1.4 Research Aim and Objectives
1.5 Significance of Study
1.6 Study Design

Chapter 2 Literature Review
2.1 What is Reflection and reflective Practices?
2.2 Teachers as Reflective Practitioners
2.3 Critiques Of Reflection
2.4 Justification Of The Research Topic
2.5 Significance Of Study In Pakistan
2.6 What Are Effective Teaching Portfolios?
2.7 Tools of Reflection- Portfolios
2.7.1 Observation
2.7.2 Interviews
2.8 Portfolios
2.9 Level Of Reflection- Van Manen Model
2.10 Different Models of Reflection- Gibbs Reflective Cycle
2.11 Reflective Practices And Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
2.12 Reflection And Other Factors- (Motivation, Time Management, Perception)
2.13 Reflection and Charliotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching
2.13.1 Planning and Preparation
2.13.2 The Class room Environment
2.13.3 Instruction
2.13.4 Professional Responsibilities


Executive Summary

Education is changing worldwide. The literature suggests that teachers need reflective professional development (PD) to effectively teach to the new standards and to demonstrate change to their current instructional practices. This mixed-method multiple-case study investigated the impact of a reflective professional development (PD) in early schoolteachers’ instructional practices. Teachers were asked to maintain Reflective Portfolios for a period of one month, in which they were supposed to discuss one incident daily, under the light of Gibbs reflective cycle. REPORT rubric based on Danielsons framework of teaching was used to assess the portfolios. The teachers were also analyzed via semi structured interviews using qualitative coding scheme. Case descriptions were written and all the collected data was used to explain the levels of reflection in teachers’ instructional practices.

Chapter 1 Introduction

1.1 Reflective Practices and Continued Professional Development (CPD)

There are a number of educational challenges in the world today key amongst them include lack of effective teacher training institutions, Lack of resources, the lack of technology used and inadequate capacity building of teachers, hence students. The quality of education has been equated to the efficiency by which school outputs are attained. It is only after the correct mix of inputs is achieved that the desired outputs can be obtained (Psacharopoulos, 2009; Heynemann and Loxley, 2010).

Lockheed and Verspoor, (1991) in their study identified five major areas of input that need to be re-evaluated in order to improve the quality of education. They include increasing student capacity, improving curriculum, improving teaching, increasing learning materials and increasing instructional time. Output includes achievement proxies such as completion rates and promotions as well as the real achievement measures for instance skills learned and the quantity and kinds of facts.

The solution to these problems is reflective practice because of the fact that the professional thresholds for trainers, teachers and tutors worldwide hold that those in the teaching career should begin valuing reflection and assessment of their practice and their continuous professional development as teachers. Apart from that, teachers’ professional knowledge and comprehension includes means through which they can reflect, assess and employ research to develop their own practice while sharing good practices with others.

According to Dewey (2012) thoughts afford the primary technique of escape from pure routine actions. A person that is incapacitated in terms of thoughts is only moved by appetites and intuitions for they are established by external conditions and their inner state. If they are moved they are essentially pushed from behind meaning they lack control and are only dragged by circumstances given that they cannot comprehend them. Teachers worldwide must thus move from being routine oriented to being reflective oriented for this is typified by continuous self assessment and development.

Movements being made to reform the education of teachers have kicked off in most parts of the world. The strategies and directions that these movements have so far taken vary from each country and region worldwide. Invariable and dynamic educational policies across nations, research, innovations and continuous discourse in this field have made lots of contributions to new ways of comprehending teacher education in various societies (Farrell, 2004).

It is acknowledged broadly that Pakistani’s public sector education is of low quality compared to what is happening on the international scale and this has been as a result of various factors. The concept of poor education is typical of numerous elements. However, primarily it is characterized by the manner in which children are made to learn via rote memorization aimed at only myopically reproducing it in examinations (Hayes, 2009; Jaffer, 2005).

The environment in Pakistan schools coupled with their class room pedagogies do not support students to get involved in deep cognitive learning where they can exercise their gifted abilities and own judgment to comprehend what it means to learn everything they are presented in their class rooms by their teachers (Sultana, 2011; World Bank, 2006). A number of research studies have found a relationship between the learning of students and continuous professional development of their teachers (Guskey and Spark, 2006; Halai et al., 2004; Joyce and Showers; Shah, 2010; Sykes, 2009).

Findings from the 2009, Pakistan national statistics 91% of the country’s teachers have undergone some kind of training. The disturbing part of these statistics is that the effect of teacher training has not been exhibited in student outcomes. Various factors account for Pakistan’s poor quality educational standards. These poor standards of education both in schools that are in the public and private sector have been widely criticized by various stakeholders (Ashraf, 2004; Government of Pakistan, 2005). This poor quality of education according to stakeholders reflects the poor quality of teachers that serve in the public sector schools (Asian Development Bank, 2002).

The highest priority reforms in the Pakistan education sector is thus to reform teachers so that they impart quality education to their students. All stakeholders concede that there is an unsatisfactory quality of teachers in public and private sector schools in Pakistan. This poor quality of teachers has been attributed to government mutations, an inadequate teacher training program and a training structure that has already been rendered obsolete. The prevalence of incompetence teachers in huge quantities and compromises in the sector that allow malpractice have eroded gains that had been made by the sector several years ago (Elbaz, 2013).

The quality of teachers is established by their degree of professional competence inclusive of attitudes, knowledge, skills and understanding that they bring to the education sector. Teachers that lack the necessary degree of professional competence attribute this partly to the dysfunctional nature of the Pakistan education sector (DIFSD and USAID, 2008; Nizamani, Manzoor-ul-Haque, 2007).

Most researchers in the education literature agree that teachers’ competence is established by the quality of training they are subjected to. Pakistan’s 2009 national educational policy finds a direct relationship between the deteriorating educational standards in the country and inadequate training facilities coupled by an obsolete teacher training structure (Government of Pakistan, 2009).

The training of teachers being an important component of the country’s education system has failed to effectively respond to the extremely dynamic socio political and economic elements in Pakistan. An overview of the current literature stemming from donor funded projects documents, government reports, independent studies and policy documents have identified the gap in this discourse. This literature provides a wider consensus on challenges that impede the quality of teacher training in Pakistan. However, it is not involved in the deeper evaluation of the major factors that are basic to this problem (Duffy, 2009).

I found that the current literature on the training of teachers in Pakistan concentrates on a wide range of issues, challenges and tensions that confront educational changes and teacher training in Pakistan both at the micro and macro levels (Asian Development Bank, 2002; Barber, 2010; Government of Pakistan, 2005, Jamil, 2004; Hoodbhoy 2009; UNESCO, 2008,).

The recommendations articulated unfortunately do not offer a comprehensive solution that can effectively deal with the challenges of teacher training in the country, comprehend the underlying causes of the problem and come up with programs that can effectively deal with structural and organizational issues that have caused this sorry state of affairs in Pakistan. Consequently, in spite of the inspired efforts on numerous reports that give account of the education sector in Pakistan there is still more that has to be done to comprehend the main cause of poor education standards and deal with the problem of teacher training in the country (Asian Development Bank, 2002).

Most of the major literature on this subject matter has dug into the contemporary issues facing the deteriorating education sector in Pakistan. The discussions have been descriptive in evaluating the major issues and prescriptive in providing solutions to the underlying challenges. These challenges have been pointed out and discussed in isolation rather than giving explanations to the complex interrelationships that underlie them. There is a visible gap in efforts to comprehend the changes in teacher training and its link to student learning from the view of fresh knowledge that stems from both local and universal researchers (Dewey, 2012).

There is thus an ardent need to better comprehend the causes that underlie the factors that influence the lukewarm training of teachers in Pakistan. This discourse in the country should be compared with the primary vision of a worldwide decision to improve teacher education and ensure it responds to the dynamic global socio cultural context. The principal cause fundamental to the serious gaps in efforts being made to improve the training of teachers in Pakistan stems from failures by the succeeding Pakistan regimes to execute the education policy due to a grave lack of government will (DeFour and Eaker, 2010).

The training of teachers in Pakistan has been acknowledged to form the foundation of the education system. However, the country’s successive five year plans coupled with national educational policies have been found to have come up with false claims as well as lofty promises regarding the development and reformation of the country’s education system particularly teacher training with no consideration of reality on the ground (Day, 2010).

The national educational policies have remained just that promises with no form of fulfillment whatsoever. No policy has been followed by any effort to execute the plans and reforms envisaged in these national policies. All these stem from the absence of a national vision and political will which have their roots in dysfunctional management systems, inadequate allocation of resources and poor governance (Barber, 2010; DfID and USAID, 2008).

The need to expand, streamline and institutionalize teacher training has been overstressed in literature locally (Khan, 2009; Asian Development Bank, 2002; Davis and Iqbal, 2008). In spite of the fact that there have been vocal calls to improve the quality of teacher training programs no serious step has been taken by successive governments to do so. As a matter of fact most of these programs heavily depend on donor funds and the training in itself is structured on an ad hoc basis (Fullan and Stielgebauer, 2010).

There are many programs funded by donors which have been implemented in the last six decades to support the access to and augment the quality of teacher training in Pakistan. All the four Pakistan provinces can attest to the existence of such programs in their boundaries. All these programs have centered on institutionalizing capacity building in teacher training. Generally they have hugely contributed to the education of teachers particularly the female gender and those residing in the countryside (Cutler, 2013).

Through a number of innovation strategies they have tried to set intervening strategies however, the survival of these strategies is still questionable. In spite of the proliferation of these programs there are no fiscal studies to evaluate their successes and failures. It is therefore difficult to establish the long term effect of these programs on the training of teachers and the quality of education (Cunliffe, 2002).

A serious overview of current literature indicates that most of the programs that were funded by doors stressed on quantitative targets rather than qualitative achievements. Both the government and the donors failed miserably in their attempts to institutionalize models and programs that they introduced in the training of teachers (Fullan and Stielgebauer, 2010).

Consequently, in spite of their good intentions the donor funded programs never brought about any meaningful changes in the quality of student learning and teacher education in Pakistan. Most changes that had been brought about by the donors looked like water surface bubbles and disappeared when the funding was halted. There is thus a dire need for future donor programs to reflect on these shortcomings before any commitment of funds (Duckworth, 2010).

The one shot workshop provided by donors for these programs is another point of concern for many stakeholders. This is because the frequency of training is not adequate to produce quality teachers (Fullan and Stielgebauer, 2010). However, the donors have no viable process through which they can institutionalize these programs. Consequently, the 2009 Pakistan national education policy calls for the creation of a system that will harmonize donors and improve synchronization between government agencies and donors. However, these policy suggestions have never been implemented. Donor funded teacher training programs led to the problem in the education sector through changing class room pedagogical practices and enhancing the competence of teachers.

However, most literature on education points out that it is not easy to sustain pedagogical changes if they are not backed by practical implementation of the changes in class room culture and structure which include the evaluation system and its relation to teachers and students, resources, curriculum and facilities (Fullan, 2010; Hargreaves, 2008).

1.2 Research Background or Rationale

Pakistan’s history of teacher education traces back to 1947 when the country gained its independence. The country’s five year plans coupled with its national education policies that have been developed and executed in the last six decades have treated the education of teachers as an education subsector. An overview of teacher training and its history in Pakistan indicates that there has been fundamental quantitative expansion when it comes to the number of institutions that have been established over the years and many teachers have gone through these institutions.

Today about 301 institutions provide a number of teacher educational programs that range from certificate programs to PhDs. Apart from moribund teacher training programs Pakistan’s quality of education has also been hampered by poor infrastructure to conduct training, Lack of technological advancement in Pakistani’s schools, shortage of resources, sustainability and ongoing development. (Government of Pakistan, 2005; USAID and UNESCO, 2009). Given these limitations the best option in demystifying the problem of quality education in Pakistan would be reflective practice since it requires no technology.

On the other hand, qualitatively the Pakistan education system has suffered setback of deterioration for many years. A closer scrutiny at the system indicates that it has suffered a great deal on its relevance due to the poor quality of its standards. Numerous reports, surveys and studies cite a wide range of challenges that lead to poor quality of education and deteriorating teacher performance (Butt and Shams, 2007; USAID, 2008; Mahmood, 2005). This literature has been steady in stressing the correlation between the sharp deterioration in the standards of the teaching profession and the poor learning outcomes for students that have been witnessed in the last six decades in Pakistan (Government of Pakistan, 2005; PTEPDP, 2004).

There is a widely shared perception that the teacher training programs in public and private sector institutions are substandard in nature and are characterized by being examination, rigid and text book based. The overriding pedagogy employed in these programs is typified by lecture, chalk and talk and memorization (Elbaz, 2013; Rough, Malik, and Farooq, 2007; Warwick and Reimers, 2008; World Population Foundation, 2009). The motivation underlying teachers’ pursuit of certificate, diploma or degree programs are an increment in their salaries and wages and various promotions in the education sector. The teacher education programs do not stress the necessity of professional and individual competencies not to mention the qualities embodied by an effective teacher.

All teacher training institutions are obliged to provide education programs which meet not just the demands of schools in the country but the learning needs of students as well. However, the Pakistan education sector is yet to realize this important link between teacher training and school education. In the last six decades there have been no serious efforts by the Pakistan government to deal with the serious questions stemming from the perception of the concerned public that teacher training in the country is irrelevant coupled with the dwindling education standards in the country (Carper, 2010).

On an international scale educational reforms have been the main concern of teacher education discussions. Research on teacher education and its realm was intensified in the third world economies thus availing lots of literature about the training of teachers. These findings have assisted many third world economies to join the rest of the world in improving the policies and practices concerning the training of teachers. However, the same cannot be said of Pakistan which has for many years distanced itself from the rest of the world when it comes to implementing reforms on the training of teachers (Carr and Kemmis, 2007).

Pakistan’s leading public and private educational institutions are tasked with researching on ways of generating useful knowledge. They however, have failed to develop teacher training mechanisms through research making it a pipe dream. Pakistan’s private sector has rapidly become a fundamental player in the country’s education sector (Government of Pakistan, 2005; Gulzar, Bari and Ejaz, 2005; World Bank, 2006).

As a matter of fact some institutions in the private sector have been acknowledged to disseminate quality teacher training programs founded on modern practice and continuous teacher professional development practices globally. They have since advanced student learning teacher training practices that are participatory in nature, highly interactive with a focus on promoting problem solving, conceptual understanding and critical thinking skills (Saleem, 2009; Kazilbash, 2009; UNESCO, 2008). In spite of these achievements the Pakistan government has not learned from what the private sector has been doing over the years.

The major challenges confronting the Pakistan education system originate from serious deficiencies in the system of training teachers (Government of Pakistan, 2005). Factors that contribute to the moribund teacher training system are intricately interlinked, complex and multilayered. On the other hand at primary level the declining nature of the teacher training programs have their root causes in the lack of political will to bring sanity in the system creating a widening gap between policy findings and the implementation of their recommendations (Campbell and Wyman, 2011).

Teacher training is a dynamic complex and multifaceted field. Concerns on education quality calls for clear solutions on teacher training and student learning programs in Pakistan as well as enhancing the use of advanced technology Pakistani’s schools, provision of resources, as well as sustainable and continuous development. An overview of the education literature on Pakistan in comparison to the worldwide practice acknowledges a number of serious gaps in comprehending Pakistan teacher training practices. There is a substantial shift in Pakistan’s perception on the improvement of the education system and the role of teachers in these changes as seen in the country’s successive national educational policies (Burrows, 2010).

All government reports have acknowledged the important role played by teachers in reforming schools and stress on efforts to support teachers’ status and their profession as a whole (Fullan and Stielgebauer, 2010). This is consistent with what is being said in the international literature on teacher training and school reform programs. .Changes in the education sector are thus determined by what is thought out and done by teachers which embodies this paper’s research question How and to what extent do the reflective portfolios influence Teacher learning in Pakistan?

As a matter of fact a surgical look at the local Pakistan literature attempts to critique teacher training clearly mirrors a narrow focus since it stresses upon the organizational and structural issues at the expense of pedagogy and conceptual elements of teacher training practices. Apart from that, the teacher training discourse has a higher focus on technical teaching aspects that involve discipline knowledge and a set of skills that are necessary to impart learning on students (Bullock and Hawk, 2009).

The international literature on the other hand emphasizes on moral, personal and social aspects of teacher training that have been disregarded in the local Literature. Pakistani’s teacher training literature is highly affected by presumptions and theories that underlie the conventional transmission methodology of teacher training and continuous professional development that regards teaching as a socially, individual and cultural centered activity whose objective is to disseminate knowledge (Cole and Knowles, 2010; Joyce, 2011; little, 2009).

The technical methodology portrays that the mechanism of one being a teacher is to simply learn to teach (Frechner, 2007; Levine, 2006; Lewin and Stuart, 2003). Teaching is unfairly portrayed as a technical activity while teachers are in bad taste given the role of technicians that must equip themselves with the required knowledge necessary for imparting learning on students (Dewey, 2012; Cocheran-Smith and Fires, 2011; Valli, 2009). This perception on the training of teachers and their professional development focuses on attaining teaching skills necessary for routine and expected class room situations. It ultimately fails to acknowledge family and life situations, class room dynamics, the personal make up of teachers and the schools’ complex realities.

As argued by Valli (2009) class room experiences are dynamic in nature and tend to be full of uncertainty consequently, answers to teaching challenges cannot be solved through a mere procedure of rule application rather they demand that teachers exercise the wisdom of practice which can only be done effectively through reflective portfolios. Most of the narratives in international literature point out that teacher training is not necessarily confined to a class room setting rather teachers tend to gain most of their knowledge from informal experiences that are regulated by themselves through reflective practice.

1.3 Research Questions

1. There was some growth in the level of reflection of teachers, who were writing portfolios over a period of one month? How true is this statement?
2. The Pakistan education system for teachers stresses on technical aspects rather than theoretical aspects. How true is this statement?
3. The education of teachers in serious domains such as ethical, personal and social issues that are greatly emphasized worldwide has been less regarded in Pakistan. How true is this statement?
4. To improve their effectiveness Pakistan teachers should be trained on the development of reflective practices in teaching via portfolios. How true is this statement?

1.4 Research Aim and Objectives

1) To find out if reflective practices best solution for Pakistan
2) To explore if portfolios improve teacher level of reflection
3) To investigate if reflection helps in professional development of teachers
4) To analyze if increased level of reflection also increases student learning

1.5 Significance of Study

Dewey (2012) opines that teacher training programs must generate teachers that are mindful of education fundamentals and theory rather than routine skills that make them merely followers, technicians and copiers of set traditions. Given that reflection requires minimal resources it is best suited for Pakistan. The characteristic teacher training programs in Pakistan are heavily affected by presumptions and theories that underlie the structural methodology broadly criticized by researchers in the international literature. This structural methodology is technical in nature since teachers are made to copy and paste from books rather than offer their own informal experience for learning purpose.

Emerging methodologies in teacher training and continuous professional development for instance lifelong learning, reflective practice (Schin, 2011), and inquiry (Joyce, 2011; Dawson, 2006) perceive teachers as active agents in their own development. However, reflection will be very suitable for Pakistan teachers who are not that much endowed with resources for training since it requires minimal training and once they acquire these skills they will not be required to go for more training.

Their aim is to instigate practical skills and an inquisitive attitude amongst teachers.

Teachers are expected to know the outcome and origin of their realities, decisions, behaviors and actions (Luke and McArdle, 2009). There is a higher likelihood of teachers changing and controlling actions and restraints and ultimately provide solutions to educational and pedagogy challenges once they obtain the reflection skills.


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Reflective professional development for teachers
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reflective professional development, Danielson, gibbs
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