Lessons from India - practical issues

This article presents an extract from the British Council publication, ‘Innovations in the continuing professional development of English language teachers’. Here the authors, A Padwad and K Dixit, outline practical issues they discovered during their innovative think tank project.

The Think Tank ... succeeded in identifying several practical issues, specific to the Indian context (though some may be relevant to other contexts too).

These included:

  • Teachers are likely to work long term for their CPD only when they find it personally meaningful and relevant to do so. What is meaningful and relevant may differ from person to person and also from time to time. It is therefore important to have scope and support for teachers to personalise their CPD. Some ways of doing so include:

       - allowing teachers to identify their personal CPD goals and helping them to work towards them

       - making provision of time, money and resources to support their preferred CPD activities

       - recognising their voluntary initiatives and contributions

       - ensuring freedom and autonomy for teachers to implement their plans.

  • The Think Tank felt that in general teacher education policy and provision were weak in terms of both incentives and accountability for CPD. It is important to strengthen these two complementary aspects, because, working in tandem, they can significantly promote CPD.
  • Building CPD-related activities into teachers' work routines seems to be a more fruitful way of ensuring CPD than the usual 'INSET' way of conducting CPD activities, which are isolated and disconnected from teachers' work. Institution-based CPD, allotting time for CPD in teachers' assigned workloads and promoting freedom and autonomy for CPD could be some ways in which CPD is integrated with the regular work of teachers.
  • CPD can happen in a variety of ways and through multiple channels. It is therefore most productive if teachers have access to a range of avenues and options for their CPD.

Finally, there was also a lot of valuable learning from the concrete examples of good CPD practices compiled by the members as well as the innovative experiments and studies they carried out in the two years of the Think Tank. This was the practical side of the Think Tank's work. The two aspects of its work - collective work of discussion, clarification, theorising and planning during the six-monthly face-to-face meetings, and individual work of trying out or studying interesting CPD ideas - complemented each other well. The learning from the practical field work fed into discussions and theorising, deepening and expanding the CPD thinking in the group, while this enhanced understanding led back to further improvement and enrichment of the CPD experiments and research studies on which the Think Tank members had embarked. The culmination of the process was the publication of these case studies and research experiments (Bolitho and Padwad, 2012), which brought in interesting data, observations, insights and practical ideas from different contexts. They included both top-down (state-led large-scale programmes) and bottom-up (small-scale individual or institution-led initiatives) examples of how CPD was triggered and promoted in different circumstances. This was the first-ever attempt to identify and compile a variety of experiments and experiences addressing different CPD issues. The Think Tank experience, together with the annotated bibliography of CPD (Padwad and Dixit, 2011), provide important groundwork for further research, theorising and practice in CPD in India.

Extract from Chapter 11 ‘Continuing professional development policy 'Think Tank': an innovative experiment in India’ in ‘Innovations in the continuing professional development of English language teachers’ (A Padwad and K Dixit, p262 - 263)

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