Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What Kind of Training Really Helps Teachers Learn?

Much of the time, teacher training is seen as a means of transferring something from the trainer's head into the teacher's (which is then 'replicated' by the teacher in the classroom with the student). Fortunately, for a number of well-known reasons, that understanding is well past its expiry date!

Training is best viewed as a partnership between the trainer/facilitator and the trainees /participants. The purpose of this partnership is to agree upon changes desired and needed (as well as possible), and then to actually bring about those changes. If the changes do not come about, you might as well not have done the training. 

In this approach trainers need to ask themselves the question – what will the teachers be doing after this training that they are not doing at present? (And what will they stop doing that they do at present?)? Therefore, what do teachers need from the training? And what would be the best way to enable them to develop and implement the abilities required?

Ideally, training brings together the desirable and the feasible, i.e. what shouldbe, and what is possible. Trainers would naturally share with teachers a vision of what might be, but they also need to work collaboratively with them to work outhow such a vision might be attained. The intention is to: 
  • enable teachers to envision the new classroom, 
  • be aware of the details involved in bringing about the change, as well as 
  • the sequence in which to attempt this change for the greatest likelihood of success.

Such a training programme will present to teachers a range of experiences.Teachers would not just participate in these but would be ‘incited’ to reflect on them. As their understanding grows, the process would encourage them to consider how to apply the insights gained from such reflection into their own classroom situation. This reflective process has to occur before the emerging consensus is then consolidated by the facilitator.  Thus the learning process within a training interaction  mirrors the kind of pedagogy described earlier in this blog (see here ). In other words, the approach to training needs to model the qualities of the classroom that are desired to be communicated. Experiencingsuch learning perhaps communicates much more to teachers than handouts, lectures or presentations.

The above approach inevitably the trainers to have a certain degree of autonomy in conducting the training and related decision-making.  The trainer is not merely a recipient of training to be passed on, but ‘re-constructs’ it according to specific situation / needs of his trainees, which is what leads to more effective training.

The nature of relationships generated within a training programme is critical to its success. Starting out as ‘trainees’, participants eventually become ‘colleagues’ of the trainer at which stage, real change begins to occur. Experiencing success within a training programme as well as getting mutual respect and acceptance appears to trigger the desire to bring about improvement. This is naturally more possible in workshops and programmes where the same group of trainers consistently interacts with a group of teachers. Training programmes that rely on a ‘visiting faculty’ approach tend not to attain worthwhile results.

Here, too, enabling teachers to learn during training requires an equally great attention to planning, preparation and management. Finally, ensuring effective follow up allows the impact of training to be actually visible in the classroom.

A key concern and criticism is that training still tends to take a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Using an analogy from irrigation, there is a need to move away from ‘flood irrigation’ to ‘drip irrigation’. How might this be achieved? That's the topic for a future post!

This article is based on a section written by me for ADEPTS (Advancement of Educational Performance Through Teacher Support), a countrywide joint project of the MHRD and Unicef to evolve performance standards for teachers, trainers and other functionaries, that I coordinated and facilitated. 

PS: Incidentally, some 20 years ago we used to be really shy of using the word 'training' as it was seen to be politically incorrect (you train a horse or a dog and 'orient' a teacher). Over the years there seems to be a general acceptance that the degree of understanding and skill to be generated goes well beyond 'orientation' and adds up to 'training'!

No comments:

Post a Comment