6th T-PLUS Conference

6th T-PLUS Conference: Impact of Teacher Training and Development

By Nezaket Özgirin

6th T-PLUS Conference titled ‘Impact of Teacher Training and Development’ was hosted by TOBB  University of Economics and Technology in Ankara on 12th and 13th June, 2015. This was a turning point for T-Plus because as well as experienced professionals in the field of teacher training, we had many sessions presented by the participants who attended various T-PLUS events and were actively involved in setting up TTU or TDU in their institutions reflecting on their experiences, research and suggestions. In addition,  T-PLUS with Simon Phipps’ consultancy started running a free 2-day training course for inexperienced teachers who want to improve their basic training skills. 

Some session summaries and reviews: 

Rod Boitho, who currently leads the M.A. programme in PD for Language Education in Norwich (NILE), gave a plenary on ‘What CPD can do for teachers, Learners and Institutions’. Rod analysed different ways of approaching PD by anaysing 3 different definitions one of which was from the UK Training and Development Agency for Teachers. 

Professional development consists of reflective activity designed to improve an individual’s attributes, knowledge, understanding and skills. It supports individual needs and improves professional practice.

With this definition he emphasized that the understanding of PD changed from in-service training to a combination of approaches ideas and techniques that will help manage one’s own learning and growth. He highlighted some of the characteristics of CPD as follows: It’s a process, not a product; It can be social and/or individual; It is long term; It is an attitude towards one’s job, and it is associated with quality, change, improvement and good practice

Later he summarized some CPD opportunities that may arise from both individual and institutional perspectives. CPD may contribute to an institution in various ways:  a learning organization, communities of practice, the curriculum, review and appraisal, recognizing and highlighting good practice with an impact on quality. These can be achieved through certain activity types, such as focus groups (to explore issues and problems, deevelop a CPD policy and so on, workshop parties with various goals: to produce materials, develop the curriculum …etc.,  appraisal and review meetings, informal gatherings.

In-service training, being inspired, observing, being observed, reading, researching your classroom and learning from your learners were mentioned as some activities that could help teachers to enhance their professional growth. He also admitted that CPD is a leadership issue and involves some important aspects. For example,  where should CPD focus on? What is its possible effect? Some of the issues related to the focus of CPD are whether they should focus on:  individuals or groups, top-down or bottom-up initiatives, voluntary or mandatory basis, reactive or proactive. Having a useful policy may help in creating a vision, a framework or a road trip, funding, identifying and profiling leaders, and supporting quality.

Another session that was quite interesting was given by Meltem Akbulut Yıldırmış from Istanbul Şehir University with the title ‘Through the eyes of the teachers: Seeing Beyond the Surface’. The session mainly delivered the results of a small scale qualitative study done in their context to evaluate the effects of the developmental and evaluative observations. Although the comments on the evaluative observations were not very negative, they thought it was worth to revisit their usefulness and aims for further practice which seemed to raise a lot of discussion in the group. It was so useful to see how institutions work on their PD activities. Also, sharing different applications of observations in a variety of institutions gave  new insights to most participants. We certainly have a lot to learn from each other and these workshop or gatherings help improve our personal and institutional practices.

Teresa Doğuelli, representing Mac Milan Education, gave a speech on ‘The impact of the knowmadic trainer’. She defined the Knowmadic Trainer as one who travels between institutions sharing knowledge, experience and know-how. The following TED Talk was suggested for further information on the concept- Rise of Knowmads. Her aim was to answer the question ‘How does a knowmadic measure the effectiveness and results of the work they do-if they do-and how?’  In brief, knowmads are anyone at any age who leverage personal knowledge, contextually apply what they know, motivated to collaborate and purposefully use new technology, share what they know, learn unlearn and adapt, learn continuously, thrive in non-hierarchical organizations and are not afraid of failure. 

Teresa shared a quotation from Socrates (469-399 BC): ‘Children nowadays just love the easy life. They are bad mannered, show contempt for authority, and disrespect for their elders. They answer back to their parents and they drive their teachers mad’. The quotation clearly shows that the challenges of education never change.

She said knowmadic teachers do not usually have a clear idea whether their training leads to  improvement or fireworks or drop in the ocean. However, they can get some feedback on their impact by observing reactions and participation levels, what participants say afterwards, getting asked back to institutions or conferences, teachers signing on for training courses. She says one important question we need to ask ourselves is ‘Are the problems of yesterday the same as the problems of today?’

Some of the lessons she said she has learnt until now are (mostly from NLP teachings): 

-There is no failure, only feedback.

-If what you are doing is not working try something else.

-If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

-There is no difficult trainees- just trainers who don’t want to do it in their way.

-Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

-People remember how you make them feel.

-We need to follow up training systematically.

She finished her session with the quotation below:

Impossible isn't something that can't be done. It's just something that hasn't been done before.

The last plenary session called ‘Impact of Reflection Training on EFL Teachers’ Perceptions and practices’ was given by Bahar Gün, İzmir University of Economics. In her speech, she talked about a qualitative study she carried out with a group of teachers in İzmir. The results of the three- month reflection training course explored the impacts of the course on the participants’perceptions and teaching practices. The results of the study suggest that the training had a positive impact on teaching, however, more indept research should be carried out to be able to come up with more tangible suggestions to improve the impact of such courses.

More information about the programme can be seen in T-PLUS website http://www.tplusturkey.org/?p=304