5.4 Continuous Professional Development

In this section: Extensive guidelines and information to support all teachers and school leaders to continue learning and improving their skills throughout their career.

Rules: Continuous Professional Development

Includes: CPD Evaluation and accreditation; Providers; Equal Opportunities

 

The TSC shall serve as a common platform for CPD of teachers in Sierra Leone.

Evaluation and accreditation of CPD

Providers of CPD

CPD and Equal Opportunities

CPD must adhere to the highest standards set by the Government in gender, inclusiveness, equity and Persons with Disabilities providing equal opportunities for professional development for all teachers.

CPD is an instrument for promoting and reinforcing equal opportunities for careers in the teaching service.

Process: How to enrol for CPD training

 

For national courses, interested candidates should consult with their superiors, refer to their personal Teacher Portfolio and complete a CPD APPLICATION FORM. They should submit this to the TSC-DO to coordinate the selection of participants based on individual training needs and training records captured in the teacher’s database. This will ensure systematic CPD and avoid of duplication.

Currently, the TSC offers CPD courses for school leaders in mentoring, school leadership and professional standards. Other courses are under development. School leaders should acquaint themselves with the current CPD offers for school leaders.

Teachers are offered a series of competencies classes in priority subjects. Information on these can be found on www.tsc.gov.sl or from TSC-DO.

Process: How to register participation in a CPD training course

 

The TSC, TTCs or any other provider of CPD must ensure participation in CPD learning events is registered after completion of the course. This is to ensure systematic individual professional development and avoid duplication. Providers other than TSC must provide details to the TSC.

Registration includes:

Training providers must contact the TSC to check teacher training records before admitting teachers on a course.  

Further reading: Introduction to Continuous Professional development

A teacher is expected to upgrade his or her qualifications regularly. This is necessary for the teacher to be up to date with the latest curriculum and developments and trends in the subjects he or she teaches. A teacher is also expected to be up to date with developments in didactics and teaching methods and continuously apply improved strategies to achieve optimal learning outcomes, ensuring that pupils stay in school and pass their tests and exams with good results. Finally, a teacher should develop his or her competencies to nurture a career in the teaching service and comply with the increasing competency levels of the professional standards for teachers (TSC, 2019). 

Continuous Professional Development (CPD) must:

CPD includes:

It is essential that CPD is carried out systematically, that it is needs-based and that it builds up a teacher’s or school leader’s gradual career orientated acquisition of increasing competencies. Implementation of professional development may include the following key elements:

When the circle is completed the training provider should submit detailed information to the TSC. The TSC will register successful training course completion, certification and accreditation in the Teacher Database.

CPD may:

Who is responsible for CPD

The primary institutions in Sierra Leone responsible for CPD of teachers include:

Teaching Service commission

Teacher Training Colleges

Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union

Other providers of CPD

International organisations, NGOs, and CSOs also offer training courses for teachers. These courses are expected to adhere to TSC’s standards and criteria.

Best Practice: The CPD Cycle

For CPD training courses to be effective and have a real impact on learners and their performance in schools, each of the steps in the circle must be well executed. Therefore, training courses for teachers and school leaders should be prepared, managed and delivered by professional institutions and facilitators. The circle may vary based on the scope of the exercise, but the logic is the same.

CPD-training-cycle.jpg

 

 

Best Practice: How to assess the learning needs of teachers

To be cost-effective CPD should be based on identified needs of teachers and school leaders to improve and develop their competencies. These needs must therefore be assessed systematically through a Learning Needs Assessment (LNA) before CPD is planned, prepared and delivered. 

An LNA of teachers and school leaders may include:

A major survey of needs for improving competencies and of learning needs may be conducted with appropriate intervals, such as every five years. Such a survey may contribute in the macro planning of teacher education in terms of national policy, planning and budgeting; increases in number and size of institutions and colleges, admission criteria, national curriculum, learning technologies, and upgrading of facilities, equipment, and materials for teachers. 

At the district, cluster or school level, a school leader, TSC-DO staff, and other bodies involved in CPD should be able to conduct simple LNA, which may then be processed locally or feed into larger programmes.

LNA, even in its simplest form, must adhere to the highest standards of HR. It should be:

Not all problems and shortcomings can be solved by training. The LNA may identify other solutions such as improvements in management practices, systems changes, introduction of new technology and availability of better tools or guidance.

Even if the solution is learning orientated, there are many ways of learning in addition to attending a training course. These include mentoring, job-based training, and self-directed learning. The latter has become easy through online opportunities for learning. These learning solutions are usually attached with a lower cost and can be equally effective.

Due of the large number of teachers, all teachers may not gain access to a CPD training course. In connection with the needs assessment it is essential to prioritise the most urgent training needs. Some teachers may have excellent teaching knowledge and skills and do not require much training. Since CPD is a criterium for promotion, it is essential to ensure that such teachers have equal opportunities for promotion even without CPD credit points. Excellent teaching skills can be captured in the annual performance appraisal.  

In its simplest form an LNA exercise identifies any gaps in competencies.

Skills-gap.jpg

Example: A teacher who teaches math without having a good professional grasp of the subject.

In the case of simple skill deficiencies a school leader or the teacher him/herself may search for a suitable training programme offered by a training provider. Or they may search for teaching programmes offered online.

If the same kind of learning needs are common to several teachers within a cluster of schools or in a district, a training course may be arranged at a school or a TTC or at another suitable venue. In such cases the TSC-DO and the district education authorities should be consulted for approval based on available information on the candidates, following which the training should be registered appropriately.

LNA is just as much about a positive development to nurture careers and meet the demands of the future. The gap in this case would be forward looking, for instance what kind of competencies is required for a proficient teacher to become a highly accomplished teacher or a school leader. For example, a teacher who shows an aptitude for leadership in a school whose Head Teacher is due to retire in one year.

The most convenient way of assessing the learning and development needs of teachers is in connection with the annual performance appraisal and the associated completion of the Personal Professional Development Plan.

If the assessment of a teacher for a specific responsibility, task or competency points to inadequate performance, it could mean there is a learning need. However, it could also point to a deficiency in management, systems, tools or conditions under which teaching tasks are carried out.

The identified learning needs must be prioritised and the most critical added to the teachers’ Personal Development Plan subject to identification of realistic CPD/training opportunities.

 

Best Practice: Identification of training and non-training solutions

The assigned LNA team or panel should always try to identify the most optimal training solution. This part of the LNA exercise may include:

Where the LNA highlights non-training issues, such as deficiency in systems and school management, non-training solutions can be applied that may relate to: improvements in school management practices, provision of better teaching materials and tools, making guidelines available, introduction of new teaching technology, or improving the working environment and climate.

 

Best Practice: Strategies for addressing learning needs

May include:

Best Practice: How to analyse the cost-effectiveness of alternative strategies

It is essential to assess the cost-effectiveness of alternative learning strategies to achieve the optimal outcome for the least cost.

When selecting the optimal solution, the cost must be weighed against expected outcome and priority of the training. This could mean opting for a more expensive solution. However, in many cases a low-cost strategy might be just as effective or even more effective. In some cases, it can be necessary to choose the second-best solution in order to stay within the given budget.

A teaching service body may choose a low-cost solution for training, which requires the school manage, organise and deliver the training with its own resources. Before taking this route, the school needs to estimate whether they have the expertise and resources required to deliver it. Outsourcing training to a professional training institute may save time and ensure higher standards in training. In some cases, there may be middle-way solutions.

An alternative cost-effective strategy may be to develop the competencies of school leaders. If school leaders are competent it reduces the need for teacher training, as the school leader is able to run the school more effectively, ensure a sound school economy, promote a conducive work environment and climate, build well-functioning teams of teachers, make work practices more effective, deliver his or her own on-the-job training, guide teachers, and so on. Investment in learning & development programmes for school leaders is therefore a worthwhile investment.

When choosing a learning and development strategy it is important to ensure training is of a high quality and needs based, irrespective of which solution is chosen. When training is provided by a professional training institute, the institute must be carefully scrutinised and the quality and relevance of the training guaranteed through proper arrangements, contracts and oversight. This also applies to training provided by donors, who must meet the set standards of the teaching service.  

Best Practice: How to plan a learning event

The detail required to plan training depends on the scope of the training. There is a big difference between planning a course for 5,000 teachers, sending 20 teachers on an external training course, and organising a learning event at your school. Irrespective of the scope, planning should always be linked with learning needs assessment and the selection of the most cost-effective strategy.

In general planning a learning event involves:

If the TSC or MBSSE, a district or a school or cluster of school organises its own training there are several possible venues, all depending on cost and suitability:

On-air or digital venues

Best Practice: How to design an effective CPD training course

A well-designed learning event or training course is likely to meet with success. Design is therefore an essential step in the CPD circle. Designing learning events and training courses is the responsibility of the provider. However, in order to be able to request and assess CPD programmes effectively it is necessary for the teaching service and the school, to have a rudimentary knowledge of what quality learning and development design entails.

The first step in the design phase is verification and clarification of needs and requirements to be sure to get it right from the beginning. Otherwise the training course may not meet expectations or fulfil the identified needs.

Designing a training course involves:

Learning objectives

It is important to formulate precise and clear learning objectives as these will orientate both facilitators and trainees, help to focus the learning event, and guide the selection of learning methods, tests and assessment, and the evaluation of the results. The learning objectives should reflect the identified learning needs and the competency level of the participants.

Learning objectives should be concrete, realistic and relevant to the learners and they should match exactly the actual expected outcome of the learning event. An easy approach is to base the formulation of the learning objectives on the knowledge, the skills and the attitudes the participants are expected to develop:

Example learning objectives:

Good examples of learning objectives can be found at the start of a chapter in almost any recent academic or professional book on learning and development or training.

Learning methods

Learning methods applied during a training course often determine the degree of learning. Learning methods should reflect:

And they should:

 

Common learning methods and activities

Learning method/activity

Description

Caution

Icebreaker

People learn much better if they are relaxed and comfortable with the facilitator and their co-learners. This is the purpose of icebreakers which usually start a training session or workshop. There is a range of icebreaker activities available to facilitators which can be accessed on the internet or found in professional literature.

Icebreakers must be applied with sensitivity to the participants’ social standing, culture and personal mindset. There are alternatives to icebreakers such as asking everyone to help rearrange the furniture, begin the session with plenary brainstorming, etc.

Presentation with questions and answers

The purpose of a presentation is usually to present new knowledge to an interested audience. It is important that the presenter has excellent presentation skills and is able to listen to and be aware of the audience. He or she must provide opportunities for the audience to ask questions either during or at the end of the presentation.

A presentation should never last more than 20-30 minutes, and it is essential that the audience can participate with questions. It should be followed by relevant activities, reflection and dialogue on the subject-matter.

PowerPoint slide show

A PP slideshow usually accompanies a presentation. If applied correctly, it can be effective in summarising subject matter to make it easy to remember. A PP slideshow should use minimal text and apply colours, graphs, figures, tables, photos, symbols, drawings, videos, etc. as appropriate. 

A PP slideshow should NEVER merely summarise in words the facilitator’s presentation, and the facilitator should NOT stand with his/her back to the audience reading the slides out.

Guest lecturer

Inviting a guest lecturer to speak is a good break from the facilitator and a way to introduce real world experience to a training course. A good guest lecturer can be an eye-opener as well as an entertainer. Professional training institutes often have a cadre of experienced practitioners attached to the institute. A guest lecturer should also have good presentation and facilitation skills.

The danger of inviting guest lecturers is if the lecturer does not understand the learners’ level or the purpose and approach of the course, or if the lecturer is very nervous or dominant. It is also a setback if the lecturer loves to hear him/herself speak and goes on for too long. The facilitator must be able to politely steer a guest lecturer.    

Brainstorming, mind-mapping, problem identification, etc.

It can be very productive in a training course or workshop to allow the participants to identify problems and solutions themselves. They take ownership, are committed, and engage. Another advantage is that it may produce a link between learning and the real world and enhance relevance. Brainstorming, etc. provides an opportunity to discover valuable solutions to real problems.

The danger of this approach is if the facilitator loses control, if there is too much deviation from the plan, or if some participants become antagonistic. This approach requires a very good facilitator.

Reflection

Participants should be given time for reflection during a training course or learning event. This will enable participants to integrate their learning experience, learn more through reflection and identify questions to be addressed.

 

Group exercises and discussions

Group exercises and discussions are excellent and effective ways of engaging learners actively. People in a group learn from working together and from one another. It is important that a group has a clear learning task or a set of questions which they are asked to address. For this they may have access to the internet. The group should elect a chairperson for time keeping and staying on track, a secretary to take notes, and someone to present. Results may be recorded on flipcharts or be projected on a screen.

Group discussions may deviate, involve too much talk, create tensions between participants, or a group may be dominated by people with strong opinions. It therefore requires a good facilitator who can steer the process in several groups simultaneously, guide them in the right direction, and answer questions.

Plenary discussions

Plenary discussions normally follow a presentation or a group exercise. It is a way of sharing knowledge and learning. Such discussions may enhance active participation, motivation, inspiration and creativity, and plenary discussions may produce viable solutions to issues in the real world of work.   

Plenary discussions can go off-track and stir up tensions and arguments between participants. Sometimes a participant may take advantage of the opportunity to dominate and force through his or her own ideas. Plenary discussions require a competent facilitator who can handle situations that may arise.

Individual exercises, tests

Individual exercises and tests create intensive learning and enable participants to review his or her own acquired competencies and develop more advanced levels of mastery. It provides an opportunity for the trainer or facilitator to discover where improvements in skills are required.

In planning exercises and tests, it must be ensured that the level is appropriate, neither too high, nor too low. Attention must be given to the smooth running of the technical mechanisms and to confidentiality.

Demonstration

Demonstration is one of the best ways to learn a practical skill, perhaps in connection with theory and explanations. It is important the first demonstration by the facilitator is slow and step by step, and that participants all have opportunities to try it out individually. Lack of skill can be dealt with on the spot and improved upon under professional guidance.

It is essential trainees are given the full rationale for why things are done in a specific way. The facilitator should not run through the exercise fast, be impatient or show temper, but should be patient and encouraging.

Case study

The learning method of case study has been developed to advanced academic levels by universities. Case studies might involve individual as well as group work and they might be long or short. A case study is an excellent way of imitating situations in the real world and learn by exploring alternative options and opportunities and experiencing the results of wrong decisions. Case studies can be developed as online journeys into real life situations where the result of actions are dramatically unfolded.  

 

Role play

Role play simulates real life work situations. They can be useful in breaking participants’ psychological barriers and develop courage to act first in an artificial setting and subsequently in the job. It provides a good opportunity to test difficult and challenging situations and develop professional working skills with colleagues under an experienced facilitator’s supervision. It is also a means of seeing another’s viewpoint (through acting the other) learning to negotiate, deal with conflict, and so on.

The facilitator must be careful not to overstep the red line of participant personal sensitivities. Another risk is if some of the players do not take it seriously at all. To plan it well and make it effective requires a good understanding of the participants’ job situation.

Games

When you have fun, your mind is open, and you learn easily without straining yourself. Some games can also be engaging and are a good way of promoting full attention. Games are socially fulfilling. Games might be a way of learning how to solve real life crises situations and problems, in the worst case learning by mistake (but without causing any harm).

 

Videos

Videos provide an excellent break to the flow of demanding instruction and exercises, and at the same time enable participants to learn in a relaxed fashion. Timing is important, for instance entertainment in evenings, after lunch when participants need to digest or in the late afternoon.

 

On-the-job practice

Learning in the class or conference room may be enhanced considerably by practical on-the-job learning and job assignments which may take place during an interval in the course or after completion. It is  important to reinforce learning through trial and error and through applying what has been learnt.

If learning is not reinforced by putting it into practice during or soon after the learning event a valuable investment may be lost. If one doesn’t apply acquired competencies, one is likely to forget the knowledge and the skills.

Various online and distance learning methods and blended learning

Online programmes, distance learning, e-learning, mobile learning, etc. are becoming increasingly popular and have many advantages such as low cost for the participant, the possibility of learning at home in free time, distribution of learning opportunities to a large number of learners, reaching learners in remote areas, etc. It may involve webinars, short programmes on YouTube as well as long complete educational degree courses. Blended learning means e-learning with short periods of face to face classroom-based session, which can be an advantage for the long education programmes.

Learners may feel isolated and lack motivation and stimulation provided by group training. Trainers and facilitators, though there, are mechanisms for communication, do not have the same grasp of the individual participants or the opportunity to focus on and adapt to the needs of individual learners. The different elements of the programme may seem mechanical, too general and lacking in depth.

 

The course description

The course design is captured in the course description. This is an important tool for the trainer or facilitator in preparing the details of course delivery, including duration, methods, materials to be applied, etc. It also provides a good overview for course management and marketing.

Module descriptions are mainly relevant for longer courses which need to be broken down into several subordinate subjects and topics.

The format and detail of course descriptions may vary, but they usually include the following:

How to compile and develop learning materials and tools

Learning materials for knowledge acquisition, reflection, exercises and other forms of application during a course is an essential supplement to the course programme and should be given considerable attention during preparation. Such materials may include:

To save on paper, learning materials, such as academic and professional articles, may be accessed online through links provided to participants. 

Trainers and facilitators may use the following tools and equipment during the training sessions:

The facilitator’s preparations

A facilitator or trainer always needs to be well prepared. Often the success of a learning event is directly equivalent to the amount of preparation. When things go wrong participants are likely to develop a negative attitude and the performer may lose his or her confidence and equilibrium. From then on things tend to escalate in the wrong direction. Good preparation provides a safety net to fall back on.

Nevertheless, part of a facilitator’s range of skills is also to improvise, adapt to changes, be able to handle unexpected situations, and deal politely but firmly with difficult participants.  

Lesson Notes

Lesson Notes are the facilitators own tools for the systematic planning of a learning event. Lesson Notes provide an easy overview, or checklist, of subtopics, details of timing, and for each topic the methodology, handouts and materials, learning tools, equipment and references.

Lesson Notes may be supplemented by personal notes, which are easy for the facilitator to refer to while running each session without moving the attention away from the participants.

Each facilitator has his or her own style and both Lesson Notes and the facilitator’s notes are usually personalised.

Ensuring training goes smoothly

To ensure a training event goes according to plan the facilitator should:

 

Best Practice: How to manage and administer a learning event

Depending on the size and scope of the learning event one or more competent staff should be in charge of course management and administration. Trainers and facilitators should be relieved from this dimension of learning events allowing them to focus on content and delivery.

For larger programmes and programmes delivered at institutes, there may be a hierarchy of managers and administrators from a course director at the top to service staff who take photocopies.

In the case of an external provider, a training institute or a highly professional venue part of the course management and administration will be taken care of. This should be included in the agreement with them, but it is important in any case to check every point.

Management and administration include:

Best Practice: How to deliver an effective CPD training course

How much teachers participating in CPD training courses and learning events learn ultimately depends on the quality of delivery. It is important to remember adults learn differently to children and youth.

 

Best Practice: How to assess effectiveness of a learning event

Participant learning and acquisition of competencies may be assessed through tests such as:

Assessment tools may be combined. Tests may be of individuals or of groups, rewarding groups for their results collectively.

If a course is accredited and rewarded by a diploma or recognised certificate, tests are a requirement in order to ensure objectivity and fairness.

For minor learning events tests should be kept simple and quick.

Best Practice: How to evaluate the results of a learning event

CPD training courses and learning events are evaluated to ensure learning is effective and to improve the quality of the course. There are four kinds of evaluation:

Pre/Post-tests are conducted before and after a training course to measure the competencies acquired during the training course. Such a test should comprise a simple multiple-choice test which should not take up too much time. Often it is only the post-test which is applied which demonstrates the learning achieved.

The immediate reaction evaluation captures participants reactions on the closure of a training course. Participants evaluate the performance of the trainer(s) or facilitator(s), the quality of handouts and materials, what they have learnt during each lesson, logistics and arrangements, and other matters. This type of evaluation is subjective, though valuable. In some cases, the trainer or facilitator will also evaluate the course. For TSC teacher training participants are asked to complete an EVALUATION FORM.  

The outcome evaluation measures concrete improvements in work behaviour and demonstrated knowledge and competencies as against course objectives. This is a measure of the success of the course and measures how much is learnt and subsequently applied in the workplace. Outcome evaluation typically takes place 3 and/or 6 months after course completion through questionnaires sent to participants and their supervisors.

The impact evaluation usually examines impact of larger training programmes in relation to government policies, strategies and plans, or the impact on education in, for example, quality of teaching, reduction in drop-out rates, increase in pass rates, improvement in gender balance, and effect on the labour market and the economy. Impact can usually only be measured after a couple of years and CPD may only be one of several factors that influence impact. Impact can be determined from statistics, surveys, government reports, etc.

Best Practice: Follow up of a training course

An important dimension of learning is to practice what you have learnt in real life to reinforce the learning process. Many training courses fail to have an impact because this does not happen.

It is the duty of training organisers and the managers of participants to ensure mechanisms are in place to enable training participants to practice what they learnt and get experience while it is still fresh in their mind. When teachers participate in CPD events, school leaders should be involved from the outset and systematically follow up afterwards.

To focus the attention of both teacher and school leader, CPD should evaluate training outcomes where results must be demonstrated in performance in the classroom.

Following up on training may be incorporated in mentoring, coaching or supervision programmes. Participants in training may also be given targeted job assignments on completing a course. This is particularly relevant in the case of leadership training. Finally, a CPD training course may be supplemented by e- and mobile learning modules.

Best Practice: Out of the classroom, on-the-job or spare-time learning

Job-based and spare-time learning are low-cost solutions to develop competencies which, if appropriately applied, can be very effective. It includes:

Best Practice: How to initiate self-directed learning

There are many opportunities for teachers to pursue knowledge and skills outside of training courses, mentoring or other on-the-job CPD opportunities if they take the initiative.

The internet has made self-directed learning easy. For example, if a teacher feels inadequate teaching math, there are excellent free and low-cost programmes available online to help the teacher build his or her knowledge, understanding and confidence of the subject. Courses also usually include methods for effective teaching of learners at different grades.

A reflective and interested teacher will also learn by his or her own experience, called experiential learning. This requires an aptitude for mental processing of experiences, using one’s intuition, a willingness and courage to experiment, and systematic accumulation of best practices.

A teacher also acquires knowledge, skills and aptitude by interacting with and watching more experienced teachers perform. This in an informal way of mentoring. Such learning can be effective if the teacher is critical, alert and takes note of what works well and what does not. A teacher should not imitate a senior teacher’s bad habits or outdated practices, but should be able to distinguish between what benefits the learners and what does not.

The impact of self-directed learning can be increased by learning in groups. This allows teachers to support one another, engage in regular dialogue, share knowledge and experiences and stimulate each other’s interests. The learning achieved in a group will exceed the sum of the knowledge of each member of the group and is therefore an extremely valuable approach to learning. In small schools, teachers might form just one or two groups, one focusing on science subjects and one focusing on arts subjects. In larger schools, groups of teachers may refer to grades or they may, and especially in secondary school, be based on subjects.

The group approach to learning can be extended beyond the school involving professional subject associations and communities of practice.

At the heart of self-directed learning is the notion that the human mind by nature is geared to continuously learn, and that knowledge is formed instinctively in the subconscious mind.

A teacher can apply the Professional Standards for Teachers and School Leaders (TSC, 2017) as a guide and inspiration for self-directed learning.

It is important school leaders and distinguished or highly accomplished teachers take the initiative to stimulate and guide self-directed learning among teachers.