A little guidance for mentors

Teacher Development
October 16, 1998

There has been much debate in recent years about the link between the professional development of teachers and their ability to teach. Long gone are the days when a university degree was considered an adequate qualification to be a teacher. With the development of mass schooling in Europe over the past century, school teaching has gradually become a thriving specialised field with a substantial body of theories, research and practices as complex as an academic discipline.

In addition, the increasing emphasis on consultancy with colleagues and leadership structure has shifted the focus from the general requirements of the profession to the need for particular skills. A successful teacher, now, must not only possess the ability to impart knowledge, but must also be able to analyse his or her personal strengths and weaknesses in teaching and be more aware of prescribed learning targets. Over the past decade or so, unlike before, teachers have been required to give importance to league tables and a consumer-led philosophy of education.

Responding to all this change, Teacher Development professes to be an innovative journal with a mission to "foster the quality of professional development" both in depth and diversity. It takes a "whole career" view of the profession and encourages both international as well as inter-professional perspectives. It also "aims to stimulate debate across differing cultures and societies by publishing materials of interest to a worldwide audience". The editorial advisory board has professionals from nearly everywhere except Bangladesh, China, India and Pakistan. Given the fact that South Asia has supplied a substantial number of teachers in the state sector of British education since the 1960s, this imbalance is worth redressing.

The first issue contains articles ranging from the usual subjects of teacher training, appraisal procedure, mentoring, patterns of development, to new ideas on neo-Fordism, postmodernism and Suggestopedic teaching of foreign languages. An article on Australia strikes a chord with our English situation. A piece on headship records important implications for the training and support of headteachers. Another paper airs the trials and tribulations of teachers who make a career move to become lecturers in higher education institutions. The book review section is particularly valuable for its professional insights. All the books reviewed, with one exception, are fairly recent publications. Michael Golby's editorial is suitably cautious about the journal's "ambitious agenda".

In the second issue, an article on professional development in the medical profession reflects the journal's commitment to inter-professionalism. The theme of special educational needs is taken up in two separate articles. There is a case study of long-distance partnership between schools and the School of Education in technology competence support and training. Two authors promote Grasp (Getting Results and Solving Problems) - devised from a very simple idea by Demetrious Comino, a successful entrepreneur - as a method of teacher development. Anyone interested in staff development within schools must read a brief but precise piece reiterating the idea that schools with collaborative cultures of staff development have the best prospect of success; leadership must evolve from within the school not from outside. But I missed the book review section.

A piece on teaching in Taiwan by Graham Vulliamy in a later issue was of much interest. The Taiwanese model of whole-class teaching has been prominent recently as a result of a BBC Panorama programme and an Ofsted commissioned survey.

But Vulliamy observes that successful educational practices in other countries and cultures cannot just be copied here; other factors are also at work in the original culture and need to be considered.

Teacher Development is a useful addition to the ever-growing list of professional resources. I can certainly recommend it to my school-teaching colleagues in the UK whatever level of development they might aspire to. But I am not sure if it will be equally useful to teachers in other countries and to inter-professionals.

Krishna Dutta is an adviser, London Borough of Haringay, with many years' experience of teaching.

Teacher Development: An International Journal of Teachers' Professional Development (4 times a year)

Editor - Michael Golby
ISBN - ISSN 1366 4530
Publisher - Triangle
Price - £36.00 (individuals); £128 (institutions)
Pages - -

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