Enhancing teacher capital

Rubina Majid

Teachers need to change and teaching will change inevitably. We cannot have teachers walking into classrooms without any teaching capabilities. Teachers need to be equipped with a broad grounding in the humanities and sciences; knowledge of the subjects to be taught, of the skills to be developed, and of the curricular arrangements and materials that organize and embody that content; knowledge of subject-specific methods for teaching and for evaluating student learning; knowledge of students and human development; skills in effectively teaching students from racially, ethnically, and socio-economically diverse backgrounds; and the skills, capacities and dispositions to employ such knowledge wisely in the interest of students.

The formal degree, i.e, the B.Ed that teachers and schools rely on is not adequate. It delivers inadequate guidance in many situations. Teaching ultimately requires judgment, creativeness, and conversation about means and ends. Human qualities, expert knowledge and skill, and professional commitment together compose excellence in this craft called teaching.

And then there is the onslaught of technology which is pushing education to newer and uncharted boundaries.

Think of the very limited change in education in India as compared to the automotive industry, computer industry, retail consumer industry, etc. Big leaps forward are not a foregone conclusion. Why is education not included?

We need to develop programs to identify and recognize teachers who effectively enhance student learning and demonstrate the high level of knowledge, skills, abilities and commitments reflected in the following five essential strategies.

teachers-group Photos courtesy: Rubina Majid

1. Teachers are steadfast in their commitment to students and their learning.
Skillful teachers are dedicated to making knowledge accessible to all students. They act on the belief that all students can learn. They treat students equitably, recognizing the individual differences that distinguish one student from another and taking account of these differences in their practice. They adjust their practice based on observation and knowledge of their students’ interests, abilities, skills, family circumstances, and peer relationships.

Skillful teachers understand how students develop and learn. They integrate the fundamental theories of cognition and intelligence in their practice. They are aware of the influence of context and culture on behaviour. They develop students’ cognitive capacity and their respect for learning. Equally important, they foster students’ self-esteem, motivation, character, civic responsibility and their respect for individual, cultural, religious, and racial differences.

2. Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
Skillful teachers have a rich understanding of the subject(s) they teach and appreciate how knowledge in their subject is created, organized, linked to other disciplines and applied to real-world settings. While faithfully representing the collective wisdom of our culture and upholding the value of disciplinary knowledge, they also develop the critical and analytical capacities of their students.

Skillful teachers command specific knowledge of how to convey and reveal subject matter to students. They are aware of the presumptions and background knowledge that students typically bring to each subject and of strategies and instructional materials that can be of assistance. They understand where difficulties are likely to arise and modify their practice accordingly. Their instructional range allows them to create multiple paths to the subjects they teach, and they are skillful at teaching students how to pose and solve their own problems.

3. Teachers are responsible for handling and observing student learning.
Skillful teachers create, enrich, maintain and alter instructional settings to capture and sustain the interest of their students and to make the most effective use of time. They also are adept at engaging students and adults to assist their teaching and at enlisting their co-worker’ knowledge to balance their own. Skillful teachers command a range of broad instructional techniques, know when each is appropriate and can implement them as needed. They are as aware of unsuccessful or negative practice as they are dedicated to well-designed practice.

They know how to engage groups of students to warrant a disciplined learning environment, and how to organize instruction to allow the schools’ goals for students to be met. They are accomplished at setting norms for social interaction among students and between students and teachers. They understand how to encourage students to learn and how to maintain their interest even in the face of momentary setback.

Skillful teachers can assess the progress of each student as well as that of the class as a whole as they believe in formative assessment. They employ numerous methods for gauging student growth and understanding and can clearly explain student performance to parents.

4. Teachers think systematically about their practice.
Skillful teachers are models of educated persons, representing the qualities they seek to inspire in students:

  • curiosity, tolerance, honesty, fairness, respect for diversity and appreciation of cultural differences.
  • the capacities that are fundamentals for intellectual growth: the ability to reason.
  • to take multiple viewpoints to be creative and take risks, and to adopt an experimental and problem solving direction.

Skillful teachers draw on their information of human development, subject matter and instruction, and their understanding of their students to make ethical judgments about sound practice.

Their decisions are not only grounded in literature, but also in their experience. Striving to reinforce their teaching, skillful teachers critically examine their practice, seek to expand their range, deepen their knowledge, improve their judgment and adapt their teaching to new information, ideas, and concepts.

teacher-in-classroom

5. Teachers are lifelong learners.
Skillful teachers contribute to the effectiveness of the school by working as a team with other professionals on instructional policy, curriculum development and teacher development. They can evaluate school progress and the sharing of school resources in light of their understanding of state and school educational objectives. They are knowledgeable about specialized school and community resources that can be engaged for their students’ advantage, and are skilled at employing such resources as needed.

Skillful teachers find ways to group resources and creatively with parents, engaging them efficiently in the work of the school.

To have such skillful teachers in our schools we need to commit ourselves to professionalism in teaching. The term “professional” means occupations characterized by certain qualities.

Professionals like doctors, engineers, lawyers, financial consultants, bureaucrats, etc., deal with crucial human problems: matters of life and death, justice, hope, and opportunity. Essential to their work is the trust of clients. What deserves such trust is the obligation, upheld within the community of professionals, to pursue an ethic of service and to employ special knowledge and capability in the interests of their clients.

Why are teachers not included in this category?

The above observations definitely apply to teaching, but with important distinctions. While teachers employ their knowledge and skill on students, they also endeavour to empower students to continue the quest for understanding, so that one day the pupil may outdo the instructor. Consequently, teaching is the most democratic of professions. It aims to place within the hands, head and hearts of students the means for them to teach themselves.

Just as professionals in medicine, architecture, and law have opportunities to learn through examining case studies, learning best practices, and participating in internships, model teacher-preparation programs allow teachers the time to apply their learning of theory in the context of teaching in a real classroom.

Professional development for teachers has a direct impact on student learning and achievement and it plays important, independent roles in improving organizational capacity and enhancing teacher capital.

So let us have Teacher-Induction Programs and Ongoing Professional Development for Teachers in our schools for a new generation of lifelong learners as they deserve the best!!!

The author is a teacher and a trainer by profession. She believes in continuous professional development for teachers and has shared practical teaching strategies with many teachers. She is now bringing her passion for education to teachers and administrators through workshops and professional development. She can be reached at majidrubina@gmail.com.