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octubre 19

Professional Development
Professor: Roco Ibarguen

Milagros Cruz

Teachers Professional development and the subsequent transformation of their professional identity

Before discussing and determining what professional development is it is important to talk about a very important, yet subjective matter. Good teachers. Depending on a number of factors, we could say good teachers are those who, experienced or not, know their subject. Good teachers practice effective teaching methods. We could also argue that good teachers are those who are well prepared, period. Regardless of the perspective we adopt, I think we can all agree in saying that: Good teachers are those who continue to improve their knowledge and skills throughout their careers Here is where professional development comes into play. Villegas-Reimers (2003) defines it as a long term process that includes regular opportunities and experiences planned systematically to promote growth and development in the profession. She mentions this perspective of professional development to be relatively new, and based on constructivism. This would imply a chronic process of self-reflection for teachers to construct from what they already are and know. To these main characteristics she adds the fact that professional development is now perceived as a long-term collaborative process that takes place within a particular

context, and is intimately linked to school reform. The implications of this definition are easy to see and understand: Professional Development is closely linked to Professional Identity. Reflection on ones professional identity can even be considered as the first step towards professional development. According to Cattley (2007) professional identity can be understood as a selfdescription molded by the context, and built in collaboration with fellow teachers. We can consider formation of (student) teachers professional identities a reflective and ongoing process. This so called identity will be nurtured by the teachers own experiences as well as by teacher training, teacher education and peer observation. A thorough understanding of the breadth and complexity of the teachers role is a key element in identity formation. (Cattley) Professional development consists in transforming and improving our teaching identities. We can follow several paths to achieve professional development. In the U.S. the Public Education Network (PEN, 2004) suggests teachers to access online information and activities, attend conferences, participate in curriculum planning, work collaboratively, and pursue National Board certification. SEP, the Ministry of Education, acknowledged the importance of promoting teachers professional development. (Cuadernos de discusin, p.19, 2003). Analogous to PENs proposals, SEP urges institutions and teachers to work collaboratively and share experiences. Unlike former, the latter offers conferences for teachers to attend at the beginning of each school year. Even when SEP stimulates

teachers to take courses by offering them higher salaries, the courses available change from region to region. Professional Development for ESL teachers is a whole different world due to the lack of a national standard. Even when teachers of English in Mexico can take a number of courses and get certified by international institutions such as Cambridge through a TKT, ICELT, and CELTA, among others there is no standard, and the concept of professional development will highly depend on the institution that hires the teacher. Regarding a standard-based system of teacher development Darling-Hammond (2000) states:

Whats needed is a cohesive and comprehensive approach aimed at aligning policies and incentives for recruitment, certification, preparation, induction, and professional development under the same set of standards Villegas-Reimers (2003), mentions a wide array of techniques to achieve professional development. These techniques include seminars, action research, coaching, and even teachers participation in new roles. I think seminars are the most conventional way to achieve development. Being a teacher myself I find seminars inconvenient due to the long hours teachers need to devote to them at once. For instance, even when I am interested in attending a given seminar it is near impossible due to previous commitments. To me professional development implies openness to change. That is why I found the idea of having a teacher participate in a new role so appealing. Observing more experienced teachers not only helped me expand my repertoire of activities and class dynamics. It also increased my self-confidence, which translated in better student outcomes. Being observed is also very helpful, yet there is nothing like being the one taking notes on other teachers behaviors and knowledge. Action research, though a relatively new concept for me, has been really helpful. Through action research we can improve our teaching practice by tackling real problems relevant in our teaching context. I already feel it is helping me and my students improve class interaction as well as understanding even when I am only halfway through my first action research project. It certainly is a concept I would like to keep exploring in the future. Unfortunately it is even more demanding than seminars. Coaching is especially useful for teachers who have been working in the field for a longer time. Through coaching teachers can share their experience and reflect on their practice. Experienced teachers sometimes doubt theres anything new worth learning. Even when they think this way and in order to keep updated, they need to keep themselves informed of the latest research and theories. There are several ways to access material on these matters: online teacher communities, bulletins and magazines. Villegas-Reimers also cites a term used by Glatthorn (1987). The term is Cooperative or collegial development. In this model teachers develop their own paths towards professional development in small groups. Some ways this can be implemented are:

professional dialogues to discuss issues of permanent interest curriculum development peer supervision peer coaching action research to collaboratively inquire about a real problem in their teaching

As solid as this model is, it doesnt seem to me it could easily be adapted to the Mexican ESL teaching context. Here, teachers hold at least two jobs, and that is barely enough to make a living. This results in little time to devote to action research. Another inconvenient is curriculum development since most teachers do not have the freedom to decide what to include in the curriculum or not. Even when there are some institutions that might allow the teacher to do so, most of them have pre-established curriculums. Peer interaction doesnt seem to be a problem. The model overall seems really beneficial for professional identity formation. The next model cited by Villegas-Reimers is that of Joyce and Showers (1988), the Skills development model. This models components include an exploration of theory through lectures, discussions and readings, the demonstrations of skills through videos, practice under simulated conditions, as well as feedback provided by peers. The main advantage of this model is that the reading can be done in the teachers own free time, and follow their own pace. These are just two examples of models that can be implemented to promote professional development in teachers. However, it is essential to keep in mind that teachers professional development will be determined by their contexts, which implies the last key actor to cooperate as well: Institutions. Without the institutions support, it is really hard for teachers to get the resources and time to implement any of the ideas mentioned in the present essay. There are several common concepts to professional identity and professional development. One cant take place without the other. A good teacher will continue to improve his or her teaching skills, which makes professional development an ongoing process. In turn, a teachers professional identity is not static; it changes, evolves and adapts the teachers context over time. The first step to professional development is the location and identification of ones professional identity.

Becoming aware or ones professional identity is not a complex matter as long as we remember that our professional identity is formed and transformed by our training, context, institution as well as by our own experiences. An excellent exercise for identifying our identity traits is writing a teacher biography in which we include people whom we took as role models and learned from. This identity will change to accommodate the context; it will develop. That is why professional development takes occurs. Theres no such thing as a magical formula or a single yellow-brick road towards professional development, we can adopt different measures. What really matters is that we have a genuine interest in growing and keep on learning. As long as we are willing to change and improve, our students learning outcomes will also improve. Do that [professional development] well, and extraordinary results from students will follow. Linda Darling-Hammond


Cattley, G. (2007). Emergence of professional identity for the pre-service teacher. International Education Journal, 8(2), 337-347. Retrieved October 16, 2012, from Darling-Hammond, L. (2000). CAREER-LONG TEACHER DEVELOPMENT: Policies that Make Sense. Knowledge Brief, 2, 1-7. Retrieved October 16, 2012, from Written by Joan McRobbie. The brief draws from a presentation by Linda Darling-Hammond to the WestEd Board of Directors in March 2000 Public Education Network: Publications. (n.d.). Public Education Network: Home. Retrieved October 17, 2012, from SEP. (2003, July 20). Hacia una poltica integral para la formacin y el desarrollo profesional de los maestros de educacin bsica. Cuadernos de discusin SEP, 1, 722. Villegas-Reimers, E. (2003). Teacher professional development: an international review of the literature. Paris: International Institute for Educational Planning.

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