At the International School of Tanganyika (IST), a significantly high percentage of our teaching staff agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “I am satisfied with the opportunities for professional growth that are available at IST”.
“The IST faculty is our most important resource,” said Ms. Tina Fossgreen, our Director of Teaching and Learning. She also arranges all professional development (PD) for faculty and facilitates the on-site opportunities in line with IST’s Strategic Aim One: Personalized Learning.
This strategic plan, modified in March 2018, was the result of a highly consultative process that included surveys as well as open meetings with parents, students, alumni and staff. The strategic plan is oriented around three main goals: Personalized Learning, Engaged Community, and Ensured Sustainability.
“We seek to hire and retain highly qualified, experienced teachers and administrators who share the school’s mission, vision and core values and possess the pedagogical skills and competencies to develop and deliver the curriculum using best educational practices.”
And PD is the shared commitment between us and our teaching staff, a way to maintain the aforementioned commitment. The school supports teacher development by not only offering opportunities but also by providing the funding necessary.
According to Ms. Tina, teachers and staff are able to attend on-site sessions for free, as well as any workshops or conferences hosted by IST. In addition to this, each teacher also has a personal PD fund which they can use for online courses, workshops or conferences.
The Importance of Professional Development
“Professional development that focuses on student learning and helps teachers develop the pedagogical skills to teach specific kinds of content has strong positive effects on practice,” said Ms. Tina. “It focuses attention on effective teaching practices in order to raise the quality of teaching and to benefit students, teachers and the school.”
Research by the Learning Policy Institute titled “Effective Teacher Professional Development” illustrates the importance of collaborative learning environments and how they help develop communities of practice able to promote school change beyond the classroom.
“No professional development is in isolation, teachers engage with colleagues in meaningful, pertinent discussions around student learning,” said Ms. Tina.
At our school, there’s a commitment to fostering a love of lifelong learning, collegiality and collaborative decision-making. PD is one way in which this commitment comes to life.
An Array of Professional Development Opportunities
“We offer opportunities for teachers and teaching assistants to learn from one another,” said Ms. Tina. “All professional development is focused on school-wide initiatives that impact student learning.”
- Wednesday meetings
- The hiring of outside consultants
- Hosting workshops and conferences
- Yearly personal PD fund to attend workshops and conferences
These PD opportunities enhance teachers’ competency and give staff a forum to talk to - and learn from - one another.
“We find the most useful professional development emphasizes active teaching, assessment, observation and reflection rather than abstract discussions.”
Once teachers engage in PD opportunities, they are then required to give back to the school community to share their learning experiences.
According to Ms. Tina, this may be at the team, division or school level. She has seen teachers give workshops and serve as mentors.
“We have seen teaching practices be enhanced after attendance at workshops when teachers are given the chance to practice, reflect and refine the new knowledge or approach.”
Personalized Professional Development Introduced at IST
Even with high percentage of teaching staff expressing their satisfaction with the opportunities for personal growth at the school, we now offer personalized PD for all teaching staff, IST, aligning with Strategic Aim One.
During the 2019 to 2020 school year, IST will embark on an autonomous voice and choice of their professional development for faculty (teachers and teaching assistants). Under the schoolwide initiative umbrella of personalized learning, faculty will determine what they want to learn, how they will learn it and what evidence they will provide to demonstrate their learning. Time will be allocated periodically throughout the school year to work on their professional inquiry individually or in a self-identified group. The timelines have seven meetings over the course of the year, with a culminating activity on May 6 to celebrate and share the year’s learning.
“At IST, we work together, we learn from each other and share best practices on effective teaching and learning,” said Ms. Tina.
Putting time and effort to give our faculty access to PD opportunities helps them become a stronger teaching staff ready to equip students with the knowledge they need for a successful future. Our exceptional teaching staff is just one of the reasons people choose IST for their children.