Teacher’s Professional Development
Teacher’s professional development is one of the most important elements in educational discourse. Skills and competencies are built over time through formal education and other forms of training, but there are situational, personal, interpersonal, and contextual factors that affect teacher’s professional development (Furner and McCulla, 2018,13). These factors are dynamic and depend on the location where a teacher is teaching. African teachers work in diverse multicultural environments (Mokhele and Jita, 2012, 577). These environments affect how the teacher relates to vital stakeholders such as the children, the community, and fellow teachers. Understanding culture is the first step towards creating a healthy relationship with key stakeholders in educational environments. This will in turn influence a teacher’s professional development (Wear and Bickel, 2000,39). In Africa, indigenous knowledge is highly valued, and a teacher has to be well acquainted with this knowledge to improve on how scientific knowledge is shared or disseminated to pupils or students. Indigenous knowledge is not only vital to building a relationship with the community and students but also vital in integrating with scientific knowledge to create a better understanding by students. When teachers understand local beliefs, norms, and other cultural expectations, he or she will be in a better position to infuse culture with modern or scientific knowledge with cultural norms and disseminate the knowledge in a manner that respects these values and broadens the knowledge and understanding of students. The success of the teacher’s profession lies in the success of academic programs or understanding of academic knowledge being disseminated (Hoyle and Megarry, 2006,93). This means that the academic environment should support teaching and sharing of knowledge (Defining student success: the role of school and culture, 2015, 53). Teachers should have adequate knowledge of prevailing cultural norms and expectations in their workplace. These norms and values are what inform the first knowledge to be disseminated to pupils by their parents and people in the community. Teachers have to take care of how cultural beliefs are integrated into classroom teaching and how they are supposed to inform a healthy relationship with the community and other stakeholders (Soine and Lumpe, 2014,305). Instances of cultural stereotyping will lead to a lack of support from the community, and this will affect a teacher’s professional development (Sponsel, 2007, 353).
African teachers are depended upon by students to explain different phenomena that can’t be explained by scientific knowledge. This means that African teachers have a huge responsibility to understand different cultural concepts and how these concepts explain different phenomena. Some teachers avoid topics on sensitive cultural issues such as witchcraft choosing to extract only ‘safe’ bits of information. Indigenous knowledge systems should be understood in detail, and their context is taken into consideration when explaining or adapting it to other forms of knowledge. Teachers should not be brief in their explanation of cultural issues and should study cultural practices and beliefs in detail to appreciate a different worldview that can satisfy their explanation of different phenomena in the classroom. Some of the indigenous knowledge that impacts teacher’s professional development includes traditional technology, spirituality skills that inform philosophical, economic, and social perspectives, and different ways of being in nature. Teachers should not prioritize science over indigenous knowledge. Being professional involves resecting divergent opinions and giving space to those who hold this view to express their sentiments (Zauha, 2010,37). If students feel that teachers are not respecting their cultures or acknowledging their beliefs and norms, they tend to be less receptive to other forms of knowledge or what is being taught by the teacher in the classroom or the general school environment.
Education is about changing the community. Knowledge of cultural beliefs and practices is important in achieving the desired change. Learners want to be taught things that can empower them to change their communities. Scientific knowledge, as opposed to indigenous knowledge, focuses on facts, logic, and objective information. This makes the information or knowledge more depersonalized. The African culture on the other hand values the scientific ability to predict events and offer technological knowledge that can be applied to solve real-world problems. Indigenous Knowledge is valued for its appreciation of the aesthetic, caring, human and mystic nature of the world (Emeagwali and Sefa Dei, 2014,87).
Inclusive education means respecting the contribution of vital stakeholders who have deep insights into indigenous knowledge. Teachers need to partner with elders in specific geographical locations where they teach so that they can learn broad elements of indigenous knowledge specific to these areas (Sands, Kozleski, and French, 2000,97). Elders are vital in the preservation and fostering of traditional knowledge. Teachers should not view elders as decorative or merely symbolic. Elders are supposed to be treated as important leaders and their role in helping teachers develop professionally integrated into educational programs. Elders are important repositories of indigenous knowledge and also custodians of indigenous knowledge systems. This means that these elders are reliable providers and transmitters of indigenous knowledge. Elders must be treated as competent professionals in the field of indigenous knowledge and facilities to help teachers develop professionally by appreciating the importance of culture and fostering inclusive education. In most African traditional societies, elders are always respected for their deep knowledge of cultural issues. They normally have deep knowledge and skills on matters to do with norms, behaviors, conflict resolution, and community relationships. Teachers need to regard elders as authoritative community stakeholders who can help them develop professionally (Day, 2000,57).
Many indigenous people worldwide have undergone many challenges with regard to sustaining their unique worldviews and indigenous knowledge for many years. These people have had to deal with several strong transformative forces. Teachers play an important role in regulating social upheavals and transformative forces that threaten to erode indigenous knowledge. Inclusive education requires teachers to appreciate and incorporate core values, norms, and insights from indigenous knowledge in their teaching methods hence the importance of their awareness and mastery of these values and norms (Burridge, Whalan, and Vaughan, 2012, 87). People who have lived in a particular place for a long time have deeper indigenous knowledge of ways of life and many other aspects of the place that is of benefit to scientists and educators. This knowledge will also help teachers learn different ways indigenous knowledge contributes towards sustainability. Teachers need to recognize the fact that indigenous knowledge has complex knowledge systems that have unique adaptive integrity of their own. Teachers need to link indigenous knowledge with non-indigenous contexts to create harmony and offer a broader knowledge base to students. The educational community in which the teacher plays an important role needs to offset the marginalization of indigenous societies. For teachers to effectively integrate indigenous knowledge in modern learning and improve their professional development, they have to learn how traditional knowledge is gained and applied. This includes paying special attention to the observation of natural processes, modes of survival, ways of making a living from the exploitation of resources such as plants and animals, and making tools and implements using natural materials. Teachers need to acquaint themselves with knowledge of how these practices were taught to younger generations so that they can be able to incorporate some of the methods towards teaching in a modern classroom environment. Some of the ways indigenous knowledge was passed to younger generations were through observation, demonstration, and stories or narratives (Doecke, Brown, and Loughran, 2000,335)
Professionals such as teachers, historians, and sociologists among others greatly determine the structure of modern societies. These professional’s work and knowledge determine how different structures in society relate and develop. Bourdieu argues that the argument about the profession should focus on it going through a linear process of professionalization. This process needs to be viewed with an open mind since professional development involves understanding the social role and political views of a specific group in the society (Clark, Bourdieu, and Clough, 1999,100). African teachers need to engage in a deeper investigation of skills and knowledge of particular groups and societies where they are posted to teach. This investigation should involve finding out much information about the group’s discourse. This involves how these members communicate their ideas through writing, talking, or other forms of expression. How the teaching profession is viewed in a particular society will determine work privileges, social support, and the teachers’ professional status (Tummons, 2014,417).
Bourdieu’s sociological framework is vital in understanding social struggles that can shape teacher’s professional development. He argues that social struggles can be viewed as struggles over capital (Ásgeir Jóhannesson, 2006,19). Capital can be social, cultural, symbolic, or economic. Cultural capital encompasses skills and ideas that people have and are attainable through education. These ideas are sometimes referred to as educational capital. Art and literature also fall into this category. Economic capital majorly focuses on monetary resources. Social capital involves aspects such as social status or the type of connections a person has. The status of a teaching profession can be regarded as a symbol of social capital. Finally symbolic capital refers to capital that has been transformed into legitimate ideas and practices in a particular field such as teaching. The struggles are about changing the three types of capital into the most desirable state which is symbolic capital. The struggles involve the use of discursive themes such as work, ideas, and relevant knowledge as part of social strategies. Discursive themes that take a long time can be termed as historically constructed principles that will legitimate the desired symbolic capital. Teachers are considered to be experts who have adequate knowledge in the field of teaching. This expertise and knowledge are what can be converted to be symbolic capital through a thorough analysis of the environment and involvement of key stakeholders. Teachers need to take steps towards improving their professional development by projecting themselves as experts while respecting the opinions of other stakeholders. Teachers and other relevant bodies or professionals utilize research and identify relevant aspects of the teachers’ works that need improvement for teacher’s professional progress to be improved (Clark, Bourdieu and Clough, 1999). Classic profession theories argue that teachers cannot be considered full professionals since they have not attained the status of a profession. This is because the teaching profession is either misunderstood informal or abstract terms. Teacher’s professional development, therefore, needs to be fully supported by all stakeholders in society.
A Foucauldian account of the transition of education over time offers insights on how the continuous professional development of teachers can be enhanced (Bourke, Lidstone, and Ryan, 2013,85). In the early years, it was difficult to foresee neither the school’s role as a socializing agent nor the teacher’s role as an important conveyor of knowledge. Through Foucault’s work, we can appreciate the fact that a teacher’s profession can develop from one stage to the other just as a discipline as explained by Foucault. Discipline transitioned from practices of confinement to exclusion, inclusion, harsh practices to gentler practices, and finally from negative practices to positive practices (Deacon, 2002,437). Each step in the transition of discipline can be likened to a teacher’s professional development. This transition utilizes time and resources. It also uses established institutions or creates its institutions. Teacher’s professional development process needs to produce knowledge that can be used to improve the process and utilize human resources together with power relations in the society. The shift in the aspect of discipline and its associated procedures from negative to positive was an important development that informed schooling as a basis for reference in society-wide disciplinary procedures or actions (Deacon, 2006,123). This served to guide teachers in their profession by providing new educational procedures and different ways in which various subjects could be managed, regulated or even their capacities augmented. Teachers benefitted from learning and adopting new teaching methodologies and applying different forms of micro-discipline. Foucault expanded the view of the approach to education and its historical frameworks that help teachers in retracing the steps of their professional development and aligning with the new trends in education. Power relations affect how educational content and its associated governing process are executed. Teachers need to observe power relations in the community they are working in and seek the support of different entities with regard to indigenous knowledge and how it can be harmonized with modern knowledge (Hannus and Simola, 2010,15).
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