Key considerations in developing a model for the adoption of Lesson Study as continuing professional development for SPED teachers

There is a lot of agreement in the education literature that teacher development should continue beyond the initial teacher training. To realise a change in teachers’ instructional practice, long-term PD is critical (Borko, 2004; Guskey, 2002; Lieberman, 2009; Stigler & Hiebert, 1999). This is the main reason why proposals for improving educational practice focus on high quality PD. A review of literature was done to guide the development of an appropriate model for continuing professional development for the local context in view that the current teacher training offered to local SPED teachers is at a basic level.

Strengthening the theory-practice nexus

A primary consideration in developing the model for PD for SPED teachers was a recognition that the one-year diploma course that the teachers undergo is meant to provide foundational knowledge and skills only. This knowledge can only be deepened meaningfully when applied to authentic settings, namely the classroom. The challenge is to create adequate support systems and processes to ensure a bridging of the theory-practice nexus.

The Japanese model of teacher development offered insightful views which influenced the model that was eventually developed. The Japanese have ‘flipped' traditional views of delivery of initial teacher training. Their current model moves away from the typical front-loading of theoretical knowledge to trainee teachers with little practical application, except during the practicum component or field experience. The initial phase of formal teacher preparation is meant only to provide a grounding in teaching (Shimahara, 1998). There is much greater emphasis on the in-service PD available to teachers throughout their careers as trained teachers. This new model facilitates a theorisation of practice in the later stages of training which develops both teacher identity and the knowledge base of teachers. While this may limit the contribution of universities to the new organisation of teacher training, this contribution is now achieved by having (a) professional learning communities in schools that involve university faculty, (b) reflective communities of practitioners with reflective conferences, and (c) having a centre of studies in educational practices to support teacher development. While not all these factors appear in the local context, a shift in the paradigm adopted for teacher training sits well with the push for the formation of professional learning communities within each SPED school.

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