Professional Learning, Performance and ‘Emerging’ Education Systems

Professional Learning, Performance and ‘Emerging’ Education Systems

One of the key purposes of the IPDA blog is to allow contributors to send opinion pieces which hopefully stimulate, challenge and invite debate. I’m new to blogging but I assume that bloggers should be ready for their views to be contested and for alternative views to be posted. My first ipda blog ended with the question ‘and does it matter?’ and, after some weeks of radio silence, it was good to read Phil Taylor’s response which is now on-line.

At the recent, very enjoyable, IPDA conference, Margery MacMahon, Balwant Singh, Manpreet Kaur and I gave a keynote presentation with the teasingly simple title ‘professional development for performance in emerging education systems’. It was designed to serve a number of purposes: to give an insight into the challenges facing teacher educators in India (representing an emerging education system), to invite examples of ways in which ipda members were working in international contexts, to share critically the strategies used by them to support the development of teacher educators in these countries, and, using IPDA India as an example, to ask how we as an organisation can play a part in providing this support.

Margery and I worked in Ludhiana last year with Balwant, Manpreet and their colleagues and I’ve helped to lead conferences there for the last few years. A glance at the IPDA India section of this website will show the excellent progress being made and it would be easy to turn this into a ‘victory narrative’ extolling the success of IPDA’s intervention, through Balwant’s local leadership, in beginning to transform the education provision there.

We know what works in teacher education. We know that we should be moving away from training towards cultures of professional learning and development in our schools. We know that leaders at all levels have a role to play in stimulating and supporting this. We know that leadership development is an important factor in preparing leaders to make effective and sustainable interventions. We know that the effectiveness of teachers, schools and even whole education systems is measured and compared, increasingly in competitive ways, and that ‘performance’ in education is high on the political agendas of all systems. We know, from PISA reports and from OECD national reviews, what ‘successful education systems’ look like. So we all know what to do and how to get there, don’t we?

But that’s where the critical bit needs to come in. The presentation by Balwant and Manpreet at the conference showed really effectively the challenges they face locally, let alone nationally. Ludhiana has a population of over 4 million (that’s more than Wales) and India as a whole has a teaching force of over 6 million (so there are more than twice as many teachers in India as there are people in Wales). We know from Manpreet’s comments that the CEOs of Pepsico, Microsoft, Google and Mastercard are all Indians and that David Cameron has been wooing the new Indian Prime Minister (Mr Modi) to get a foothold in the huge new market there, but this only highlights the huge extremes of provision in India. So, a strategy of blithely applying in India what works for us (or worse, telling them how to do it) is unlikely to penetrate below surface layers in local education systems let alone achieve sustainable impact.

Hence my comments asking us all to reflect on what we are doing, how we are doing it and what impact it is having. So I set some questions – it would be great to get answers or even tweetable views from other IPDA members.

Here are the questions:

How many of us are involved in international work for our universities or for other organisations?

Do you recognise the ‘missionary approach’ and the ‘parrot response’ I discussed (where we tell others what to do and they use the ‘new’ language without having the systems and leadership structures in place to implement change)?

Should we be defining ‘performance’ in these emerging education systems by using PISA criteria or should we be looking for other indicators to identify progress?

And what is an ‘emerging education system’ anyway? We chose this term when we issued a ‘call for papers’ for a special issue of PDiE on ‘PLD in developing countries’. This produced a critical response from international educators arguing that their countries should not be classified as ‘developing’. In the UK and other ‘developed’ systems there are still schools, and sub-units in schools, which do not have effective cultures of PLD and whose performance is below that of others with comparable criteria. Could these be described as ‘emerging’?

And finally, if IPDA is to fulfil its aims as an international association, how can we work most effectively with others? Not to preach but to listen and to share what seems to be working in supporting teacher educators, education leaders and teachers to provide the most effective learning opportunities for those they work with?

These are a few questions – do we have any responses?

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Author: Ken Jones

Responses (2)

  1. John Perry
    January 31, 2016 at 11:00 am · Reply

    This is really thought provoking. I am increasingly concerned with new-positivist approaches to education and policy development, whether that is at the classroom or international level. I’ve recently posted a blog about John Hattie who similarly posits ‘what works’, which is being taken as ‘the answer’ by many people without considering the importance of context for all learning. https://wordpress.com/posts/transformlearningblog.wordpress.com

  2. Jack Whitehead
    February 6, 2016 at 4:37 pm · Reply

    Dear Ken – I enjoyed reading your blog posting – here are my initial responses to your questions:

    1) How many of us are involved in international work for our universities or for other organisations?

    If you go to the What’s New section of http://www.actionresearch.net you will get a sense of the international work I’m involved in. If you click on http://www.actionresearch.net/writings/posters/homepage061115.pdf you can access details of Swaroop Rawal’s work in India, alongside a wide range of contexts in which professional learning is taking place.

    2) Do you recognise the ‘missionary approach’ and the ‘parrot response’ I discussed (where we tell others what to do and they use the ‘new’ language without having the systems and leadership structures in place to implement change)?

    I do recognise this pedagogy and a tendency to use the new language without the systems and leadership structures in place to implement change. Jacqueline Delong in her doctoral thesis at http://www.actionresearch.net/living/delong.shtml studied her respones to transcending this pedagogy in her research into her practice as a Superintendent of Schools in Canada.

    3) Should we be defining ‘performance’ in these emerging education systems by using PISA criteria or should we be looking for other indicators to identify progress?

    We can do both. the PISA criteria do not include the expression and realisation of the values that I associate with learning that is educational. The values-based criteria used by master and doctor educators at http://www.actionresearch.net/writings/mastermod.shtml and http://www.actionresearch.net/living/living.shtml show how different criteria to the PISA criteria can be used to explain educational influences in learning.

    4) And what is an ‘emerging education system’ anyway? We chose this term when we issued a ‘call for papers’ for a special issue of PDiE on ‘PLD in developing countries’. This produced a critical response from international educators arguing that their countries should not be classified as ‘developing’. In the UK and other ‘developed’ systems there are still schools, and sub-units in schools, which do not have effective cultures of PLD and whose performance is below that of others with comparable criteria. Could these be described as ‘emerging’?

    In one sense we are all working in emerging educational systems. I am thinking of the sense that educators are continuously asking, researching and answering questions of the kind, ‘How do I improve what I am doing?’

    5) And finally, if IPDA is to fulfil its aims as an international association, how can we work most effectively with others? Not to preach but to listen and to share what seems to be working in supporting teacher educators, education leaders and teachers to provide the most effective learning opportunities for those they work with?

    I’ve suggested, along with Marie Huxtable that we could work most effectively with others in the creation of a profession of master and doctor educators. See: http://www.actionresearch.net/writings/gei2015/geicontents2016.pdf . This has been published in the January 2016 issue of Gifted Education International.

    Looking forward to continuing the conversation.

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