Better Schools:
Resource Materials for School Heads in Africa
Professional Development
In Unit 2 we referred briefly to the matter of provision of training and professional development for heads in Africa and tried to reflect on the levels of provision as well as the forms that this took.

In this unit we will discuss in greater detail the concepts, approaches and practices that are common to training and professional development programmes on the continent. It is vital that you and all concerned with education, continue to search for new avenues and sources of enrichment as you work towards improving the quality of education in your school. When you have identified ideas on training and professional development of benefit to you and your school, we hope that you will take steps to apply them.

Learning outcomes
By the end of this unit you should be able to:
• distinguish between professional development and training
• distinguish between top-down and self-directed approaches
• describe the characteristics of top-down and self-directed approaches
• apply top-down and self-directed approaches where appropriate
• relate these approaches to all seven modules.

Training and professional development
Your school has to survive in and adapt to constantly changing educational, cultural, political and economic environments. Your survival is achieved by the degree to which you possess the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to meet the challenges posed by these changing environments. Training and professional development are the means by which you can acquire the requisite skills and attitudes. It is important to make a distinction between the two.

What do you see as the difference between training and professional development?


This is an organised procedure by which people acquire knowledge or skills for a definite purpose.
Training tends to:
• assume a deficiency in the trainee
• presuppose a set of appropriate ideas, skills and attitudes that need developing in the trainee
• bring about conformity
• reduce the trainee's range of alternatives
• be formal, bureaucratic, and centralised.

Professional development
This is a continuous process of growth for personnel in a system. In a school setting, for example, professional development is not something that the school system does to you but something that you do for yourself in order to be more competent and effective.

Professional development tends to:
• be growth-oriented
• assume people want to develop on the job
• increase the range of alternatives available.

There is a place for both professional development and training provided due attention is given to their strengths and weaknesses and needs are clearly established. Training is necessary and seems best matched to formal intervention strategies. Professional development, however, should receive the major focus and seems best matched to informal intervention strategies.
We will now look closely at the features of both.

Activity 3.1
Identify some of the common training approaches you have experienced.

Your list may have included:
• workshops
• lectures
• seminars
• handouts.

These are indeed common and are often associated with top-down approaches.

Directed learning: top-down approaches
The next few pages will examine the characteristics of various strategies associated with these approaches and enable you to compare them with strategies that characterise self-directed learning.

The 'top-down' mode of training may be defined as an approach initiated and controlled from above, where the participant has very little say in what he/she learns or how he/she learns it. Educational managers understand that pre-service training does not adequately prepare teachers and heads for all the eventualities in their teaching career, hence the need for continuous in-service training and staff development. They have, however, found themselves predominantly using this approach to training, because resources are very limited.

In this section, let us look at some examples of training methods that use a 'top-down' approach. You should critically examine each method as it relates to your situation and decide how its effectiveness could be improved.

Training workshops
The provision of national workshops is one approach to training which has been widely used in Africa. The training is designed to equip school heads with the basic knowledge and skills necessary to enable them to manage their schools efficiently and effectively under the prevailing conditions, using the available financial resources. With this in mind, Ministries of Education have mounted numerous headteacher training workshops in an attempt to improve the quality of education delivery. Convenors or organisers of the workshops generally determine the packages for the training.

The training needs of the participants are determined at the top, by the central ministry. Venues, at times removed from school situations, are chosen by the trainers who usually conduct the workshop in conditions far removed from those obtaining in schools. As a result, the impact or effectiveness of this approach in meeting the needs and concerns of heads may be limited.

Activity 3.2
Consider a workshop you have attended in your capacity as a head.
Look at the programme you went through.
(1) How far was it able to address the issues which were most relevant to your own school situation?
(2) What do you consider to be the weaknesses, inherent in the workshop approach to training, which it showed up?

How does your list compare with the following features, frequently cited as weaknesses of the directed-learning approach of workshops?
• Wrong assumptions are likely to be made in a top-down assessment of needs unless heads are involved.
• The approach is often associated with the following problems:
-course material is not graded for sequential development
-off-the-job training may not be ideal for skills development
-presentations are often didactic in approach
-interaction is limited
-compulsory attendance may be demotivating
-no regular follow-up is carried out
-no impact assessment mechanism exists
-specific and desirable skills are not developed
-workshops tend to emphasise acquisition of knowledge.

Case study
The Head of Pleasantways School received an invitation to attend a district heads of schools workshop on supervision of teachers. Meanwhile, he has had courses on supervision during the Bachelor of Education Distance Education Programme in which he is enrolled.

He attended the workshop but dozed during some of the lectures. Every now and then he was heard complaining how busy he was and how he wished he had stayed away from the workshop.

Activity 3.3
(1) Why do you think the Head of Pleasantways behaved in the way he did in the workshop?
(2) What problems do you associate with such directed-learning workshops? 1

In your answer to Question 1 you may have stated that:
• there was no selection among the target group
• this head had already been through the material.
In your answer to Question 2 you may have mentioned that:
• the target group was not involved in identifying the training needs
• directed learning is prescriptive
• courses are generally not developmental
• courses often lack focus and continuity.

These weaknesses limit the usefulness of this approach to training and staff development.

Activity 3.4

You have now identified some limitations inherent in the workshop approach to training.
What suggestions do you have to improve the effectiveness of this approach?

Improvements you have mentioned might include:
• the need for thorough planning
• presentations that use a participative approach and allow for interaction
• the use of questionnaires to determine the package for workshop programmes
• the need for programmes that emphasise the development of skills relevant to the head's situation and not just the acquisition of knowledge
• the need for consultation with heads during needs identification
• training geared to adult needs
• more use of group dynamics
• opportunities for self-development or peer support.

The lecture method is another approach traditionally used for training. It focuses attention on what is taught instead of on the learner. Teachers explain concepts in a topic while the students sit and listen during a lecture.
It is a teacher-centred method.

Case study
The heads of schools in a district were invited for a one-day workshop on a number of subjects including 'Financial Management' and 'How to Conduct Meetings'. The Education Officer responsible for the district read from the notes that he had prepared beforehand. At the end of his lectures participants were invited to make comments.

Activity 3.5
What do you see as the advantages and limitations of the lecture method?

Your responses probably included the following advantages of the lecture method:
• presents relevant information in a structured way
• it is cheap and easy to use, as far as resources are concerned
• it saves time especially where a new topic is to be presented to a large group of students.

Among the disadvantages of the lecture method you might have included:
• encourages students' over-dependence on the teacher
• limits creativity in students
• ignores individual differences among students
• confuses and bores students, when poorly structured or presented.

Activity 3.6 shows how you could use the lecture method in your group.

Activity 3.6
(1) Assign one of your group members to read the unit on decision-making and problem-solving in Module 2, Unit 7, in preparation fora group lecture.
(2) Ask the member to explain the following points from Activity 7.3
(Module 2, page 53) to the group:
-the extent to which members of his/her staff take part in decision-making in the various areas
-what he/she believes can adversely affect decision-making
-what, in his/her view, is good decision-making practice.

Compare this lecture with the answers in Module 2, Unit 7, pages 53 and 54.

Activity 3.7
Suggest ways in which the lecture method can be improved so that group members are more actively involved in their own learning.

You will have probably suggested that lectures should be accompanied by:
• question and answer sessions
• small group discussion
• audio-visual aids such as pictures, transparencies and handouts
• role play
• case studies.

Training cascades
Case study
In May 1993 the Schools Division of the Ministry of Education of Infanta launched a national training programme under the banner 'Improving Schools, the Challenge Before Us All'. The Division had decided to promote its efforts to improve the quality of education in the country through a nationwide training programme that would reach all school heads. It would be based on local and in-school initiatives, using training materials developed for the purpose. They started by tackling the basic issues of:
(a) adult training approaches
(b) group dynamics
(c) self-development and peer support.

Officers from each region were invited for training by national trainers and specialists who would prepare them to train their counterparts at regional and district levels. The personnel trained at regional and district levels thereafter fanned out into their school circuits to train school heads. Lastly, the heads as the main targets of the whole programme were expected to set up school cluster groups through which they would benefit from the self-directed training programme.

Activity 3.8
(1) What needs was the ministry wanting to address?
(2) Identify and state the number of training levels which were involved
in this programme.
(3) What approach was used in this mode of training?

In your answer to Question 1, you probably indicated the following needs:
• improvements to the quality of education
• improvements in the quality of school management
• better use of resources -tapping local initiatives.

In your answer to Question 2, you may have identified the following levels of participation in the programme:
• officers at the national level
• officers at regional level
• officers at district level
• heads in their schools or clusters.
Finally, in reply to Question 3, you probably identified the mode of training as the cascade approach. The approach is clearly illustrated in the following diagram.

The triangle in Fig 2 illustrates the training cascade process. Trainer and trainees at each level from the specialists down to the schools are the targets for the desired change in quality (note that numbers multiply at each stage). The entire process shows what is called the training cascade model.

In this model five specialists trained 60 regional representatives in the capital. The 60 regional representatives in turn trained 240 officers at regional and district level. These officers then held workshops in their district circuits, to train all 6,000 heads in the country. This process made use of 'clusters', formed by heads for their self-improvement and peer support. These groups were able to determine their own learning programmes using the training materials provided by the ministry and its supporting agencies.

Activity 3.9
What problems are likely to be experienced with cascade training programmes?

Your list may have included the following drawbacks:
• The transfer of skills from trainer of trainers to subsequent levels of, trainers is not guaranteed.
• Mistakes/misconceptions acquired in training are carried all the way down.
• The message may be distorted on the way especially where the distance from top to bottom is great.
• The quality of training is not likely to be uniform where so many people are involved in the training process.
• Due to diminishing funds the training may at times be suspended before the target group is reached.

Self-directed learning
You have had an overview of some of the common methods used in a 'top-down' approach to training. Let us now compare these with the methods used in self-directed learning.

Open learning
Open learning is a matter of acquiring knowledge, skills and attitudes through self-initiated effort at an individual pace and choice of time. It may be facilitated by specially structured learning material, such as the Commonwealth Secretariat modules, of which this module is an example.

Study the structure and nature of the Commonwealth Secretariat materials and compare them with an ordinary school textbook. What are the characteristics of the Commonwealth Secretariat materials that make them different?

You may have noticed, among other things, that the Commonwealth Secretariat materials have the following characteristics:
• The materials are addressed to the reader.
• Each unit or section begins by providing information or knowledge from which an activity or exercise is derived, in order to reinforce the knowledge or skill learned.
• The activity or exercise is followed by a comment in which the answer or part of the answer to the preceding activity or exercise is provided.
• The materials are presented in self-contained modules and units in order to cater for the different needs of students.
• The material is structured and presented in simple language and manageable units of content.
• Each unit has learning outcomes against which the learner can evaluate his/her own progress.

Education for Life
'Education for Life' is the philosophy that learning is a continuous process that takes place throughout an individual's span of life. This philosophy is based on the assumption that knowledge, skills and attitudes change with time.

It is therefore desirable that you, the head, should continue to learn, in order to equip yourself for the changes that will affect your life in general and your professional work in particular.

Activity 3.11
Suggest three ways in which you would promote 'Education for Life' among staff in your school?

You may have included the following suggestions:
• establishing a school library to promote and encourage a reading culture in pupils and teachers
• inviting guest speakers to the school to present papers on topical issues
• holding regular staff development workshops in which different members of staff take turns to lead discussions.

Participatory frameworks
School clusters
The desire to improve the quality of education is a worldwide concern. In Africa, it is a quest that has been taken up by nearly every country.
One approach, commonly used, to raise the quality of education is the establishment of school clusters.
A school cluster is a group of schools (in a geographical area) that come together for the purpose of improving school performance. Each cluster is responsible for running its own affairs. It determines its own programme and learning pace by choosing what it wants to learn, when it wants to do it and how it wants to do it.

Activity 3.12
From your own experience or vision of clusters, state the various aims and objectives of a cluster system.

Some of the objectives might be to:
• improve the performance of heads
• ensure the professional growth of teachers
• improve school performance
• introduce and maintain quality assurance processes
• address heads' and teachers' needs
• support each member of the group
• enable peers to share professional ideas
• strengthen community involvement.
The success or failure of a school cluster depends on the effort put in by each one of its members. The more closely heads work together in clusters, the greater the benefits for all.

Professional associations
Professional people want to identify themselves with others of their kind. Doctors, nurses and engineers have their own professional groups or associations and there are a number of education associations both at the national and local level.

Activity 3.13
Think of schools in your country and name the active associations you may have had contact with.
What contribution are they making to professional development?

Your answer might have included some of the following:
• subject associations (Maths, English or Science)
• professional associations of heads or teachers (primary or secondary)
• cultural associations.
Besides satisfying the need for belonging, an association offers opportunities to grow professionally and socially and provides intellectual stimulation.

Activity 3.14
Suggest ways in which associations may stimulate intellectual activity.

Your suggestions may have included:
• inviting visiting speakers or association members to present papers that can be discussed at regular meetings
• encouraging research into relevant topics and helping members publish their results
• organising study tours or conferences.

These activities promote both the personal and professional growth of members.

Interactive learning
Most of the learning which goes on in clusters is self-directed. The seven modules so far produced are meant to assist individuals and cluster members to manage their self-directed learning. Fundamental information and suggestions on how to improve schools have been given in the modules. You, as users of the modules, will choose what you want to learn according to your identified needs.

In clusters, you and your colleagues can arrive effectively at these choices by using interactive learning processes. Dadey and Harber (1991) point out that learning is most effective when learners feel thoroughly and actively involved in the learning experience. Interactive learning of module material by the cluster clientele has several advantages.

Activity 3.15
(1) Identify and list some of the processes through which cluster or group members can use interactive learning.
(2) Discuss the key aspects of each of the processes.
(3) State the advantages of each process.

In your answer to Question 1 above, you may have listed some of the following processes:
• cluster group discussions/ debates
• role-playing
• cluster/group projects/assignments/tasks
• cluster seminars/workshops
• problem-solving.

The key aspects which make each of the above interactive learning processes particularly useful are that they encourage:
• face-to-face interaction
• sharing of insights, feelings and perceptions
• attitudinal behaviour modelling and modification
• real ownership of the learning experience
• full exploration of knowledge
• acquisition and development of skills
• identification of positive attitudes/values
• high motivational levels, generated from self-initiated learning and involvement.

Learning on-the-job means simply learning by doing.

Activity 3.16
You have just been promoted to be a school head.
In your view, how best can you benefit from learning on-the-job?

In your discussion you might have mentioned:
• understudying a more experienced colleague
• participation in cluster group activities
• participation in activities of the association of heads
• drawing on the experience of colleagues at meetings.

It is perhaps easier to define a 'mentor' first and then look at mentoring as a process. A mentor is one who oversees the intellectual and professional development of others without directly instructing the person or persons being monitored.
This form of monitoring progress is useful because it draws largely on the strengths of the mentor and gives responsibility for the outcome to the monitored.

The system relies heavily on self-directed learning. The mentor is usually a well-versed and experienced practitioner whose role is largely that of a supportive and interested by-stander. It uses adult learning techniques where the mentor (the teacher), does not teach in a formal manner but, nevertheless, ensures that the monitored learns.

Peer groups
The word 'peer' means an equal. When you, as heads, get together to share ideas you have a peer group.
Peer group learning is an interactive approach which allows participative learning. Participants learn from each other. Peer group learning creates a more informal atmosphere which promotes a free exchange of ideas. It increases group expertise and is cost effective. Peer group learning assists in changing attitudes by rein forcing learning and providing feedback from team members.

Activity 3.17
Five members of your cluster have invited you to lead a discussion on school-based staff development.
(1) Draw up a checklist of items that would ensure the success of the meeting.
(2) What approaches would you adopt for the benefit of members?

In your preparation and organisation, which is the key to the success of the meeting, you would probably consider the following:
• membership (how will new members be handled?)
• group maintenance (who facilitates, who records?)
• group tasks (how much work is to be accomplished, what is the thrust?)
• participation (how will you handle quiet or talkative members?)
• venue (what atmosphere prevails, what are group's expectations?).

The approaches you might consider are:
• brainstorming of issues, raised either in small groups or during plenary session
• group discussions
• role play
• case studies or visits and observations.

It is our hope that this unit has enabled you to appreciate the differences between training and professional development. The former refers to externally initiated efforts while the latter refers to programmes in which the participant has a choice in terms of content and method of study. Heads should be in a position to follow and benefit from the study of the modules using both approaches.