Evaluation of the Inservice Teacher Education Practice Project (INSTEP)
INSTEP was a research and development project aimed at improving the quality of inservice teacher education. The project, carried out by the Ministry of Education, set out to improve knowledge and understanding about effective inservice teacher education, develop greater consistency and coherence in the practice of inservice teacher educators (ISTEs) and trial approaches that would lead to improvements in their practice. This evaluation report offers insights into the way in which participating in INSTEP has contributed to bringing about shifts in knowledge, skills and expertise of ISTEs and identifies early indicators of change resulting from the project.
Author(s): Meenakshi Sankar
Date Published: August 2009
Part 3: Implications for the future
The findings from the evaluation indicates that INSTEP has been an invaluable and timely intervention in bringing about an awareness and understanding about what constituted effective ISTE practice across the sector. The project reinforced the basic principles articulated in the Best Evidence Synthesis on Teacher professional development and learning and demonstrated to ISTEs that when they examined their practice collaboratively, challenged each other’s ways of working and shared and discussed ways in which they determined effectiveness of their work, they were able to achieve far greater engagement from teachers in the professional development and learning. The value of adopting an inquiry-approach in developing practice is well documented in Ki te Aotūroa – Improving Inservice Teacher Educator Learning and Practice. This evaluation report offers additional insights about the ways in which participating in INSTEP has contributed to bringing about shifts in knowledge, skills and expertise of ISTEs and identifies early indicators of change for the project.
Our analysis indicates that INSTEP has had an impact at a number of levels:
- at an individual ISTE level;
- at a group level;
- at an organisational level;
- at the sector level.
We see these levels as embedded within each other suggesting that there may be a time dimension to these impacts. For example, for changes in individual ISTE level to generate impact at the wider sector level requires time as it involves bringing about shifts in the world view of different sector groups. Further there are a number of other contextual factors that can impede these shifts from occurring easily such as the contestable nature of the environment and this need to be recognised. The following diagram illustrates the particular focus at each level:
Figure 14: INSTEP levels of impact
At an individual ISTE level, INSTEP can be deemed to be a success and all ISTEs involved in INSTEP were unanimous in their view that their views about their practice had been transformed. Focusing on the “I” and engaging in problems of personal professional practice, gathering and examining evidence of this practice and trialling approaches that challenge or push this practice, ISTEs involved in INSTEP had developed deeper understandings of his/her role as pedagogical leaders. Further tools like the video, audio transcripts or peer observations have led to de-privatising practice which in turn has created significant learning opportunities for ISTEs. As one ISTE put it, “there is no going back” and this illustrates the significance of the shifts that have been made and the value of applying these new understandings in their work.
At a group level, there is evidence to show that ISTEs are engaging in collaborative inquiry into their practice within their professional learning groups established during INSTEP. In some instances, these groups are formed around output groups within the School Support services contract such as literacy and numeracy, to discuss and debate issues relating to their practice. Through the consolidation initiatives, other groups have formed such as the ATOL or LPDP which aim to work across geographical boundaries or institutional boundaries.
The focus on the ‘WE’, as a community of inservice teacher educators, is clearly growing and taking shape and needs to be supported to investigate cross-cutting issues for the wider community. A key success factor in achieving change at a group level appears to be commonality of interest and purpose.
At an organisational level, the focus has been on “OUR” institution and INSTEP has made significant strides in getting provider organisations involved in the case study research to think differently about how they structure, support and monitor effectiveness of their advisory work. As a result, case study organisations have significantly reshaped their structures and systems particularly in relation to their induction programmes, professional development days, how they support ongoing professional development of their staff, performance appraisal systems and creating professional learning groups to facilitate ongoing inquiry into practice. This is a critical first step towards sustaining the benefits and lessons from INSTEP.
A closer examination of these structures and systems reveals that within these broader institution-wide changes, in most instances the inquiry on practice related issues still tend to be individually, “I” focussed. This is an emerging issue that needs to be addressed by the management teams, particularly in the larger provider organisations. Just as responsibility for improving student outcomes is a collective responsibility, so too is the responsibility of improving quality and effectiveness of ISTE practice. This means that over time the focus needs to extend beyond individual improvement to explore how ISTEs can contribute to lifting the quality of the services provided by their institution as a whole. This requires ISTEs to escalate the inquiry to include practice issues that face the entire organisation. It also allows the organisation to tap into the tacit knowledge of advisors to collectively reflect on aspects of their service including issues such as prioritisation and decision- making processes regarding selection of schools; aligning professional delivery to regional needs; gathering evidence of success. Focusing on these issues will help transition INSTEP from an individually focused intervention to bringing about shifts in the professional development provision system.
The following table offers some guidance for ensuring that the inquiry question is focused at the appropriate level as well as how ISTEs and provider organisations can track progress at each level.
Table 5: Levels of impact and possible inquiry questions
At the sector level, the focus is on “US” which assumes a level of ownership across the sector for the quality and coherence in approaches to inservice teacher education. However, as noted earlier, impact of INSTEP on the sector appears to have been minimal suggesting more needs to be done in this regard. There was a sense that while INSTEP had got the ball rolling, there were no mechanisms to keep the sector engaged and no clarity around who would take the leadership in facilitating ongoing discussion and dialogue across the sector. When specifically asked about whose role it was to lead future development of ISTE practice, respondents repeatedly said that it could only be achieved with significant involvement from the Ministry. There are a number of reasons for this: first, the sector includes private and publicly funded providers with different interests and motivations. This impacts on the extent to which cohesion is possible and feasible as the providers operate in a contestable environment. Secondly, the sector is made up of a number of disparate groups who have strong regional presence and leadership does not rest with any one group in the sector. This means that any attempts to bring about cohesion at a national level will require a collective effort from a group of committed players who proactively lead the sector for change.
While sector reference group members acknowledged that there was strong need for a coherent sector leadership in the future, the contestable environment that ISTE providers operate in does not create the incentives to bring about this level of cohesion. This requires the Ministry to re-consider and review the structures, systems and processes that help/hinder the development of sector leadership for inservice teacher education and how it can overcome these.
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