Hastening Slowly: Insights about teacher development from an evaluation of courses at the WCED’s Cape Teaching and Leadership Institute

The following is an abstract from an article written by Susan Meyer, our Research Project Manager, and Dr Lydia Abel, our director, for the Journal of Education #61, 2015.

In the area of teacher professional development, South African education administrators face the challenge of reconciling two imperatives that have entirely different implications for programme time frames and budgets. On the one hand, there is an urgent need to improve the pedagogic content knowledge of many teachers to improve the overall standard of teaching and learning in the public school system. Considering the scale and urgency of the matter, centralised course-based in-service training seems to be the only affordable alternative. On the other hand, researchers have long warned that once-off course-based training on its own has limited impact on teachers' practice, and has to be accompanied by further professional support in the school and classroom, or be abandoned in favour of more enduring professional learning communities. The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has grappled with this dilemma in the Department's various professional development initiatives for teachers, a mainstay of which is the training offered by the Cape Teaching and Leadership Institute (CTLI). This paper presents some of the data and findings from an external evaluation that ORT SA CAPE conducted in 2011-2012 of courses offered by the WCED at the CTLI. The hierarchy of INSET outcomes proposed by Harland & Kinder (1997) was applied to record changes in the practice of 18 teachers at eight schools. The progress of five of the teachers is discussed to illustrate the interplay between school-level factors and the experiences of individual teachers which influenced the impact of CTLI training on their teaching.

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