Professional development of teachers and professional staff and its challenges
The quality of education at pre-primary to secondary schools depends on how prepared and competent teachers and professional staff are at schools. Upon completion of their training at a secondary school or a higher education institutions aimed to provide them with competences needed for their jobs, teachers and other professionals can further develop their skills and knowledge within the system of professional development. The system of professional development in Slovakia comprises two primary elements: the career system and the further education system for teachers and professional staff at schools. However, a professional development system should include many forms of informal learning and personal development, such as mutual lesson observations by teachers, mentoring, self-study or research activities. Exploration of this professional development system should commence with questions about; who or what institutions provide it and under what conditions? what are the forms and contents of development? and what are the incentives or barriers for teachers and professional staff when it comes to participating in it? Both qualitative and quantitative Learning Makes Sense data indicate that teachers and professional staff do not necessarily gain better competences upon achieving their certification, and they often do not perform tasks with higher responsibilities in the career system. Although professional development can be provided by various institutions, the current system significantly favours the Methodological and Pedagogical Centre, despite it not being able to meet all expectations placed upon it, according to survey respondents. Among further education providers, there is a lack of the diversity and competition that could bring about higher quality and address the various educational needs of different actors. Since the further education system rewards only the completion of further education programmes accredited by the Ministry (through salary bonuses), informal professional development is inevitably being edged out. Although the Learning Makes Sense survey findings show that the main motivation for teachers and professional staff to attend further education programmes is primarily their own interest in the particular field, although external motivation in the form of salary bonuses is very important and affects the number and selection of courses completed. The main barrier for teachers to attending various professional development activities is a lot of other work at school or an extensive workload. For the professional staff and teachers in vocational education and training, the main barrier is the lack of relevant supply of further education programmes.
Analysis of the qualitative and quantitative Learning Makes Sense data is examined in more detail in the following sections:
The current career system does not guarantee the professional development of teachers and professional staff
Providers of professional development programmes
The Methodological and Pedagogical Centre has a preferential position in the area of professional development for teachers and professional staff at schools
The system of further education edges out informal education of teachers and professional staff
Motivation for professional development
Salary bonuses form an important incentive for professional development of teachers and professional staff
Barriers to professional development
Teachers and professional staff face many barriers to their professional development
Professional development of teachers and professional staff is a complex system of programmes and activities serving to enhance their professional competences and knowledge and are provided for by various institutions at varying quality. The state should monitor to what extent the system achieves its objectives. Unfortunately, the current set-up of the professional development system is such that, with salary bonuses, it motivates merely the “completion” of the education programmes. It does not reward at all if the participants gain any particular competence or if they actually use their knowledge and skills gained in practice. Up until the end of the 2018/2019 school year, there was no guarantee that, following certification and progression through the career stages, the teachers and professional staff demonstrated improved professional competence and knowledge, or indeed actually used them in practice. So the professional development system is now facing a challenge to ensure that teachers and professional staff acquire cutting edge scientific knowledge and the competence needed for their work. Only if teachers and professional staff develop in their personal and professional life can they keep pace with developments in society and encourage their learners’ motivation, curiosity, willingness to experiment and discover new information and relationships, and develop their own personality.