Just like students, teachers can learn in many ways

Copyright: Abdal Mufti/World Bank Copyright: Abdal Mufti/World Bank

Every student needs the inspiration and guidance of a great teacher. In a continually evolving world and education landscape, how can countries best invest in the development of teachers to reach this goal?

The World Bank’s Coach program, supported by partners through the Foundational Learning Compact, helps countries design, implement, and evaluate systems of teacher continuous professional development (CPD) using the evidence on effective practices. The program’s tools and resources are being used across several countries and contexts to strengthen and support CPD programs in various ways depending on program design, available resources, and the overall vision of teacher CPD. The variation extends from simple interventions such as mobile phone text-based guidance for teachers to highly structured coaching sessions based on classroom observation, and to collaborative support through communities of practice.

Improving teacher professional development in different contexts

A new study examines how six countries are working to improve teacher CPD using the Coach program’s tools and resources in different contexts and in different ways. The purpose of the study was to better understand the variety of approaches and ways in which the tools and resources are being used, and to deduce key lessons for maximizing the impact and guiding the further development of the program.

A summary of the six case examples is shown below.

Case examples

What have we learned so far?

Some key lessons emerged from this study to help guide the Coach program and other efforts to improve teachers’ CPD. These include:

1.       There is no set formula that can be applied to every context for designing and implementing a CPD program. Countries vary significantly in terms of their education systems, institutional setup, available human resources, financial resources, and the needs of their teachers. To ensure an effective CPD program, contextual factors must be taken into consideration. For example, while individualized coaching holds promise for nurturing teachers’ professional growth, its success hinges on the availability of experienced and respected mentors within the system. The absence or limited capacity of this crucial support structure can limit the possibilities for effective widespread adoption or scaling up of this model.

2.       Contextualization is the key to success. The Coach program has many tools and resources that reflect the evidence on effective practices for teachers’ CPD. However, these tools and resources need to be adapted to local contexts to ensure that they are workable within the local institutional setups and with the available capacity and resources to address the local needs and goals.

3.       Scalability and sustainability need to be considered from the outset when selecting and designing CPD models. When large numbers of teachers need training and ongoing support on the rollout of a new curriculum, for example, programs should choose from options of CPD that can feasibly be implemented at scale. Not every teacher has the same needs — some are new to the profession, some are experienced, and some are exceptionally innovative. When considering scalability and sustainability, it is also important to identify the needs of different groups of teachers, target the training and ongoing support to where it is most needed, and use the talent in the system to achieve the goal.

4.       There is a need to think of teacher CPD beyond traditional training or coaching to a wider variety of collaborative and alternative strategies. Professional learning communities, personal professional development plans, peer learning, tutor teachers, collaborative teaching, team-teaching, and online learning in networks are some possibilities to be added for the lifelong learning path of teachers.

What next?

An innovative and inclusive education system can only be achieved with committed and competent teachers. A strategic and comprehensive CPD system is needed to meet the needs of each teacher throughout their career. In addition, when initial teacher education programs in universities or teacher training colleges (preservice) are effective, a pipeline of new teachers have a strong basis on which to continue to learn and adapt to a fast-changing world. Therefore, attention also needs to be given to improving initial teacher education programs.

The Teach suite of classroom observation tools and the Coach program tools and resources for improving teacher CPD continue to be developed to support countries’ education system improvement efforts. The World Bank is grateful for the support of partners through the Foundational Learning Compact, a World Bank multi-donor umbrella trust fund that supports countries to accelerate foundational learning and strengthen education systems for better learning outcomes in early childhood, primary, and secondary education. The continued study of countries’ program implementation across different contexts allows for needs-based future development of resources and tools, and helps to structure operational support such that it is effective in addressing local needs, and engages stakeholders in meaningful ways.

The full report on the study can be accessed here.

Abdal Mufti

Consultant, Education Global Practice, World Bank

Anneli Rautiainen

Senior Education Specialist

Laura Gregory

Senior Education Specialist

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