Evaluation of Teacher Professional Development Languages (TPDL):

For teachers of languages in years 7-10 and the impact on language learning opportunities and outcomes for students

Publication Details

This study was carried out during 2008 and aims to inform the Ministry about the TPDL and the impact on language learning opportunities and outcomes for students.

Author(s): Sharon Harvey, Clare Conway, Heather Richards & Annelies Roskvist, AUT University

Date Published: December 2009

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This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box).  To view the individual chapters please refer to the 'Sections' inset box.  For links to related publications/ information that may be of interest please refer to the 'Where to Find Out More' inset box.

Chapter 7: Sustainability and replicability of the TPDL programme Years 7-10

If teacher engagement with new ideas and practices is to be more than a brief encounter, there are issues of sustainability to be considered (Timperley et al., 2007, p. 218).

Introduction

Because of the urgent need to upskill teachers in teaching languages the Ministry of Education is interested in whether TPDL is sustainable in its current form and whether or not it can be replicated. This is discussed below in terms of the sustainability of learning for participants, the programme itself and how a version of TPDL might be replicated.

Sustainability

The purpose of professional development is for participants to be able to transfer their learning experience into their work situation.  However, moving from the relatively short encounter of the course (one academic year), to long term impact can be a challenge. Once the professional development support is withdrawn, the effects of the course may diminish, and so for professional learning experiences to be sustainable, conditions need to be established both during the course as well as afterwards (Timperley et al., 2007).  This section considers the sustainability of the existing TPDL course in terms of its professional development, and the sustainability of the ongoing learning for graduating participants and their students. It also considers the continuing cohorts of teachers and students wanting to teach and learn languages, and the sustainability of the TPDL course infrastructure.

Characteristics of the current TPDL course

A sustainable, successful teacher professional development course that encourages participants to change their practice needs to have a number of key components: a foundation of deep principled knowledge, the development of inquiry skills and a link to a school environment supportive of participants (Timperley et al., 2007).  In addition, teachers can be encouraged to sustain their new learning by belonging to a knowledge community (Craig, 2007).

Foundation of principled knowledge

For participants to undergo and sustain profound change in professional development, courses need to be underpinned by a principled knowledge base.  Teachers not only have to understand these principles but also know how they relate to their individual teaching situation and practice (Timperly et al., 2007). TPDL is founded on a knowledge base that follows the principles of The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) which makes explicit statements about what is deemed important in education.  It is an outcomes-focused curriculum with eight key principles that form a foundation for all decisions made in schools, putting students at the centre of teaching and learning (Ministry of Education, 2007a). The Language Learning area of the curriculum is informed by the work of Byram (1995), Kramsch (1993), Scarino (2000) and Ellis (2005a), and the TPDL programme has a particular focus on Ellis's principles of instructed language learning.

The Ellis principles are part of the framework of the pedagogy component and the in-school component of the TPDL programme.  In the pedagogy component, the EDPROFST360 paper, the paper content is aligned with the Ellis principles.  The paper outline shows that the ten principles are introduced to the TPDL participants on the first day of the EDPROFST360 course and participants work with these principles throughout the seven subsequent course days (Faculty of Education, 2008a).  Instructions in the summary to the group facilitators stress, 'Your goal is that the teachers understand the principles which underpin the tasks and that they are able to adapt ideas rather than run off and immediately use these specific activities'  (Thomson, 2008c).  Knowledge of theory is assessed through the curriculum test which examines teachers' ability to relate the Ellis principles to units of work.  In addition, all the EDPROFST360 paper content is supported by relevant academic readings in the field of language teaching and learning.

The EDPROFST360 paper also provides opportunities for teachers to develop deep principled knowledge through online support.  Two websites are recommended: the Teacher Professional Development Languages (TPDL) website and the Ministry of Education Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) website. Teachers can access the TPDL core reading list, as well as extra, academic, language teaching readings to inform their practice and to help them with their classroom investigations in the action research project.  Figure 26 indicates that of the 25 respondents to survey three, 19 had used the LIPIS website during the course and 22 had used TKI leaving three respondents who had not accessed either website.  More than three quarters of the respondents made use of the websites, with TKI used more frequently than LIPIS.

Figure 26: Use of TPDL recommended websites by survey three respondents (n=25)

Image of Figure 26: Use
  of TPDL recommended websites by survey three respondents (n=25).

The second component of the TPDL programme, in-school support, is also based on and provides further opportunities for teachers to develop deep principled knowledge. TPDL course facilitators observe the teachers in the language teaching classroom and note evidence of the Ellis principles that teachers are implementing, using the Evidence of Principles and Strategies form (Thomson, 2009, Appendix 15). Follow up facilitator feedback considers the principles and strategies used by the classroom teacher, and the lesson is discussed so that participants can continue to develop their knowledge and practice.

In the first interview with case study teachers, four of the seven teachers mentioned that knowledge of the Ellis principles helped them improve their understanding of how students learn an additional language. Comments from participants in surveys and in case study interviews confirm the efficacy of working from the Ellis principles.  In survey two, which was conducted at a time when the respondents were focusing on the Ellis principles in the EDPROFST360 paper, 23 of the 29 respondents, when asked about the impact of the TPDL on their classroom practice, responded mentioning aspects of Ellis's principles, for example, 'I'm changing to more task-based student centred activities and have increased knowledge of the theoretical underpinnings of my teaching practice'. Researchers' observations of case studies also noted teachers implementing key areas covered in the course (see Table 10, p.69). Thus, teachers demonstrated an awareness of second language acquisition theory.

As noted earlier, however, there seems to be a gap in the teaching of Cultural Knowledge in TPDL. Byram (1995) and Kramsch (1993) are quoted on the generic framework (Ministry of Education, 2007c). There is further reference to the intercultural dimension on the Evidence of Principles and Strategies form (Thomson, 2008b, Appendix 10) and intention to add a Byram reference to the EDPROFTS360 Course Outline reading list (Faculty of Education, 2008b). However, the teaching of intercultural competence was not included in the Course Outline Content Overview (Faculty of Education, 2008b). Thus teachers' knowledge of how to approach the teaching of culture was limited. As yet there are no clearly outlined principles in the area of intercultural competence available to teachers through the Ministry of Education.   The researchers understand that a set of principles for Intercultural Communicative Language Teaching (iCLT) are being drafted (Newton, Yates, Shearn, Nowitzki, Dickie & Winiata, 2008). Once a set of iCLT principles is adopted, it will provide a significant extended foundation of knowledge for TPDL and a more comprehensive platform for discussion in facilitator observation, feedback and in-school support.

Development of inquiry skills

A key means of fostering inquiry skills was through the action research project. Assessment two, worth 80% of the EDPROFST360 paper, required teachers to critically reflect on a set of readings, plan and implement a teaching intervention relevant to their own context, and collect evidence of student learning gains (Faculty of Education, 2008b). Teachers then shared their findings through presentations towards the end of the course.  All seven case study teachers mentioned that the action research project helped them understand how students learn an additional language. One teacher said that sharing the findings with other teachers was beneficial and she intended to implement another teacher's findings in her own classroom context. The action research project was a platform for teachers to deeply process information and problem-solve. For some, it also provided the possibility for maintaining an inquiry approach to their teaching and learning once the course had ended.  Half of the 24 survey three respondents indicated they would be likely to do a further investigation (e.g. similar to their action research project) into their students' language learning the following year (see Figure 27). 

Figure 27: Further investigations into student language learning

Image of Figure 27:
  Further investigations into student language learning.

Establishment of a knowledge community

Further ways of ensuring that engagement with new ideas is more than a 'brief encounter' is to consider what happens when a participant leaves a professional development course. There are three possible pathways regarding participants' new learning.  Their knowledge may decline, it may be maintained, or ideally their new understanding may continue to develop and increase. One way for learning to be consolidated and extended is for teachers to become part of a knowledge community that has a life beyond the course.  Although the form of the community need not be prescribed, there does need to be an impetus to prompt its start.  The community needs to respond to the members' interests, needs and context. 

The TPDL programme provided the impetus for developing teachers' knowledge. The philosophy underpinning the course encouraged a culture of group learning through continued interaction in the EDPROFST360 days.  This involved discussion and exchanges of ideas, as well as a formalised presentation of the action research projects. When the TPDL teachers first met together in workshops they were required to interact using the TL, and to participate in pair and group learning activities, with follow-up discussion on linking practice and theory (Thomson, 2008d). One case study teacher in the first interview was very positive about the TPDL programme intensive days.  'I can interact with peers, with experts and with a full range of people.  It's neat.  You can become isolated [in your school] . On the course, others want to know and discuss new things' . 

In survey one participants were asked about the level of contact they desired with other TPDL participants outside the EDPROFST360 days (see Figure 28).  The majority (24 of 25) of the core survey one respondents said they would like to meet each other at least once a term.  Survey two data indicated that 19 of the 24 core respondents were in contact at least once a term, four of them monthly.  Six of them had weekly contact, which may have been because of a need for peer academic support as respondents were nearing the end of the EDPROFST360 input and moving towards presenting their action research projects. The participants on the programme were taking opportunities to gain support and work together outside the course days.  By the end of the course, 20 of the 25 survey three respondents indicated they were still in contact with other participants at least once a term, and seven of them were in contact monthly. Having contact with participants outside the course schedule and working collaboratively on the course through group learning and interaction helped teachers to develop their knowledge. As one case study teacher commented, 'You can do more when teachers work together'.

Figure 28: Teachers' level of contact with other course participants

Image of Figure 28:
  Teachers' level of contact with other course participants.

School support

Support by participants' schools is also an important feature of teacher success in professional development. The leaders and staff within the school, as well as other interested members in the surrounding environment, need to provide encouragement to teachers at the start of the course and take an interest throughout. This is important to ensure that the long term impact of the course becomes 'more than a brief encounter' (Timperley et al., 2007, p. 218).

Before considering the ways schools can offer support, the considerable increase in workload that teachers encounter when they enrol in the TPDL course needs to be recognised. Although the majority of teachers (18 of 25 respondents) found the course workload heavy, they indicated it was manageable (see Figure 29). It is interesting to note that the five teachers who commented that the workload was easily managed all reported having strong support and encouragement from their schools. Of the two teachers who found the workload too heavy, one indicated she had support from her school 'to some extent', while the other was 'fully' supported but it indicated it was her first time teaching a language.

Figure 29: TPDL workload

Image of Figure 29: TPDL
  workload.

As well as taking part in all the components of the TPDL course, teachers undertook considerable preparation of resources to support their new language teaching classroom practice (see Figure 30).  Ten of the 25 survey three respondents reported spending more than three hours on average per week on language teaching resource preparation (e.g. cards for language games, posters etc). This is in addition to lesson preparation for their language class.

Figure 30: Average time spent per week preparing language teaching resources

Image of Figure 30:
  Average time spent per week preparing language teaching resources.

Given the increased course workload described above, it is important that schools support their teachers while they undertake the course so they can maximise and implement their new learning in the classroom. In response to a question about school support of teachers' study on the TPDL programme, survey respondents indicated that the support they received from the school remained constant until the end of the course (see Figure 31). More than three quarters of respondents in both surveys two and three felt that their school was either 'mostly' or 'fully' supportive, while the remainder felt their school was supportive to 'some extent.'

Figure 31: Extent teachers feel their school is supportive of TPDL study

Image of Figure 31:
  Extent teachers feel their school is supportive of TPDL study.

Data from case studies and surveys indicated schools were supportive of teachers in three main ways: general encouragement and guidance, release from teaching for professional development, and financial support (see Sample Teacher Comments). General encouragement and guidance included one school having an open door policy from senior staff to support the TPDL teacher when she felt pressure from course and classroom commitments. One teacher found it very affirming that the HOD in her school was interested in implementing aspects of her action research project.  Another school offered their facilities to host the TPDL group presentation of the action research projects. Some schools released participants from teaching so they could meet with the TPDL facilitator within school time to have feedback on their observations.  However, others did not receive this support and had to discuss their lessons at lunch time or after school. Other teachers mentioned schools supported them financially through travel allowances and the purchase of language teaching and learning resources.

Table 17: Means of support provided by schools

(Note: Combined data from survey three (n=25) and interviews two and three. There was no duplication of respondent answers between the questions).

Means of school support (x number of participant comments)
Interest, encouragement, guidance and permission for teachers to do the course ( x 16)
Sample Teacher Comments
  • My HOD gave me advice at any stage of my classwork and research project.
  • Encouraged within my department (but no obvious school encouragement).
  • They gave me time to do the course.
  • The school created a class for me to teach the TL.
  • [The school] asked to see feedback on my teaching.
  • The Principal came and watched the [action research] presentations.
  • Letting me do the course for Appraisal.
  • Management read my research document.
  • Showed interest in my work.
  • Allowed me to participate in all aspects of the PD without question.
  • School had an open door policy for help at any time.
  • Time to visit other teachers of languages to see how they use technology.
  • I've been given an extra unit to coordinate the languages programme next year.
  • HOD interested in implementing findings from action research project.
Release from teaching (x 17)
Sample Teacher Comments
  • Put a reliever in place so I could attend PD days.
  • Covered my class while I was on the course.
  • Covered my class when I sat the TL exam.
  • Release time for interviews after the observations.
  • School has been fantastic.  Nothing too much trouble.  Release time readily available for TPDL visits.
  • Payment of relievers – have always had a 'yes' answer to any request I have made regarding the course.
Financial Support (x4)
Sample Teacher Comments
  • Blown away when HOD paid for the text and all photocopying.
  • Paid for the mileage.
  • Money available for resources.
  • They approved my course enrolment and paid.


Some teachers were supported as required by the contract but there was no extra support provided outside the commitment of the contract. One teacher felt the school did not sustain languages adequately as there were other areas in the school curriculum which were seen as more important. One teacher said she did not think her school knew very much about the programme at all.  A high school teacher reported excellent support from her department, but less from the school which favoured more generalised PD programmes for the benefit of all staff. 

A further way schools were perceived to show interest in the TPDL teachers' learning was to provide opportunities for teachers to talk to colleagues formally. Eleven of the 25 core survey two respondents indicated that they did not formally report aspects of the TPDL programme to the school.  However, 14 said they formally communicated with staff either 'a little' or 'to some extent'.  Survey three data gathered at the end of the course indicated that there had been a slight decrease, with 11 now formally reporting to the school community either 'a little' or 'to some extent.'  Examples of such formal reporting included a language prize presented at assembly, a student display of TL learning, and a demonstration of students interacting in the TL at school assembly.  One case study teacher mentioned how the positive feedback from other language teaching staff on her students' performance at assembly was encouraging. Two of the case study teachers indicated that they shared the findings of their action research reports with management, either through providing the written report or through management attendance at presentations.

Figure 32: Extent of teachers' formal communication with school staff about TPDL

Image of Figure 32:
  Extent of teachers' formal communication with school staff about TPDL.

While some teachers did not formally report to the school community about the TPDL course, there was considerable informal communication (see Figure 33). In survey two, the majority (23 of 25 the core respondents) indicated they talked informally to staff (e.g. in break time) in their schools about the TPDL programme. However by survey three, there had been a slight decrease in this with five indicating they were not talking informally at all about the course.  Teachers who indicated they were talking informally to staff did so in a number of ways. One case study teacher talked to her HOD Years 7 and 8 about the implementation of languages for 2010, and to other colleagues about aspects of the course.  One case study teacher reported that other teachers in the school asked her about the TPDL programme and showed interest in enrolling. 

Figure 33: Extent of teachers' informal communication with school staff about TPDL

Image of Figure 33:
  Extent of teachers' informal communication with school staff about
  TPDL.


When TPDL participants were asked a question in the final survey about what they would recommend to incoming TPDL participants, the role of the school and support was not mentioned in their responses. Rather, they focused on suggestions for practical ways to handle the workload and learning on the course (see Table 18).

Table 18: Recommendations to incoming TPDL participants (Survey 3, n=23)
Recommendations (x Number of Participant Comments
Action Research Project (x9)
Sample teacher comments
  • Don't choose a research question that's too complex.
  • Keep action research project simple and narrowly focused Think about action learning project early on. Make sure it's relevant to future practice.
  • Begin the research well ahead of the due date.
Time (x8)
Sample teacher comments
  • Don't study anything else apart from the selected language; it's demanding of your time.
  • It's good provided you're motivated and can organise your time.
  • I'd recommend it with reservations because it could lead to over commitment of time and energy.
  • A study leave entitlement could help avoid a work overload.
  • Stay on top of the readings.
  • Do language exams in the first half of the year as the second half is often over-crowded especially as the research deadline looms.
Networking (x5)
Sample teacher comments
  • Take every opportunity to network with other participants.
  • Interact with many teachers from other schools.
  • Go to Auckland for the PD sessions – bigger and more positive group.
  • It's enjoyable to meet other teachers and discuss ideas.
  • Excellent networking.
Resources (x5)
Sample teacher comments
  • Use TKI and LIPIS – there are great resources and ideas.
  • Collect as many resources as are made available.
  • Collect and share resources.
  • Get help with making resources.
Other
Sample teacher comments
  • Ensure they have a few people taking the same language.
  • Take advantage of tutor's knowledge and expertise.


The table shows the importance of participants being able to manage their time from the start of the course. This is reflected in comments about managing time in general (e.g. around reading and language study) and also managing the action research project with early identification of a clear, narrowly focused topic relevant to the classroom. In addition, teachers commented about the benefits of networking with other language teachers, and collecting and sharing resources. As one survey respondent summed up,

Take a very deep breath. It's not the walk in the park we were led to believe when the pamphlet was put under our nose.  But the personnel are lovely… Go on the course because it's so necessary to form good practice and because it's enjoyable.

Language courses

For the TPDL programme to be fully sustainable quality language courses for TPDL participants are essential. To cater for all TPDL participants, the language study component provided flexible language learning opportunities.  Teachers could complete their language study through a tertiary provider, community classes, and/or a distance course.  There was a strong commitment from the TPDL directors to secure and maintain effective language study for teachers.  For the majority of the teachers on the 2008 TPDL programme this was successful. However, there are a number of points to consider for ongoing sustainability: class availability, quality courses and timing of TPDL and the language study course.

All five teaching languages need to be available in all regions of the country as required by TPDL participants. Courses should be convenient and at an appropriate level. They need to be effective face to face classes in tertiary or community institutions, or effective distance classes. As discussed in chapter three, there was a range of effectiveness of distance, customised programmes. Those organised by UNITEC were received well by participants to the extent that numbers of teachers wishing to do the French distance programme increased.  Analysis of this model could identify features to be used to continue to develop other distance programmes in other languages to an equally high standard.

A third factor desirable for sustainability arose from one teacher's comment about the timing of the language study course. At the end of the TPDL course she reported that although she had a level of proficiency in the TL, gained in high school, she felt intensive study of the language before beginning to teach it would have benefited her. She felt that having to teach the language before she had begun her language study course made the task more challenging than it needed to be. It would be useful to consider the possibility of offering an intensive language study courses run in the school holidays for those who were lacking in confidence at the start of teaching their language classes.

Continuing development

Once a professional development course is completed, teachers need to have a knowledge community which supports them in their continuing development. As Craig notes '… knowledge communities sustain [teachers] by providing instruction and opportunities for growth. The efficacy of individuals, along with the power of small groups to inspire and influence change, becomes readily apparent to others' (2007, p. 621).  Table 19 shows how teachers intended to gain support for their continuing development once the course finished. Thirteen respondents said they would be likely to have regular meetings inside/outside school with language teaching colleagues. Other teachers indicated their intentions to engage in further teacher professional development through professional development days, membership of language associations, conference attendance and presentations. Six of the 25 respondents indicated they were likely to undertake a higher language teaching qualification in the future.  This represents a strong commitment by teachers to their own ongoing learning.

Table 19: Type of intended professional development
Type of intended professional development Number of
Participant
Responses
Note:
  1. Note: Participants ticked more than one answer
Professional development days (schools, Ministry, NZALT) 18
Conference attendance 15
Membership of recognised language association (e.g. NZALT, Alliance Française) 14
Regular meetings inside/outside school with language teaching colleagues 13
Formal language teaching qualification (e.g. Graduate Diploma/Masters) 6
Conference presentations 2

 
Ongoing school support for language teacher development

Teachers were asked how schools could best support them beyond the course. Table 20 indicates the key areas of school support teachers considered important for sustaining their language teaching development. Table 20 indicates teachers would particularly like support through funding and time for further study of language pedagogy, conference attendance and enrolment in further language classes. Other areas that emerge are valuing language teaching in the school and providing assured language classes so teachers can continue to develop their language teaching skills. As well, teachers would like schools to provide resources for language teaching, including access to computers so teachers can supplement their lessons with PowerPoint and internet resources.

Table 20: Ways schools could best support continuing language teaching development
Ways schools could best support continuing  language teaching development (x number of participant comments)
Further pedagogy study (x8)
Sample Teacher Comments
  • Support more tertiary study in language teaching pedagogy.
  • Allow me to continue with my study.
  • Time to attend courses.
  • Continue to pay for courses and allow me time to do so where needed.
  • Provide relievers so I can attend PD days.
Conference Attendance (x5)
Sample Teacher Comments
  • Support to go to conference.
  • Let me go to conferences.
  • Continue to help pay cost/time to go to conferences.
Funding for language courses and/or language exam fees (x4)
Sample Teacher Comments
  • Pay for language courses and exam fees as well as required text.
  • Continue paying the fees for UNITEC TL class.
Assured future TL class (x3)
Sample Teacher Comments
  • Let the language classes run even with small numbers.
  • Let me teach a TL class!
  • Offer TL at Year 8 as well as Year 7.
Value the TL (x2)
Sample Teacher Comments
  • Value the TL more in terms of timetabling.
  • Allow students to take two languages at one level, for example, Māori and TL.
Resources (x2)
Sample Teacher Comments
  • Give me time to develop resources.
  • Give me a budget for resources.
Access to technology in language classroom (x2)
Sample Teacher Comments
  • Fund the laptop when delivering TL in the classroom  - PowerPoint, internet resources.
  • An improved classroom environment with access to computers.
Other (x1)
Sample Teacher Comments
  • Time to see effective language teaching programmes in other schools.
  • Support application for immersion award.
Ongoing language development for teachers

Ongoing TL development beyond the course is important for many teachers   50% of the survey participants described themselves as elementary or beginner level language learners at the end of the TPDL course (see Figure 3). As noted in chapter three the length of study and the preparation for an exam resulted in the greatest perception of change in TL level proficiency.  Where possible, teachers need to be encouraged and supported to obtain further qualifications in the TL through formal study in a community, tertiary or online distance course. Actively participating in the TL community is a further way for teachers to continue developing their language knowledge and fluency.  While teachers had established a level of indirect contact with TL community by the end of the course, direct participation was more limited (see chapter three).  Teachers need to be encouraged and supported to engage with TL speakers. Increased access to TL language assistants in schools could also help less proficient teachers to sustain and develop their language knowledge.  A further means of teachers increasing their language and cultural knowledge is through the LIA (see Section 3.4).

Ongoing language development for Years 7-10 learners

Another aspect of sustaining the TPDL programme is effective ongoing language development for Years 7-10 language learners.  For teachers to remain motivated and sustained while on the programme, it is necessary for them to feel that languages are important and supported by their school. They need to have confidence that what they are doing is valued. One way is for them to know their learners have continued opportunities to learn the language. Years 7-10 students who have learned the TL for one semester, or in many cases for one year, have developed some ability to communicate in the TL.  Sustaining this knowledge is important.  The research data from interview three revealed a range of continuity of language learning for students.  In one high school, virtually all students would progress to the next level in the TL. In another high school, the case study teachers indicated that about half the class would choose to continue with the same TL and classes would be available for them.  Some teachers of Year 8 students who were going into Year 9 at high school were concerned about this transition. Three teachers expressed concern that their students who had studied the TL for one year would expect a higher level of TL at high school and might not get it. Ideally, primary and secondary teachers need to build relationships to facilitate the transition.  One teacher liaised with the local high school and although the high school teacher was not anticipating any problems with the students having prior knowledge, the current teacher felt it could be a problem and students might be demotivated. Another case study teacher was considering devising a system of passports so that students could take records of their Year 8 learning with them to their high school TL class the following year, thus making the transition smoother.  Teachers of Years 7 indicated that there would be no continuity of TL learning for some students while others would be in a class where they were learning a different TL.

Future teacher and learner cohorts

For the programme to be sustainable there needs to be a continuing cohort of teachers wanting to become language teachers.  There also needs to be a continuing interest amongst students in learning an additional language and schools fully supporting the Ministry's intention to offer languages to all Years 7-10 students by 2010.

Future teacher cohort

As a way to gauge the level of interest amongst teachers for future TPDL courses, the researchers asked the 2008 course participants to indicate if there were other teachers in their school who would be interested in doing TPDL in the future (see Figure 34).

Figure 34: Other teachers in the school interested in doing TPDL in future

Image of Figure 34:
  Other teachers in the school interested in doing TPDL in future.

Of the 25 survey three respondents, 17 said either there was no interest or they didn't know if teachers in their school were interested in doing TPDL. Eight said there was interest, and one survey respondent commented:

There are three teachers from our school who have applied for the programme.  I've told them the workload is not too onerous, it's very interesting, the theory of the pedagogy paper will help them learn about how kids learn in general, they will meet some really interesting people on the course and see how other teachers teach. 

Participants talking informally about the TPDL programme to staff throughout the year may have had an impact on other teachers' interest in the course. One case study teacher noted that although no teachers in her school were interested in doing TPDL for one of the five languages offered, they could be interested if the programme was for Te Reo. According to the Ministry of Education a Te Reo Māori professional development programme is in fact available but is not well known.

Recommendations from current TPDL participants are a very powerful form of advertising and promotion. Researchers noted a significant number of recommendations about the TPDL programme as indicated in Table 21.

Table 21: Recommendations to teachers interested in TPDL course (Survey 3)
Sample positive comments about TPDL 2008
  • It's changed my teaching dramatically.  It opened doors for me.  I have even more fun teaching TL now (and I always enjoyed it).
  • I would highly recommend the course.
  • Positive recommendation: observations very useful.
  • Do it. It's worth it to be able to teach correctly.
  • It's the best PD I've ever had.
  • The theory of the pedagogy paper helps learn about how kids learn in general.
  • Tutor approachable, positive, upbeat, supportive and encouraging, passionate and professional – simply a superlative teaching professional.


Future language teachers can be encouraged to join the TPDL course through current participants talking formally and informally about the course in schools and at language cluster meetings.  It would appear that a continuing cohort of teachers is likely for 2009. 

Future learner cohort

To encourage students to be interested in learning an additional language in schools, the profile of languages needs to continue to be raised so that the wider school community sees it as favourable.  At Years 7-8, schools are being asked to prioritise a range of subjects of which Learning Languages is just one. As indicated by Thomson in Milestone Report Nine (Thomson, 2009) and by the researchers in chapter five, teachers found it a challenge to schedule regular language teaching throughout the year. Learning languages needs to be seen as advantageous for students and schools need to make a strong commitment to language teaching to avoid the risk of the teaching and learning of languages in Years 7-8, in particular, being diminished.  In addition, successful language learning at Years 7-8 provides students with more options at high school and can thus increase the cohort of interested learners. The researchers noted that in the 2008 TPDL cohort, teachers were predominantly teaching French and Spanish. To get a better spread of languages, Asian languages need to be especially promoted throughout the country amongst staff, students and the wider school community

TPDL course staff and structures

For the sustainability of the TPDL programme it is important to consider the TPDL staffing both current and future. As well, course sustainability relies on a sound infrastructure and effective systems.

TPDL programme staff

Survey respondents' feedback on the 2008 TPDL teaching team was noticeably very positive with participants commenting on the staff availability, professionalism and expertise.  This is a strength of the TPDL programme.  The programme directors ensured information was made available to the staff. They were also quick to discuss and resolve issues as they arose, for example finding an appropriate language study course for Waikato teachers once a problem was revealed (Thomson, 2008e). Staff vigilance and understanding of course participants' developing learning was significant and evidenced in the milestone reports throughout the course. Milestone Report Eight demonstrates continuing online professional debate amongst the teaching team, about course participants' progress (Thomson, 2008e, Appendix 13).  The TPDL 2008 teaching staff were regularly informed throughout the course and appeared to be a strong team.  If the programme remains in its current form, the course directors need to ensure there are sufficient numbers of qualified staff inducted into the programme so that staffing continues to be effective.

TPDL infrastructure

TPDL appears to have a sound infrastructure and effective systems. Project directors kept the Ministry informed, kept the team members informed and maintained close contact with participants throughout with detailed communications.  Milestone Reports Eight and Nine for the Ministry of Education (Thomson 2008e, Thomson 2009) provided evidence of effective basic organisational systems. The comprehensive appendices to these reports showed there was effective liaison between all team members within and outside Auckland through minutes kept of meetings (Thomson, 2008e, Appendix 12). In addition, there were samples of staff email contact with the 2008 cohort. The infrastructure allowed for direct participant-initiated communication with teaching staff and sample feedback from teachers showing they liaised intensely with the teaching staff (Thomson, 2008e Appendix 9). The TPDL directors had well organised schedules and clear plans for promoting the programme. For example, Appendix 11, Milestone Report Eight details how the project directors in June, called for in-school facilitators to help with promotional work through publicising the course at conference. They also indicated plans to speak to principals about the course for the following year, and organise seminars on TPDL for secondary school teachers as well as update the TPDL brochure. 

There is a question however as to whether the current highly detailed reporting and close contractual relationship with the Ministry of Education is the most sustainable way for TPDL (or a version of it) to continue into the future. While the current model may have been an effective way to run a pilot it is doubtful that this structure could continue indefinitely. It must be considerably more expensive to run than equivalent teacher qualifications and professional development programmes embedded in recognised qualifications in universities. The reporting is detailed and presumably time consuming for both the producers (TPDL directors) and consumers (Ministry officials) of the milestone reports, although they are a valuable source of data. Arguably, a more sustainable organisation of TPDL could be to gather its strengths into a full university (preferably postgraduate) qualification to be delivered through universities in appropriate centres.

Replicability

Given the relative success of TPDL, its ability to be replicated is an area that requires careful consideration. This is particularly so given the large numbers of teachers that need to be trained in order for most schools to offer Learning Languages to students from Years 7-10 from 2010.  Importantly, replicability in the TPDL context can be interpreted to mean either the expansion of the TPDL programme to provide other languages (e.g. Te Reo) or duplication of the programme by other providers in other areas of the country. Metz, Blowie & Blasé (2007) provide a framework when considering key factors required for a programme to be replicated. Stakeholders and adopters need to consider core components of the programme (core intervention and core implementation) as well as adaptable and discretionary components. 

Core components

Core intervention components are essential and indispensable components to obtaining the desired outcomes for a programme (Metz et al., 2007). TPDL outcomes are drawn from The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) (Ministry of Education, 2007a).  If similar outcomes are sought in replicable programmes, adopters need to share similar beliefs about language learning and teaching. For example, they need to support the idea that it is possible to learn and teach the same language concurrently and ensure participants have access to a language study component to develop their TL fluency. Also, second language acquisition theory needs to be provided at a tertiary level embodying principles relating to developing both communicative competence and intercultural competence.  Adopters also need to support participants through ongoing observation and feedback on their language teaching development throughout the course. These areas are essential and at present on the TPDL programme they inter-relate and are taught within one programme in one academic year.

Core implementation components are the essential or indispensable components for implementing the practice (Metz et al., 2007).  They include financial resources, staff, administrative structures and classroom teaching opportunities. Any replicated course needs to be fully resourced financially so that staff is able to teach and observe participants regularly throughout their professional development. Participants need access to resources such as texts, curriculum documents and to appropriate language teaching practice opportunities throughout the course. Financial support is essential for fees and to adequately cover the necessary release days for teachers.  Suitably qualified teaching staff with a range of language backgrounds needs to be selected and inducted into the programme, and mentored where necessary to ensure consistency of delivery across the programme.  There should to be systems for documenting and reporting (where necessary) on the programme to stakeholders, with regular review and monitoring. There also needs to be appropriate administrative staff familiar with the programme and provider environment. Both teaching and administrative staff require supporting infrastructure such as internet access enabling communication with programme participants and effective liaison.

Adaptable and discretionary components

Programmes that have a level of flexibility are easier to replicate than others because adopters can adapt the programme to meet the unique needs of the target participant group (Metz et al., 2007). The TPDL programme currently has an element of flexibility. Although the theoretical teaching and learning component is tightly linked to classroom practice, the language study component is offered in a more flexible mode.  Adopters could consider whether the components remain inter-related or if they could be successfully taught discretely.  If adopters decide to deliver components discretely, it is important to ensure that the participants gain a comprehensive picture of learning and teaching so that the benefits of the components relating and reinforcing each other are not lost.  This would involve considerable continuity and liaison among teaching staff. While learning a language should be compulsory for all course participants, as it is beneficial for both linguistic purposes and for developing languageteaching knowledge, there is room for further flexibility around the language study component to meet participants' needs.  Potentially, some participants could study the TL adjacent to the course (e.g. in summer school).  Others who have some TL knowledge could study the language at the start of the course, while other bilingual and more proficient TL teachers could study an additional language at their discretion throughout the course to gain the benefits of understanding the learning process. 

As noted previously, a number of these factors could inform the development of a comprehensive and appropriate (possibly postgraduate_ qualification for Years 7-10 language teachers.

Conclusion

TPDL is currently meeting the important conditions recommended for sustainability of teacher development.  The professional development programme is founded on principled knowledge and theory. It provides opportunities for participants to develop inquiry skills and to become part of a knowledge community.  The programme has multiple approaches throughout the course to make this knowledge manifest for the teachers.  It encourages participants to develop their inquiry skills related to their classroom practice through comprehensive assessment involving classroom intervention and critical reflection. Participants are encouraged to interact and collaborate from the start of the course, thus providing an opportunity for them to establish a knowledge community.  For sustainability the TPDL programme participants need to have access to quality language courses at appropriate levels. The participant school's involvement can help sustain teacher development. Schools are able to contribute to supporting teachers in a variety of practical ways while teachers are on the course. Once the teachers have finished the course, the school philosophy will be essential to maintain a culture of support and teacher development. As well, for sustainability there needs to be an ongoing cohort of teachers; approximately one third of the current cohort indicated there was interest from teachers in their school in future TPDL programmes.

In addition to supporting teachers' ongoing professional development, it is important that schools also continue to promote language teaching and learning in Years 7-10 so that teachers feel their language teaching work is a valued component of the curriculum.  There are challenges in sustaining language learning for students. The profile of learning an additional language needs to continue to be raised and seen as advantageous not only by schools and students but also by the wider community.  Although five languages are offered at present the numbers of teachers and students are not evenly spread.  Asian languages are poorly represented. Another challenge is the transition of students in Years 7-8 and consideration needs to be given to making this effective so a continuity of language teachers and students is assured. 

A final factor to consider for sustainability is the staffing, infrastructure and systems. A strength of the programme was the positive team of programme directors and facilitators who were able to effectively respond to the participants and continually engage in professional debate. The infrastructure allowed for communication between the programme and the Ministry, and also within the programme amongst the team and the project directors.

Adopters considering replicating the programme need to consider core components and components which are adaptable and discretionary. Core components of the course include:  language study, SLA theory involving communicative and intercultural competence, observations of practical teaching, and opportunities for teachers to have discussion and feedback on their learning.  At present these components are interrelated. However, it may be possible for some components to be taught discretely, for example the language study component could be offered in a more flexible mode. In addition, the course needs to be fully resourced financially and there needs to be suitably qualified teaching staff with consistent delivery across all aspects of the programme.

Recommendations and implications for the TPDL programme
  • TPDL project directors need to incorporate a set of principles for intercultural communicative language teaching into the programme.
  • School principals need to consider realistic, practical ways they can support their teachers who are on the TPDL programme, especially at the start of the TPDL programme.
  • TPDL needs to ensure that there are fully effective language classes. They could recommend the effective UNITEC model to other distance providers.
  • It could be useful to consider the possibility of offering intensive language study courses run in the school holidays (particularly over the summer break).
  • Ongoing TL development beyond the course is important for those teachers who  described themselves as elementary or beginner level language learners at the end of the TPDL course
  • Where possible, teachers need to be encouraged and supported to obtain further qualifications in the TL through formal study in a community, tertiary or online distance course.
  • Actively participating in the TL community is a further way for teachers to continue developing their language knowledge and fluency.
  • Increased access to TL language assistants in schools could also help less fluent teachers to sustain and develop their language knowledge.
  • Schools and TPDL should encourage teachers to develop their language and cultural knowledge through the LIA.
  • Teachers need to feel their work is a valuable part of the curriculum, so schools need to promote language learning for Years 7 – 10 and ensure there is continuity in student learning.
  • Asian languages need to be especially promoted throughout the country and amongst staff, students and the wider school community.
  • It may be possible to consider delivering an expanded version of TPDL as a stand-alone qualification in several New Zealand universities.

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