These days, the notion of teacher development (TD) has gained a significant place in an academic discourse around the globe. However, teacher development appears to be myth in the Nepalese context. In this paper, I attempt at exploring pertinent issues in EFL teacher development in Nepal based on its social, cultural and economic realities.This paper can be roughly divided into three sections. In the first section, I seek to familiarize readers with training situation in Nepal sharing my experience and introduce them with the notion of teacher development. In the second section, I focus on the issues related to widely used TD strategies such as pre-service and in-service trainings, and conference from socio-cultural and economic perspectives. And in the final section, I express the need of redefining teacher development to make it more contextual and need based.
Keywords: Teacher development, trainings, issues in teacher development, bottom up approach
Recently I attended a training session organized by a renowned teacher organization. It was a huge gathering of about five hundred teachers from private schools of Lalitpur district.The training was supposed to orient all teachers on new curriculum and evaluation system adopted by ministry of education. Divided into two parts, the first part of the programme began with a formal sessionincluding lighting candle and putting garland. Then, the experts shared their experiences and general ideas on curriculum and evaluation. It continued for two hours; so, most participants were found sleepy and tired listening to lecture by the experts.
The next session was supposed to be more specificon preparing test items of each subject based on new evaluation system. We, more than 50 English teachers were guided into a classroom for the next session. It was a congested room where we could hardly move here and there. To begin the session, the facilitator asked us to introduce each-other but it did not work well as participant could not stand and move from the place. Next, he collected our expectations that we had from the session but moved to his slide leaving our expectations aside. He started lecturing on the differences between old and new curriculum, the importance of new curriculum and so on and so forth. Once again, the same lecture continued though the participants were not interested at all. Consequently, most participants left the session in half an hour asking for break and did not return to the session.
As an EFL teacher, you might have attended trainings and workshops in which you felt bored and disinterested and did not get what you expected from them. We participate in teacher developmental activities with an aim to learn from them and develop ourselves as professionals. However, only participating in such activities may not guarantee our development.This raises a question- is teacher development just a myth? The question seems to be unanswered in our context.Therefore, in this paper, I discuss on some pertinent issues in EFL teacher development in Nepal based on its social, cultural and economic realities. In doing so, I mainly focus on teacher training and conference and argue for rethinking in TD to make it more effective and teacher-centered.
Teacher development can simply be defined as a process of leading a teacher in a journey of professional development. Diaz Maggioli (2004) calls it as a career-long process in which educators fine-tune their teaching to meet student needs. The notion of teacher development grew with the realization that teachers want something more than just new classroom ideas or new knowledge about content and pedagogy (Wright, 2000, as cited in Gnawali, 2014). The above opinions suggest that teacher development is a means of developing teacher to make difference in students’ learning.A teacher can follow a number of individual and collaborative strategies to develop professionally. Attending trainings and conference, writing and publishing articles, joining professional groups, and networking are found to be main teacher development activities in Nepal.
Teacher development can be significant as the success of whole education system seems to lie upon the shoulders of teachers. If they develop, it can have beneficial impact on whole teaching learning process. In this line Diaz Maggioli (2004) opines that the ultimate aim of all forms of teacher development, whether effective or not, is to improve student learning. Therefore, teacher development seems to be gaining a significant space in academic discourse such as research studies, conferences and publications. But we can find a number of issues with teacher development activities in Nepal which cannot be overlooked.
Issues in EFL teacher development in Nepal
It is believed that the teachers, who participate in professional development strategies such as training and conference, can develop in their professional career. However, just participating in such activities might not ensure teacher development. In this line Diaz Maggioli (2004) claims, “Professional development, as we have known it for years now, has yielded little or no positive effects on student learning” (p.1). Thus, it seems to be essential to explore the reasons why teacher development fails to make difference in students’ learning. I believe the reason behind such failure can be better explored based on particular social, cultural and economic context. Since training and conferences seem to be the main options for teacher development in Nepalese context, I mainly focus on the issues related to training and conferences in the following section.
Issues in teacher training
Teacher training is mainly divided into pre-service and in-service training. Pre-service trainings, often known as teacher education course, are offered to trainee before they enter into teaching field whereas in-service trainings, as the name suggests, are offered to teachers involved in real teaching.The pre-service training attempts to provide trainees methodological options and the in-service training seeks to help working teachers to improve their teaching practice and develop themselves professionally However, when I reflect on my experience, I realized that teacher trainings, both pre-service and in-service, seem to have become a myth in the Nepalese context. We can find a number of issues relating to both pre-service and in-service teacher training in Nepal.
Simply, pre-service training courses aim at preparing teachers capable for the coming future. It is believed that the methodological options offered during teacher training courses help them adjust in teaching field. In fact, such courses are designed with intent to develop multi-dimensional awareness and the ability to apply this awareness to their actual context (Mann, 2005). In case of EFL teacher, they are required to have specific knowledge, skills and attitude before they enter into teaching field. They must have knowledge of content (i.e. command over language), target and local cultures, and skills and techniques of teaching (i.e. knowledge of pedagogy). And, they also need to be aware of language learning theories (SLA). Thus, a well prepared English Language Teacher Education(ELTE) course must cover these all components or areas successfully.
However, most training courses in Nepal seem to focus on the theoretical aspect and overlook the practical aspect. Actually, in teacher education course, trainees seem to learn both from their facilitators’ way of teaching and the course content. In Nepalese context, teacher trainers are often found to be giving wonderful lecture on communicative method. Therefore, the trainees can easily notice a gap between what they preach about teaching methodology should be and how they teach actually. Consequently, even after taking years of training, the trainees are found to teach the way their trainers teach them or they were taught in the school. Few of them are found to use the methods they learn in their course, but in long run, they also shift their practices to the way they have been taught. They happen to be the ghost of their teachers.
Reflecting upon my experience, I found particularly three kinds of issues related to: sessions design, delivery, preparation and impact. First, training sessions seem to be poorly designed. The session designers are not found to follow the principle and stages of training sessions design: experience, reflection and theorization(Britten, 1988) and therefore often lack to embrace awareness raising components,conscious awareness of principles and experiential components,the practical activities in the training session. The experiential components such as experience sharing, activities and tasks, actual teaching or simulated teaching can be essential in training (Ellis, 1986); but most training sessions overlook such activities and fail to meet participants’ needs and expectations in our context. So participants can hardly take something concrete from training in their class. Moreover, most training sessions seem to be designed from top down approach, often by the experts who hardly know needs of the teachers working in a particular context. They are also found to be the ones who are not involved in real teaching activities.
Next, the session delivery appears to be the main issue in training in Nepalese context. There can be two reasons for it: trainers’ qualification and their experience and preparation. First, the trainers’ qualifications and skills appear to be vital in the success of training session. They must be aware of how adult learn and training frame work for delivery. In this line Brookfield (1986) mentions six ways of learning in training programme: direct input by the trainers, learning through sharing, practice and exercise, formal and informal methods of observation, and exchanges with participants and trainers. Likewise, Wright and Bolitho (2007)present a cycle of learning by Kolb (1984) to be used as a framework for training. It includes a cyclic process of planning, doing, reflecting and making meaning. This framework seems to be similar to the three stages of training session: experience, refection and theorization proposed by Britten (1988). Thus, trainers needs be awareness of these components and issues.
However, the trainers are not found to be able to pay attention to such framework and stages of training design in the Nepalese context. As participants in trainings have certain qualification such as experiences, teaching license, and knowledge of contexts, the trainers also need to have required skills. This raises questions:what are the criteria to be trainers? Do they possess certain skills and qualification to become trainers in Nepalese context? In this line Wright (2009) felt the need of ‘training for trainer’ to transform teacher into trainers which he calls the further layer of professional development for teacher.
Third and the most importantly, preparation seems to be at the heart of training but we often found it to be missing in training sessions in Nepal. In this regard,Poudel (2014) mentions copy cat mentality, shortage of trained trainers, teaching condition as main issues and challenges in in-services training. Instead on preparing own materials, the trainers are found to be using others’ materials which are not base on trainees’ needs. Moreover, the sessions are mostly delivered using lecture method. Thus, poor training design and delivery seems to decrease the possibility of realizing intended outcome and hence, training seem to fail to meet the objectives. These seem to be the main reasons why teaching practices lack to reflect evidences of trainings in the classroom of Nepal although most teachers are claimed to be trained (Poudel, 2014).
Issues in conference
Attending conferences can be significant to get ourselves updated with the recent trend and issues in ELT globally. For instance, while attending NELTA conference, we get opportunity to meet with renowned scholars from home and abroad and share our ideas, living theories, and success stories. So, it seems to have become a platform to develop ourselves professionally. However, when we examine carefully, I realized that conference is all about rushing from one room to another. Sometimes we get surprised at finding good session from particular presenter and sometimes get irritated when we cannot enter into a session we want to go. We might feel bored in particular session and express anger at organizer for not being able to maintain quality in conference. Moreover, sometimes it becomes frustrating when sessions are cancelled, especially when we have already missed the other concurrent sessions in search of cancelled ones.
From my experience, I found two issues related to conference. First, we look for presentation by foreign presenters which may not necessarily be effective and applicable in our context. Sometimes, it is just sharing of thesis finding which we might not be interested in it. Next, generally the sessions by local presenters are found be avoided even though they can be motivating and contextual. Participants may find their ideas suitable to be used in their context as local presenters are aware of it. But sometimes, such presentations seem to lack standard and may fail to meet participants’ expectation.Above all, in conferences, one may not find everything interesting or important but they can have something for them to take into their class if they make conference plan effectively(Diaz Maggioli, 2003).
Issues related to other TD strategies
Besides training, workshop and conferences, EFL teachers are found to be engaged in other professional development activities like networking, observing each other’s class, mentoring, reflective practice, writing journal, joining professional associations, and collaborative teaching etcetera. Maggioli (2003) mentions six different options for professional development such as conference plan, peer coaching, action research, dialog journal, collaborative study group, and individual development plan. When I reflect on these options, I found that very few teachers are found to be involved in action research and writing journal and have individual plan for development. And there is almost no practice of peer coaching and collaborative study group. So, most of these options are not found to be practised in our context. Likewise, reflective practice seems to be mostly used approach in teacher development around the globe, however,in Nepalese context there is no tendency among majority of the teachers to reflect on their teaching behaviour and try to learn from them (Gnawali, 2014).Moreover, they also hesitate to participate in collaborative practice (Poudel, 2014) as well. Above all, besides pre-service and in-service training, the other strategies for teacher development strategies seem to be less used in Nepalese context.
When we analyse the issues related to training, conferences and workshops, we can find them guided by our social, cultural and economic realities. In our context, teaching is found to be a less paid job and this is often taken as last options as a profession. So, a number of teachers are found to be engaged in teaching profession as they do not get job in other field. They are not found intrinsically motivated to make difference in their life as a professional and improve their teaching learning process. Moreover, they are forced to be engaged in other business besides teaching. If they are only involved in teaching, they work at multiples places.
Teachers come to school directly from their farm and enter in the classroom. In this context, can they implement something they learn in training and conferences? They hardly know the topic to be taught in particular class. Even if someone is a conscious teacher and wants to improve their teaching practice, can he/she do so? In my own case, I have been engaged at three different institutions as a teacher. How can I manage time to prepare my lesson effectively?
Context seems to be vital in teacher development. When we deeply analyse the above literature, we find they focus on the global need. They talk about what to teach, why to teach, when to teach but often miss where and whom to teach. Thus, context is one of the overlooked parts in teacher education. This might be one of the reason the brought/foreign methods, techniques, ideas remain foreign to us and cannot used effective in our context.
Therefore, there is a need of bottom up teacher development approach where an individual teacher can develop based on their needs and resources. One should be encouraged to change as Brookfield (1986) adult development is voluntary – no one can force a person to learn and grow;each teacher is unique in important ways. It is impossible to create single centrally administered and planned programmes of professional development that meet everyone’s needs and desires. Thus it is time to redefine teacher development focussing on individual, social, cultural and economic realities. So, I argue for bottom up teacher development where each individual will have space to plan and grow based on their own realities. Thus, teacher development needs to be defined based on what we do in classroom. It must be directed to bring change in teaching behaviour. What we do in classroom defines the kind of teacher we are; so a developed teacher isone who can make differences in classroom based on their own realities.
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Wright, T. (2009). “Trainer Development”: Professional development for language teacher educators. In Anne Burns and Jack C, Richards (editors).The Cambridge guide to second language teacher education (pp.102-112). New Delhi: Cambridge University Press.
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(Gyanendra Kumar Yadav is a lecturer of English at Grammar College, Koteshwor and Bajrabarahi Higher Secondary School Chapagaun, Lalitpur. Having more than 6 years of years of teaching experience, recently, he is pursuing his M. Phil. in English Language Education from Kathmandu University, School of Education. He is also a life member of NELTA, and has published journal articles and presented papers in NELTA conferences. His areas of interest include teaching English through literature, teachers’ professional development, language planning and policy, EFL teachers’ identity and critical pedagogy.)