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Innovations in Teacher Professional Development: Case Studies and Effective Strategies

teacher professional development

“Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

Mohammed Fazil, a teacher in the South Indian region, uses augmented reality to teach students. He puts triggers around the classroom to provide additional information to the students and also uses motion sensing with Microsoft Kinect, which allows students to participate in kinaesthetic maths games. While interacting with the British Council, Mohammed Fazil said his goal was to make the classroom experience more exciting, and technology has added countless ways of exploring one topic.

A school or college is nothing without a teacher in it, right? The most significant impact on a child’s learning is the quality of teaching and the connection they build with their teachers. Seeing what Mohammed has been doing for his students, you can understand the efforts and self-learning that go behind a teacher’s professional development.

Decades back, the most effective teaching method was a blackboard and chalk. Now, the times have completely changed, especially after the pandemic. Smart learning made its way into our lives even before 2016. And the technology Mohammed has been using dates back to 2017. However, the pandemic triggered a debate and raised concerns about enhancing teacher development in innovation and technology.

With every new innovation that comes, the education sector has evolved accordingly, and so have the teaching methods. For this, a teacher has to take the challenging path and adopt innovative classroom settings.

To facilitate this change, the teachers have to be geared up to face the upcoming challenges in the rigid classroom settings. Walking on a new and uncharted path, one has to overcome fears, take risks and be ready to face failures too. Stepping into new territories is surely challenging; one has to take risks, face failures and overcome fears. That is why emphasis has been laid on teacher professional development and training to adopt innovative methods that will enhance the overall learning experience.

What Do You Mean by Teacher Professional Development?

We have been talking about teacher professional development all this while; but what does this terminology refer to? According to the Cambridge Assessment International Education brief, teacher professional development aims to enhance the skill set of teachers and their practice by adopting a holistic approach to an experienced practitioner. It is a continuing process that goes on throughout a teacher’s career in order to acquire new teaching practices with changing technology.

There are some misconceptions regarding teacher professional development, which often pose a challenge to the growth and development of the teaching process. Some people believe that teachers with more experience cannot benefit from professional development. The truth is a number of years does not equate to expertise. As technology innovates and the demands of learners change, the need to stay up to date with modern pedagogy increases. The app, designed by Amruth B Ravindran of Guru-G Learning Labs in Bangalore, lets teachers discover new ideas and lesson plans for topics mentioned in the curriculum. This is something not only young teaching professionals need, but experienced teachers can also take advantage of this app. This suggests to the teacher which method is best suitable based on previous research, and the teacher can even analyse their own practises.

Monica Joshi, Head of ICT and Kovleen Middha, Teacher at a school in Ludhiana, said that the classrooms at their school were equipped with smart boards, they used digitised curriculum and lesson plans and did topic evaluation using Google Forms. This started 4 to 5 years back. At that time also, teachers were given professional training to understand and gain the required technical skills. The level of professionalism required at that time was different from what it is today simply because of the technological advancements and new innovations in the education sector.

How to Enhance Teacher Professional Development?

Globally, there are several teacher development programmes that are considered effective. What we need is to enhance the scope of professional development to a wider section of teachers. We have listed a few things that we can do to encourage the professional development of teachers:

  • As many teachers do not get access to professional development (PD) programmes, it must be ensured that every programme opportunity is designed to support experimentation and make sure that everyone has access.

  • Traditional professional development models should be replaced with newer methods to meet the demands of current times. Earlier, most of the PD activities were one-off workshops, which were ineffective in harnessing new innovations.

  • Ensure that teachers have access to technology both inside and outside the school, and they are provided regular training to make the best use of it.

  • All the private and public stakeholders should collaborate to strengthen the administrative infrastructure, as teachers cannot experiment if they teach in a punitive environment.

  • Schools and other educational institutions should create more opportunities for mentoring and teacher-to-teacher professional development.

  • The most important thing is that teachers who go through professional development programmes are not recognised, which often discourages them from continuing further. So, to motivate teachers, educational institutions should start recognising those who make use of PDs.

  • Regular sessions, workshops or seminars should be conducted to familiarise teachers with new innovative tools in the market and how they can enhance the learning experience of students.

Innovative & Effective Teaching Strategies

Innovative and Effective Teaching Strategies

Experimenting with different tools and technologies helps teachers develop their skill set, which in turn, leads to better learning experience. Here are some innovative teaching strategies that you, as a teacher, can adopt.

1. Personalised Learning

Rather than using a single approach to handle the entire class, customise your teaching plan with what, when and how each student should be taught. A teacher should adjust to the capabilities of each student and interest, though the final aim is the same. For this, you can incorporate blended and adaptive learning technologies. With a blended learning format, students will develop a sense of responsibility towards their own learning and, to some extent, will start experimenting with things. Adaptive learning technology will collect data from students’ responses to understand their learning potential. This makes it easy for the teacher to design the learning according to different students and, thus, personalise the learning experience.

2. Project-Based Learning

This is the most effective and popular teaching pedagogy. In this methodology, real-world-based problem exercises are created, and students are asked to devise a practical solution for them. Project-based learning is known to develop transferable skills in students, such as critical thinking, research and team management capabilities. Knowing its vitality, even the New Education Policy 2020 has instructed educational institutions to incorporate experience-based learning.

3. Jigsaws

“When my friend teaches me a complex topic, it doesn’t seem tough.” I can say without a doubt that most of us have experienced this. Well, this is why educators adopt the jigsaw cooperative learning technique, which follows the idea of students teaching students. Students are bifurcated into groups, and each group is assigned a certain topic. Once the group has learned about that topic, they are re-organised into new groups, and each member then discusses what they have learned. This peer-to-peer learning is compatible with both online and offline formats.

4. Asking Open-Ended Questions

To broaden students’ horizons, teachers should promote in-class discussions that involve open-ended questions. Students always rely on books on the internet to find the right answer. So much, that they do not even try to think out of the box or look for more right answers. Thus, open-ended questions here mean the problems which have more than one solution. This way, students will have to discuss and fiddle with their brains to find an answer.

5. Flipping the Classroom

Setting aside the standard lectures, the class time is dedicated to research, application and assessment. In this format, students learn topics outside the class by watching short pre-recorded lectures or researching tasks. Class time is utilised to help students work in groups or individually to explore the lengths of the topics and make each other understand. This strategy emphasises reasoning and problem-solving skills.

Bottom Line

India has over 10 million educators who require continuous professional development to be effective in classrooms. However, not every teacher receives relevant training to bridge the gap between technology and teaching. Sandhya Gatti, Head of Pedagogy and Professional Development, Chaman Bhartiya School, is of the opinion that the education infrastructure in India has remained resistant to change despite the changing environment and society’s needs. Though NEP 2020 addresses all these concerns and lays strategic steps, every institution should emphasise innovation in teacher professional development so as to upgrade its overall learning system for students.

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