‘Continuing professional development policy 'Think Tank': an innovative experiment in India’
Learning from the Think Tank
Teachers' ongoing professional development is not a matter of concern for teachers alone. Various stakeholders - school heads, education authorities, state, society and parents - have interests in teachers' CPD for their own reasons, depending on their place in the education system. Consequently, each of these stakeholders may have differing priorities for and expectations of CPD. Teachers may have their personal developmental priorities, usually determined by their needs, interests and aspirations. Institutions may have different expectations from teachers' professional development, related to their concern with strengthening institutional performance, culture and image. Apart from these, the teaching profession also has interests in teachers' professional development, which are reflected in education policies, politics and administration. Figure 1 represents stakeholder priorities in a general way.
Figure1: Priorities in teachers' professional development
(Adapted from SACE, 2008: 5)
Though the figure shows a balance between the different priorities, in reality professional priorities (including administrative, social and political) and institutional priorities are seen to greatly outweigh teacher priorities. Such different priorities both stem from and lead to different understandings and interpretations of the very notion of CPD. This was the immediate challenge that the Think Tank faced when it commenced its work. Coming from different backgrounds, agencies and organisations, the members showed differing views of the notion of CPD. For example, the representatives of national and state teacher education bodies perceived CPD in terms of traditional INSET, particularly various kinds of training necessitated by curricular reforms, textbook changes, methodological shifts, and so on. In their view, equipping teachers to effectively implement the various programmes and policies of the state was the main objective of CPD. The practising teachers and representatives of teacher associations prioritised teachers' personal interests and professional needs such as enhancing competence in English, becoming trainers, attending conferences and publishing papers. The administrators looked at CPD in terms of enhancing teachers' teaching skills and classroom management, and ensuring the good performance of students in examinations. In the course of subsequent discussions it soon became clear that, while none of these perspectives could be downplayed as unjustified or unimportant, each represented only one aspect of CPD. The Think Tank members summed up this insight in terms of the 'elephant and blind men' metaphor, as in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Multiple views of CPD
It was therefore considered essential to arrive at a broad and inclusive understanding of the notion of CPD as an important prerequisite for the subsequent work. The unique contribution of the Think Tank was to bring all these differing, and at times conflicting, perspectives together face to face, which facilitated thrashing out of differences, identifying commonalities and arriving at a shared understanding. The outcome of this churning was the following working definition of CPD, which the Think Tank adopted as the basis for further thinking and action:
CPD is a planned, continuous and lifelong process whereby teachers try to develop their personal and professional qualities, and to improve their knowledge, skills and practice, leading to their empowerment, the improvement of their agency and the development of their organisations and their pupils. (Padwad and Dixit, 2011: 10)
The process of evolving a shared understanding of CPD also led to frequent discussions about key challenges in ensuring effective CPD. There was a general agreement that the CPD scenario in India was not a very happy one, and that there were no effective CPD mechanisms in place. Some of the reasons