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Ashish Dhawan & Namita Dalmia: Empowering teachers

Teachers need to be provided with the necessary skills and mindsets that can equip them to become competent educators committed to student learning

Ashish Dhawan & Namita Dalmia 

Ashish Dhawan & Namita Dalmia

Every year, thousands of young adults enter the teaching profession, in our education system that already has 8.5 million teachers. Teachers are responsible for more than just the academic achievement of their students. They have a huge impact on building their future and hence the future of our nation. The question that we need to ask is how are we supporting our teachers to be highly effective in their classrooms?

Many deep-rooted issues plague our current teacher development system. These issues range from inadequate preparation before entering the profession to lack of recognition and continuing professional development opportunities.

Teachers need to be equipped with the necessary skills and mindsets that can equip them to become competent educators committed to student learning. To support our teachers, some organisations are already building innovative models across three critical levers of teacher preparation, continuous professional development and motivation.

  • Enabling a practice-oriented teacher preparation system: Our current teacher preparation system relies too heavily on theoretical aspects of training, with a negligible practical component. When young teachers enter the profession, they are not adequately prepared for real-life classroom experiences.

I am a Teacher, a non-profit organisation, runs a residency-based teacher education programme where student teachers spend a whole year in classrooms teaching alongside mentor teachers. The combination of real classroom experience along with connections made to theory equips teachers for effective classroom instruction. The one-year course work is divided into four phases: building self-awareness, enhancing knowledge and skills, encouraging the building of a personal theory of education, and finally, creating a repository of best teaching practices.

Muktangan, an organisation running its own schools and teacher education programme, aims to provide experiential learning to its trainee teachers by constantly relating theory to practice. The trainees undertake intensive observation of individual children over the course of one year. They discuss and reflect upon their observations in a weekly tutorial with a faculty member and produce a detailed case study capturing all aspects of child development by the end of the course.

  • Ensuring continuing professional development for in-service teachers: Teachers need curriculum-aligned resources and opportunities that can help them evolve as professionals. They need to be empowered with the latest tools for lesson planning, assessments, integration of technology, inclusion in classrooms and promoting 21st century skills in students.

By using social networking platforms such as WhatsApp, teachers are already creating 'Communities of Learning' to share best practices on these areas with their peers.

Innovative teacher-mentor models are helping teachers improve their pedagogical skills, thereby empowering them for better classroom delivery. Sustained Mastery Programme run by 3.2.1 Education Foundation provides in-school coaching support to teachers after a two-day intensive workshop. The 1:1 mentoring where teachers get specific feedback on their classroom practice ensures that teachers are able to apply the knowledge they gained during the training workshop.

  • Enhancing teacher motivation: By creating an enabling environment for professional development in the current school environments, teachers can be motivated to improve their classroom delivery.

STiR is working with around 10,000 teachers across India to empower them to become committed, skillful and influential teachers. It engages with teachers over a three-year period. During this, it focuses on building motivation and cultivating a growth mindset in teachers, training them to integrate best practices in the classroom and sharing learning in their networks. STiR certifies its teachers based on professional skills, facilitation skills, classroom practices, and subject matter expertise.

Centre for Teacher Accreditation (CENTA) offers assessment and certification services for teachers based on competencies expected from them. Their vision is to motivate teachers to take full ownership of their own professional development and therefore also catalyse demand for high-quality teacher development.

While these organisations are leading the way for innovation in teacher development, there is a need for concerted effort by government, donors and civil society to scale these innovative models and build the capacity of teachers in our education system. The government can create an enabling policy environment for fostering such innovations, and donors and civil society can collaborate to identify the specific needs of teachers and develop solutions accordingly.

Teacher quality is central to the problems and solutions of our education system. Great teachers not only make learning fun and stimulating, but can impact children's lives, empowering them to become responsible and productive citizens. As we celebrate Teachers' Day, let's recognise and celebrate the role that teachers play in changing lives and building nations, and commit to enabling them for the highest level of performance and education delivery.

Ashish Dhawan is founder of Central Square Foundation and Namita Dalmia is Associate Director, leading the Foundation's work on EdTech and Teachers

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First Published: Sat, September 05 2015. 21:48 IST