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To enhance positive learning outcomes among the teachers, there is the need to analyze the teacher professional learning needs. I work in a girls’ university in Saudi Arabia. The institution values high quality teaching outcomes that include the ability of the teachers to engage in professional development.
The university places value in Quality Teaching (QT) and has entrenched the pedagogy in almost all departments and teaching programs. Teacher professional learning through QT has however encountered challenges owing to the different characteristics of learning needs exhibited by different generations of teachers.
In particular, the learning needs of ‘Baby Boomers’ and ‘Generation Y’ generations contrast sharply and may lead to different learning outcomes. Nonetheless, the institution’s ability to implement QT pedagogy has been instrumental in demystifying the roles and power relations between teachers and students for improved outcomes.
There are opportunities within the institution of integrating other pedagogical frameworks that will lead to improved results although there are no formal arrangements agitating for the changes. Besides, the institution has the opportunity of ensuring that different learning needs exhibited by various teachers are opportunities for appreciating diversity within the education context.
Lack of uniform learning outcomes among the teachers is a major challenge that may undermine the achievements made so far. This paper seeks to identify, analyze and synthesize factors that could enhance or inhibit QT professional learning.
Factors Influencing Teacher Professional Learning in QT
Like precedent pedagogies, QT works in framework that allows distinction of productive and unproductive pedagogies. QT is a pedagogical model that allows the teachers to fulfill their roles of imparting knowledge on students with efficiency. There are factors that affect QT model of professional learning.
At the outset, Brock (1999) explicates that there are political dimensions that can inhibit or enhance professional learning. QT makes differentiations in that the teachers comprehend the distinction between quality of the teacher and the quality of teaching. This differentiation allows the teaching professionals to make changes in their teaching practices as opposed to making changing at personal levels.
Indeed, Quality Teaching model of pedagogy distinguishes teaching and teachers explicitly. This factor allows the institution to provide high learning environment and deepen the comprehension of all students as a way of boosting improved outcomes. As such, differentiation is an important factor that allows the teachers using QT pedagogy to understand the learning and teaching environment with much focus on teaching practices.
Techniques and practices affect the learning outcomes and contribute immensely to positive impacts. Considering that coding scales are in the pedagogy, the learning professionals are able to make suggestions and the ideas that might increase the effectiveness of the learning context. It is important to notice that the learning pedagogy does not dictate the specific character and personality of a teacher or the learning context but rather, the teachers receive guidance of the practice applicable to all learning contexts and teachers.
For instance, a teacher who may be in favor of quiet and serene environment can utilize the QT learning tools equally as the teachers who prefer noisy and participative context. In Saudi Arabia, utilization of QT has converged the teaching practices and techniques that teachers use. This has allowed for predictable and positive outcomes.
Hence, uniform teaching practice and technique is a factor that has continued to enhance teacher professional learning. While other pedagogies deviate from utilization of uniform and universal teaching practices and techniques, QT enhances the universal learning outcomes as a factor that improves professional learning.
Further, it is important to realize that school or institution is an important factor that may enhance or impede professional learning. While there is relatively conservative culture in Saudi Arabia, other contexts may present QT in a liberal and flexible way. The institutional culture is important as it explains the historical interactions of departments, schools and faculties (Brock, 1999).
Besides, a culture of an institution dictates its responsiveness to implementing professional learning and the power relations among teachers and the students. In addition, the institution enhances professional learning among teachers by allocating the necessary human and financial resources to enhance the achievement of positive learning outcomes and ultimately, better results by the students (Ladwig &King, 2003).
On the one hand, Gore (1993) highlights that institutions may fail to allocate the required resources resulting to poor professional learning that reflects in student’s poor performance. On the other hand, other institutions may be willing to provide sufficient resource to oversee the learning process among teaching professionals leading to improved outcomes.
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In some institutions, teachers receive awards for teaching well and performing their roles and tasks diligently. To the contrary, in Saudi Arabia, the QT pedagogical model begins with a standpoint that appreciates that all teachers are capable of using their skills to provide superior performance typical of uniform teaching practices and learning outcomes. As such, institutional cultures in which QT model is applicable are huge factors that allow or limit positive teaching profession learning (Fullan, 2000).
Another factor affecting the teaching professional learning process is career stage which the teachers belong. In a study conducted by Incecay and Bakioglu in the United States, findings shown that first career teachings believe that the training offered was not efficient. This implies that first career teachers engaged in teaching professional learning process would not record positive outcomes. The rationale is that first career teachers feel that they lack enough experience when compared to other experienced teachers.
As such, Incecay & Bakioglu (2010) infer that career stage creates disparities among the teachers’ perceptions regarding the learning process. This implies that in a more diverse community of teachers belonging to different career stages, learning outcomes of the process may not be desirable.
To the contrary, the learning outcomes of a uniform community of teachers would have positive outcomes of the entire process of learning (Gore & Gitlin, 2004). Increase in diversity therefore brings about fragmented outcomes and inhibits the process while a uniform community in terms of career stage enhances a successful teaching profession learning process.
Further, Gore & Gitlin (2004) pinpoint that quality of the learning experience is an important factor that has led to failure and success of professional learning process among the teachers. In Saudi Arabia, QT pedagogical model faces challenges in implementation owing to the quality of learning experience.
Teachers point out that the learning process is impaired by lack of quality delivery of sessions whereby the learning process does not integrate their cognitive and sensual needs. Ladson-Billings (1995) articulates that it is important to enhance high quality learning process as an organization since it stands out as the most significance aspect of professional learning process.
The educators ought to recognize that poor quality process has a negative effect on the learning process of the teaching community and fails to enhance improved students’ performance in the long term (Brock, 1999).
To that end, poor quality experience inhibits the professional learning process while high quality experience enhances positive outcomes and ultimately, better learning contexts for students and improved learning outcomes. Besides, positive impacts of the learning experience come about due to dedicated schools and institutions that are willing to present the learning process comprehensively.
Ladwig &King (2003) assert that leadership and support from colleagues are factors that could inhibit or enhance successful learning process. Throughout the process, schools should be willing to nurture leadership amongst teachers for them to work in teams. Willinsky (2001) explicates that appropriate leadership skills to motivate the teachers to work in teams during the process ought to be the focal point of the institutions.
Teachers in contexts where leadership is successful will receive support, encouragement and participate in the learning process. Participative and democratic leadership styles allow the teachers to work together with their colleagues to comprehend the process (Ladson-Billings, 1995).
This does not only elicit colleague support that is necessary for successful learning process but also impart leadership skills on the teaching professionals. It is also important to note that work colleague support nurtures a group and unleashes group synergy. QT allows teachers to share their teaching practices and experiences to enhance better performance and outcomes. It increases the interactive and participative patterns of the teachers within the framework of teaching profession learning.
Teachers’ perception of the learning process may inhibit or enhance the success of the process. In Saudi Arabia, prior to the introduction of Quality Teaching model of learning, the perception of teachers was diverse and fragmented. In actuality, none of the teaching members had similar expectations and perceptions about the QT professional learning process (Hiebert et al., 2002).
Negative perception on the process leads to negative results and outcomes while the reverse is true. It is imperative for teachers to enhance their ability to comprehend that the learning process does not focus on the individual teachers but rather on the prevalent teaching practices.
Hiebert et al. (2002) assert that this facilitates the cultivation of a shared goal and objectives of the learning process leading to a shared perception about the learning process. With a shared perception, the teachers can have similar expectations on the outcomes they anticipate in future.
As aforementioned, work colleagues are crucial in enhancing a successful and positive learning process. The ways which that teachers discuss the QT process has many impacts on the process. It provides a general overview of the discourse that surrounds adoption of QT in the institutions (Gore, 2000).
Teaching professionals may feel the process that the process is unnecessary, short term, important and refreshing, represents change, useful and so on. These perspectives and views shape the perception and beliefs regarding the learning process and may inhibit or impair the process of QT implementation (Newmann, 1996).
It is important to create positive image and opinions about the process to enhance the willingness and desire for the teaching fraternity to engage in the process of professional development. This way, the desired changes in presenting, managing and delivering teaching practices in the context of a classroom will improve.
Other factors that could affect the learning process include school cultures, type of communication, work experience and responsibility of an individual to learn (Incecay & Bakioglu, 2010). The culture of a school dictates the attitudes, beliefs and values of the students and teachers.
When all aspects of the organization are in harmony with the QT learning process, there is an increased possibility of a successful process and implementation. This implies that all the stakeholders comprehend the importance of improving the learning context and improve the learning outcomes and experiences of the QT learning process (Willinsky, 2001).
Besides, the type of communication that exists within a school is a factor that could impair or enhance the teaching profession learning. Gore (2000) says that communication needs to be effective and aim at cultivating an environment of participation where all people can raise their opinions freely.
Limited communication impairs the success of the learning process while open communication enhances it. Further, the responsibility of an individual to learn plays a major role in the learning outcomes. This is in lieu of the fact that some individuals may lack enough motivation to learn.
Essentially, various factors affect teaching profession learning process. In Saudi Arabia, the university has attempted to implement the QT as a pedagogical model to assist teachers to improve the outcomes of students.
Differentiation, techniques and practices, career stage, perception, institutional culture, individual responsibility to learn and leadership styles within the organization are some of the factors that may impair or enhance successful teaching profession learning process. Institutions should be able to allocate the process all necessary human and financial resources to boost its success. Besides, it might want to look at aspects of the school culture that might impede the positive impacts on the learning outcomes.
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