Personal perspectives: the impact of CPD on teachers and learners

This is the seventh article in our series which presents extracts from the British Council publication, ‘Innovations in the continuing professional development of English language teachers’. Here the authors, J Gulyamova, S Irgasheva and R Bolitho, illustrate the impact of CPD on learners as well as teachers.

Extract from the editor’s overview (p7 - 8)

Jamilya Gulyamova, Saida Irgasheva and Rod Bolitho, discuss experience in Uzbekistan of ... an innovation requiring significant change in established practice … to radically change the curriculum for the pre-service training and education of teachers of English, which had previously focused on study of linguistics and language systems with methodology taught as a theoretical rather than practical discipline. However, rather than leading to rejection and failure, the curriculum reform project provided the stimulus for CPD for a variety of project participants, teachers and other stakeholders. ... Above all, success has been due to the opportunities the project provided 'for individuals to stretch themselves professionally beyond their comfort zones and into areas they had not previously explored', within a supportive framework characterised by collaborative teamwork, intensive discussion and the freedom to evaluate new ideas from their own perspectives. Their narratives bring the project to life, providing vivid illustrations of their varied experiences, their successes as well as the struggles they went through over time. Chapter 2 offers, then, many learning opportunities (though, of course, not the only ones) for those who wish to initiate and sustain large-scale, sector-wide reform programmes.

Extract from Chapter 2 ‘Professional development through curriculum reform: the Uzbekistan experience’ in ‘Innovations in the continuing professional development of English language teachers’ (p 54 - 55)

The impact on students was [also] noteworthy. Kamola and Durdona show here their excitement at discovering previously untapped potential among their students, seeing them in a new light.

It is worth mentioning that the PRESETT project was first of all of great benefit for students. Students, tired and bored of traditional methods, are taking part in projects, debates, role plays and discussions with great pleasure and enthusiasm. I was surprised while reading some of the journal entries written by the 2nd year students in Language Learning, as they demonstrated not only good command of English or the knowledge of major concepts in Language Learning, but also good signs of critical thinking and elements of autonomous learning. (Kamola Alimova, Project Team Member)

I truly feel excited seeing my student portfolios with intelligent design and thorough task entries. (Durdona Karimova, Jizzakh State Pedagogical University)

Nodira sums up the impact on teaching in institutions across the country:

Now, looking back, one can see a huge impact on teaching in the University
of World Languages and other institutions across Uzbekistan. Let me name
some of them:

  • Now most teachers are aware of communicative methods of teaching (e.g. project work, portfolio, round table discussion, etc.) and are using them in their practice.
  • Most teachers are aware of the CEFR, basic principles of test design, criterion-based assessment and are applying this in practice.
  • Most teachers know how to find, adapt and even design their own materials to suit their students' needs and are happy with the opening up of choices.
  • Most teachers are aware of the need for CPD and have become more active in individual as well as collaborative developmental activities such as lesson observations, presentations at different conferences, writing articles, etc.

Taking into account all the above-mentioned skills, most teachers have become more autonomous, they have been liberated from 'the coursebook', from the authorities, as now they are regarded as experts in the innovations. And, most importantly, most teachers, once again or for the first time, fell in love with their profession and gained confidence in what they are doing. This is very important in the given context of pre-service teacher training, as these teacher educators not only teach their students how to be a good teacher but serve as a good model for them and source of inspiration. (Nodira Isamukhamedova, Project Coordinator 2008-12)

When Nodira refers to the opening up of choices for teachers, she is focusing on the move from the traditional mode of teaching with the prescribed textbook, with a strong orientation towards tests and examinations, to a situation in which, in the new curriculum, objectives are specified and resources suggested, but teachers are free to work towards these objectives in whatever way seems appropriate. This was destabilising at first for many teachers, but ultimately most have found it liberating. She also emphasises the move that many teachers have made towards taking more initiative in all aspects of their teaching, not always waiting to be told what to do or how to teach. Finally, she alludes to what has become a virtuous circle in the context of the project: teachers find that their new approach to their learners has gone down well, and they receive positive feedback. This sign of learners' approval gives them confidence, which in turn inspires them to find new ways to motivate and support their learners. This affective dimension of development is hugely important.

From many of these comments, it must be clear to the reader that the change process has opened up a number of pathways to professional development that were previously blocked by conservative management attitudes, old-fashioned beliefs about teaching, vested interests in the status quo, financial constraints or sheer unwillingness to break out of traditional routines and comfort zones. It is also plain to see that the concerns raised by Coleman (2005) in his Baseline Study have been comprehensively addressed through the design and implementation of the new curriculum. Although the project started out as a top-down initiative, the overwhelming majority of work in the development and dissemination of the new curriculum has been carried out by talented and committed teachers rather than by experts from academia.

Extract from Chapter 2 ‘Professional development through curriculum reform: the Uzbekistan experience’ in ‘Innovations in the continuing professional development of English language teachers’ (J Gulyamova, S Irgasheva and R Bolitho, p 54 - 55).

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