Specific training to enhance teachers

Professional development for educators has been a key enabling factor for transformation in education as it involves transforming their knowledge into practice for the benefit of their learners.

THE emergence of a technology-driven world has raised many challenges to conservative teaching and learning in traditional classrooms.

Coupled with volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) characteristics of current environment, both what is to be learned and how learning or knowledge construction should happen, need serious reconceptualisation.

The notion of 21st century learning can be viewed as an overarching vision of education that many educators are now advocating as a collective response to the emerging challenges.

A growing number of policy makers and educators are united around the idea that students need ‘21st century skills’ to be successful today.

It is exciting to believe that we live in times that are so revolutionary that they demand new and different abilities.

However, these 21st century skills aren’t new.

21st century skills

The likes of critical thinking and problem solving have been components of human progress throughout history. From the development of early tools, agricultural advancements and the invention of vaccines, to land and sea exploration.

So, what is new is the extent of changes in our economy and the world which consequently means, collective and individual success depends on having such skills. The Education Ministry is sensitive to respond to the VUCA situations and challenges.

Strategies are formed to upskill and empower teachers and school leaders, with close collaboration with the Education Performance and Delivery Unit (PADU).

Professional development for educators has been a key enabling factor for transformation in education; it involves transforming their knowledge into practice for the benefit of their learners.

Various aspects must be considered to develop educators’ competencies for 21st century teaching and learning.

These include knowledge, beliefs, and design thinking capacities of the educators and school leaders.

It has been advocated that a professional learning community is a viable way for educators to participate in the co-constructing of knowledge to experience the required transformative changes.

“PADU realises the importance of equipping school leaders and teachers with capacities to deal with emerging challenges.

“We see the necessity of adaptive expertise directed toward solving emerging problems.

“We have a sector in PADU that specifically looks into this which is our Teachers and School Leaders (TSL) sector.

“Instead of converting content knowledge through pedagogical means so that they are accessible to students, we believe teachers in a knowledge building environment must encourage students to construct understanding themselves.

“Guiding students’ sense-making processes is highly discursive and it demands teachers to ask appropriate questions,” says PADU chief executive officer Khadijah Abdullah.

Such adaptive expertise would require teachers to develop the ability to orchestrate learning rather than delivering information in a controlled environment.

Advocates of 21st century skills favour student-centred methods such as problem-based and project-based learning as it allows students to collaborate, work on problems and creatively find its solutions, and engage with the community.

These approaches are widely acclaimed and can be found in any pedagogical method textbook.

However, even its advocates acknowledge that these methods pose classroom management problems for teachers.

When students collaborate, one expects a certain amount of hubbub in the classroom, which could devolve into chaos in less experienced hands.

These methods also demand that teachers be knowledgeable about a broad range of topics and are prepared to make prompt decisions as the lesson plan progresses.

Anyone who has watched a highly effective teacher lead a class by simultaneously engaging with teaching and learning content, managing classrooms and continuously monitoring students progress, knows how intense and demanding the work is.

It is a constant juggling act that involves keeping many balls in the air.

“For change to move beyond the ministry or PADU’s offices and penetrate classrooms, we in PADU understand that professional development is a massive undertaking.

“Most teachers do not need to be persuaded that problem-based learning or project-based learning is a good idea—they already believe that and many have already integrate it in their classrooms.

“What teachers most need now are more robust training and support, including specific and focused training that enhances teachers and school leaders competencies and capacities,” states Dr Ruhaya Hassan, who leads the TSL sector in PADU .

Via the Malaysia Education Blueprint, the Ministry with PADU are looking at facilitating teachers to adapt and adopt these skills, developing the competencies that our teachers may already have but are perhaps quite unsure on how to utilise fully. As for those still being trained in the Ministry’s teachers training colleges, much is being done to develop their comprehension, competencies and ultimately their commitment to 21st century teaching and learning.

This simplicity in seeing things underestimates the challenges in implementing such methods of teaching and learning, hence ignoring the gravity of real issues and problems that come with such implementation.

Teachers need to be prepared and enabled for progress and improvements in education, and in this case, based on the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, the ministry, together with PADU, have taken various steps in this direction under the Teacher Charter.

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