Continuous Professional Development improves quality of teachers. Professional Development Centers for teachers (113) are responsible in conducting professional development programs for teachers in Sri Lanka. Due to covid-19 pandemic schools were closed, but there was instruction from the Ministry of Education to conduct online sessions. As it was new for both teachers and teacher educators, special training was required in addition to the planning programs. This study was conducted to identify the problems that teacher educators and teachers encountered in getting adapted to online session and ways of overcoming those. Data were collected by Google forms, virtual observations, and feedback from formal and informal discussions. Lack of equipment, poor connectivity and providing opportunities for practical experience were major obstacles. There was only one teacher educator in some centers. Emotional support and guidance were given to the teachers to encourage online sessions. Educators delivered their online lectures with brainstorming, inquiry-based discussion, assessing teachers’ performance. Teachers were evaluated by online examination at the end of the workshop. As there was no geographical barrier Teacher educators have organized as small teams to support each other where there was scarcity of human resources in professional development centers for teachers. There were social groups for teacher educators to share knowledge and to discuss problems regarding their online sessions. There were no immediate financial allocations for internet facilities and teacher educators spent their own money waiting for reimbursement. The dedication of teacher educators and teachers for the profession was able to reap the benefits in professional development.
Key Words – Online sessions, Continuous Professional Development, Covid-19 Pandemic situation
Teachers are the heart of the education process. To change learners, teachers should be changed to perform well, Teachers are the schools’ greatest asset. They stand at the interface of the transmission of knowledge, skills and values. Students need to move into knowledge society in an information era. Teachers need to maintain the highest standard of professional practices to perform well. Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is an integral and essential part of standards in teaching learning and achievement (Christopher, 1999). CPD is necessary for teachers in order to review and renew their knowledge, skills and vision for the good teaching.
In Sri Lanka, there are 113 Professional Development Centers for teachers (PDCT ) that are responsible for professional development. They have to complete teachers’ efficiency bar (EB) module program relevant to teacher promotions according to Sri Lanka Teacher Service Minute. Teacher educators (TEs) have faced problems with overcoming this situation. Teachers have to cover twenty modules that refresh their knowledge regarding different aspects of education field. Main aspects of education covered by efficiency bar module program are Basic factors related to teachers and government servant in institutional code and Financial regulations, Teacher’s ethics, Classroom management and identification of student, Presentation skills and leadership, prepare and maintain daily notes, weekly notes, term notes, lesion notes, Productivity and quality concepts, Information technology for education, Acts related to education & history of education, Communicative English, Co-curricular activities and school projects, Official method /Procedures should be followed with other organizations in communication and take decision regarding management, Child health and Nutrition, Sports and physical education awareness, Psychology and counseling, Organizational structure of educational field, making connections, higher education, tertiary education, professional education, Research and research method, Inter-personal relationships and attitude skill development, Human resource development, Non-formal education and soft skills, Time management & professional guidance (MoE, 2015).
Due to Covid-19 lockdown, all Teacher Centers were closed. Both teachers and teacher educators were isolated at homes. But, Ministry of Education (MoE) instructed to conduct online sessions to teachers for continuing their promotion process. Conducting online sessions were new for both teachers and teacher educators. So, it was a real challenge to be overcome. Since the pandemic induced lockdown to adopt online instructional mode, it was necessary that this sudden and unexpected transition to online mode made this new learning experience enjoyable, meaningful and supportive for teachers in their continuous professional development program. Therefore, to address the aim of the study, following research question were formulated:
How continuous professional development for teachers conducted during the period of Covid-19 pandemic.
-To explain how MoE rearranged module program for teachers during Corvid-19 pandemic
-To identify the problems that TEs and teachers encountered with getting adapted to online session
-To study the measures that they have taken to overcome those difficulties
The researcher has employed a qualitative research approach in this study. Since, qualitative research refers in the broadest sense to research that produces descriptive data on teachers and TEs’ own views. that is designed to provide an in-depth description of a specific program. Therefore, the researcher has found this methodological choice to be an appropriate means of addressing the above-mentioned research questions. Sample consisted of 20 teachers and 6 TEs in different educational zones in the country by using convenient sample technique. Data were collected by virtual observation, Google forms with structured opened ended questions, formal & informal discussion and by using documents. Data was analyzed by using qualitative method. The open-ended questions were analyzed using content analysis. The filled narrative responses were read, coded and categorized in different themes as per the words and phrases used by teachers and teacher educators.
Results and discussion
In the absence of any medical treatment and vaccine, social distancing emerged as a potent mitigating factor during covid-19 pandemic. The public places across nations have been shut to prevent the spread of this deadly disease. Considering the sudden shift to online lecturing due to COVID-19 pandemic, qualitative research approach was selected for that. There were 20 teachers and 6 teacher educators to uncover their perspectives on online sessions. The sample included male female teachers and TEs who were in schools and teacher centers from rural semi urban and urban area. Majority of teachers (15) satisfied with on-line sessions where as others are moderately satisfied due to some technical problems. But, no one expressed their dissatisfaction in online lecturing mode. 5 teacher educators were positive with on-line sessions but only one teacher educator did not mention anything regarding the preference but, he expressed idea about lack of practical experiences through on-line video conferencing. Both teachers and teacher educators were in the view of engaging some duties during pandemic situation without wasting their valuable time. A teacher revealed that they would like to complete their modules during lockdown period because, she can allocate whole time for students after starting schools. Normally, when conducting contact sessions, they have to leave schools one- or two-week days by sacrificing student learning hours per session.
Teachers were frustrating to complete their efficiency bar module program during pandemic situation. Ministry of education has taken immediate actions to fulfill the requirements of teachers. All the legal action were taken by MoE to reorganize contact sessions of professional development for teachers into online sessions. Contact session hours were replaced with online sessions and home assignments. When conducting contact sessions teachers have to spend more than fifteen hours during three days for a session. But online hours were limited to 5 hours for 3-1 grade teachers, 6 hours for 2-11 grade teachers and 8 hours for 2-1 teachers respectively according to the circulars issued by MoE. Physically held written tests were replaced with online Google form tests. Out of 100 marks 40 marks were allocated for Google form test and 60 marks were allocated for home assignment. Zoom or Microsoft team’s audio video conferencing were used to deliver lectures. Teachers in different grades ( 3-1,2-11 and 2-1) were gathered by using WhatsApp groups. They were given all the guidance and instructions by sharing them to the groups. TEs were given official permission to conduct online lectures at any PDCT in the country. There are lack of human resources most of the professional development centers. Center coordinators can request service of any lecturers in Island wide as they wished. It would be an advantage to get better service of TEs who are subject specialist in particular subject areas. It was not an easy task to rearranged financial aspects immediately. It was time consuming. Necessary actions were taken to reimburse the expenses of online sessions as soon as possible. Online sessions were monitored by officers from MoE. The officers from MoE did not forget to motivate and appreciate both teachers and teacher educators admiring their vigorous effort. Special attention was given to the teachers and teacher educators who got affected with Covid-19.
Sri Lanka is a developing country and financial allocation for education remain in low level. Technological devices usage in teaching learning process remains somewhat unsatisfactory level among teachers. They were in the habit of using hand phones for only calling and massaging. Teachers had not much experienced in Zoom or Microsoft Teams software. They are always begging technical support from their own children. A teacher educator expresses his views regarding online mode experience as below:
“When I am admitting teachers for Zoom video conference, i can hear a teacher’ conversations of asking technical support from her own child. Another teacher is struggling to solve the problem with poor connectivity. Some teacher asks PDF and recordings”
Teachers faced problems with unavailability of technological devices, because their own children also participated in online classes at the same time. Specially, in remote area, internet coverage was poor. Teachers had to move here and there to cover the online sessions. Some teachers revealed that they have to higher elevated place like trees and roof to solve those problems. Teachers were interrupted in poor visibility and audibility with shared screen. At very first stage of the online sessions due to lack of experiences, teachers unmuted their microphones without their knowledge disturbing to whole meeting. In contact sessions, lot of activities were practiced with teachers before Covid-19 pandemic. But it was limitation in online session with large number of teachers. In some PDCT, there is only one teacher educator. They faced problems with shortage of staff to handle online sessions alone. They have to cover all administrative aspects of thousands of teachers in a educational zone. Academic support was essentially required for those PDCTs in some remote areas.
There were various measures taken to overcome those difficulties. Hopping smooth flow of online lectures, TEs shared list of instructions to Teachers’ WhatsApp groups earlier day of the session. So that, teachers can better understand, when and how they should participate and also what they should obtain out of the online session as below.
List of instructions given by WhatsApp
✳We have organized the 1st lecture Educational Research & Methodology (Module 16) at 8.00 a.m. on 26th August 2021.
✳You can join the meeting by using the link Microsoft teams from 7.45 a.m.
✳ Pl be kind enough not to join the meeting after 8.00 a.m.
✳Pl keep your microphone mute to avoid the unnecessary disturbances.
✳If you need to clarify something, do not hesitate to ask by unmuting microphone yourself.
✳Please collect pen & blank sheet with you to note down wherever important to you.
✳You can see & hear the lecture clearly if you select a place better connectivity & less disturbance.
TEs have no geological barrier to serve any PDCT of the country due to virtual sessions. So, they organized as a small team to support PDCTs where there was shortage of human resources. An online module was allocated two lectures which covered importance aspects of particular educational field.
A teacher educator revealed that her 1st experience of online lecturing was as follows:
“I thought that I was excited as it was my first lecture delivered by using Zoom video conferencing. I had to control the noise of teachers who were unmuted their microphones. I needed some technical support too. I conducted my lecture as a discussion. It was convenience for me. Teachers were very interactive. Finally, I was happy and I could complete my task on time”
Figure 1 - TEs have no legal or geological barrier to conduct online lectures at any PDCTs
A Teacher educator stated that she would like to help teachers Island wide during this Covid-19 pandemic spending her own data. It was a great pleasure for her to serve and identify teachers in different area of the country especially remote areas. She was responsible herself not only delivering lecture but also preparing assignments relevant to that particular module. She further expressed that she practiced different teaching methods to attract teachers and gain lot of appreciations from them.
Ministry of education gave responsibility to set twenty common online exam papers to teacher educators who took that responsibility willingly in both Sinhala and Tamil medium.
One of the teacher educators in Tamil medium stated that by shifting into online lectures he gained lot of advantages rather than contact sessions. A module could be delivered to limited number of teachers about fifty during contact sessions. It was also time consuming and lot of documentary works. As he was the only officer in the teacher center, he was difficult to manage all administrative and academic aspect alone. So, shifting into online sessions were very convenient for him to complete module to large number of teachers within short period of time effectively by getting full support from other teacher educators Island-wide.
TEs created their own WhatsApp group to share their knowledge and discuss the problems regarding online sessions. It was a great opportunity to upgrade teacher educators’ knowledge and skills too. Anyway, they have to bear expenses for the internet facilities waiting for reimbursement.
A teacher from a remote area stated that she had poor connectivity and time to time she faced disconnection problems. Therefore, she could not attend lectures continuously. To solve these obstacles TEs shared PDF of power point presentation, supporting reading materials and assignments to the teachers’ groups. It would be a great help for teachers who had connection problems. TEs never forgot to deliver online lectures much creatively to get attraction and participation of teachers. They used more visual aids to break monotony such as videos, short films related to module program. Problem solving by using breakout rooms, discussions, brainstorming were practiced to make effective online sessions. When conducting physical sessions before Covid-19 there was a one hour written test paper with multiple questions and open-ended questions. Assessment & Evaluation were conducted by using different method. Teachers were assessed by giving activities in breakout rooms. Teachers were evaluated at the end of workshop by Google form tests. In addition to that Assignments were given to complete within one or two weeks. Teacher was given all the basic instructions for assignments which relate to specific education fields in the module.
A teacher who attuned on-lined sessions stated that these programs would be a great opportunity to refresh their theoretical and practical knowledge related to teaching and learning process. Even though she faced problem at the beginning to adopt online culture she got a lot of learning experiences for her professional development. On the other hand, she felt free and safe to participate this program at home without disturbing her day today activities.
Teachers participated for online sessions said that :
“Thank you very much madam for helping us to develop ourselves. And also I could learn much from you. Have a healthy life “
“Madam, today I joined for your lectures. Through that I learned lots of important things in the professional life of teaching. Thank you so much madam”
“Dear madam Today I have learnt subject knowledge as well as, what are the points that I should improve both in my professional and personal life. Thanks lot madam you and others are highly appreciated for this kind of great service”
These expressions evidenced that teachers expressed their idea of that it will be great opportunity to refresh professional development.
Teacher expressed their idea regarding dedication of the teacher educators as follows:
“Thank you very much madam .your lecture is very useful for us .we learnt lots of new things which the teachers should learn. We are waiting for you again”
“Dear madam; Thank you for being so creative and passionate about your teaching, subject, and how you communicate ideas and unique life lessons with us. Thank you for your dedication, enthusiasm and hard work. Thanks for everything “
And, teachers did not forget to admire TEs dedication to organize such sessions during Corvid-19 pandemic. Lectures were delivered lectures in interesting way.
When considering the teachers’ comments, they have assessed TEs duties also such as their prior preparation, presentation skills, time management, sensitivity and liveness of lectures.
“ Classrooms of many schools are same as the video. So we are highly motivated to treat for those students, as well we would like to see you whilst you are teaching & the session was very informative “
“ Dear madam, your lecture is very interesting. We are living in the lecture. You have well prepared .We are waiting for you again”
At the end of the whole programs, Teachers highly appreciated TEs by organizing farewell events, creating lovely comments and poems. Teachers expressed their gratitude to them.
-The dedication of TEs and teachers for the profession was able to reap the benefits in professional development during Covid-19 pandemic.
-Both teachers & TEs enjoyed & got adapted to online sessions within short period of time
-Online sessions can also be used for effective distance Professional Development after Corvid-19 pandemic too.
-Internet coverage should be improved Island wide to utilize it in educational purpose