Why professional development?
Professional development (PD) of teachers has become the "buzz word" in the UAE. Personally, I think PD must be based on a number of recognized principles, visions and missions that yield actual development in all aspects. The PD of teachers has impact on every corner in the society.
Personal professional development (PPD)
"Professional development requires a personal and ongoing commitment" (Richards and Renandya 2002, p. 386). Surely, career-long PPD has to face and come up with numerous changes. Fullan (1994) illustrates: "Change is a journey, not a blue print and every person is a change agent." However, not all changes in the process of PPD are positive.
It is my experience that the best track to follow in seeking PPD is to be involved in new self†directed experiences. Through experience, we gain actual understanding of our roles and formulate constructive practices.
Teachers are active agents of change
Teachers need outside help in the process of PD. Jackson (1992) demonstrates four ways to help- the way of know, the way of independence, the way of role accommodation and the way of art. I discussed "Start with your strengths" (Clark 1992) with my colleagues. They described it as the stepping-stone of real PPD.
In addition to these practical ideas, we should "understand the teacher as a total person" Fullan and Hargreaves (1991 cited in Perry 2001, p. 8). From my experience, PD that deals with teachers as machines won't be successful. It will be resisted unless teachers are viewed as active agents in the whole process of change or development. "TRIP" is a good example of PPD programmes that consider the needs, values and the fundamental roles of teachers.
The magic of cooperation and reflection
I strongly believe that success is rooted in reflective and critical cooperation among the "educational commonplaces" (Robottom 2001). "It is hard to imagine a job today without some cooperative interaction with others" (Kagan 1994, p. 1.1). To me, reflection provides us with a mirror to be critically aware of our behaviors in various contexts. Since 2001, I have been asking my students, parents and colleagues to reflect on my practices. It helped me support my sense of agency as in the case of "Johanna" (Louden 1992). One of the frequent quotes that I refer to in my discussions is "The surest path to success is with an attitude of enhancement and cooperation"(Wong & Wong 1998 p. 286).
Raymond, Butt & Townsend (1992) introduced "Collaborative autobiography" where teachers reflect on their early experiences, and the constraints and the texts of PD. "Ways of Reflecting", highlights the merits of reflection in different contexts. Smyth et al. (1999b) emphasize the importance of reflection by stating that "Advocates of critically reflective practice view it as a powerful form of personal professional development for practitioners because it asks them to reflect on their practice. (cited in Peters n.d, p. 8)
The role of contexts
Teachers work in different contexts which have been subjected to internal and external changes. Globalization, privatization of education and casualization of the workforce have raised a number of questions about the goals of education and educators. Strong links must be drawn between PD and the new contexts. Foley (1995) in focusing on this notion, states 'We are operating at a number of levels at once… Then there is the social dimension, the broader economic, political and cultural context of our work. (Foley 1995, p.3)
Dilemmas, paradoxes and contradictions
Raymond, Butt & Townsend (1992) talk about dilemmas, paradoxes and contradictions between teachers and the context, which they have to negotiate. In the UAE, teachers work in different contexts. For example, I work at a model school where I have the...