The problems with teacher continuous professional development (CPD) are well known and documented. All too often, CPD is not well defined and the policies and procedures of organisations often reflect that fact. Educators see CPD as a top-down process run by school management with head teachers dominating the decision-making process within schools. Yet, there is a growing awareness that it is imperative to tailor CPD to the needs of educators and make it much more about the personal development of individuals. A further challenge relates to quality. To conduct CPD, many education institutions bring in outside speakers and trainers who have very little idea of the needs of a school and their educators. In addition, these trainers do their training and then disappear; the training tends to be superficial. There is no backup, no planned system of evaluation of impact, which means that CPD becomes an additional expense with very little return. Much CPD is also organised through one-off events that take place once or twice a year and this often creates logistical problems.
To counter these problems, we propose a practical approach to thinking of CPD as we think of entrepreneurship: as a method that is learnable and consists of teachable techniques that are central to our updating of teacher continuous professional development.
Entrepreneurial skills are the key that has been missing
Based on about four decades of rigorous research into the phenomenon of entrepreneurship, we know that entrepreneurship may be the generalized method capable of changing the way we live, work, and play, and transforming the courses of the careers we build, the shapes of the communities we live in, and the evolution of the socio-political and economic systems we are a part of. The challenge thus lies in re-designing educational programmes aimed at teaching people how to tackle, create – and, perhaps, even to thrive on – circumstances of uncertainty and complexity. That is why we apply a ‘transvergent’ model in our teacher continuous professional development course that will combine convergent and divergent creativity skills; that is, entrepreneurial skills.
We base our work on academic research that sees entrepreneurship - and CPD - as an everyday practice. Opportunities are seen as emanating from the individual’s ability to disclose anomalies and disharmonies in their personal life. We believe that the pedagogy of entrepreneurship education should be personalized with an idiosyncratic approach.
A design-thinking approach to sustainable deliberate practice in teacher entrepreneurial education
For the first time, we apply the design thinking approach and the idea of “deliberate practice” in teacher CPD. We adopt the approach that entrepreneurship as everyday practice will elicit opportunities. We also foster an educator's ability to design that opportunity first as they would approach it, and then how it might apply to a particular context.
Design thinking for teacher development
We are particularly excited about the connection between design thinking and the EU Entrepreneurship Competence (EntreComp) framework. Design thinking provides structure for the translation of the EntreComp framework into an actionable teacher professional development plan. The three main stages of design thinking (understanding, exploring, materialize), divided into component parts stressing the capacity to: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, and implement are the closest match for the three components of the EntreComp framework of (1) Ideas and Opportunities (2) Resources and (3) Into Action.
We also know from research that effective CPD includes sustained, iterative, aligned combinations of activities focussed around evidence about how learners respond to the changes trainers are making. For our project, we translate this knowledge into well-articulated tasks designed by teachers for teachers that are reflected upon in the LoopMe tool. LoopMe is a research-backed social learning media (SLM) tool that combines authentic assessment, reflective assessment, learning analytics and experience sampling. It is a digital communication platform originally developed for research purposes at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. Numerous assessment studies have been conducted using LoopMe as a data collection tool, investigating the impact of different kinds of education on learners of all ages, from primary to adult education. Within EntreCompEdu, CPD trainers will use LoopMe to design an action-based learning experience by breaking it down into manageable tasks - this clarifies goals and prompts educators to act and reflect upon each action. Tasks are constructed by employing constructive alignment principles, i.e. teachers do those tasks that a CPD trainer wants them to do in order to learn what trainers want them to learn. Once the tasks are distributed to all learners, the progress for the entire cohort of educators can be followed in real-time and trainers can get live feedback and a final summary of completed tasks. For our teachers as action researchers, LoopMe represents an environment to collaborate and discuss with peers and gives structure and support in the important reflection around learning activities. For us as researchers on CPD, LoopMe allows us to prompt learners to tag the learning outcomes they feel they have achieved as they progress through the tasks. This data can then be mined for evaluation and research purposes. We can establish causality quantitatively by relating which tasks lead to which tags and we will be able to investigate and interpret free text reflections that each task generates from a broad number of practitioners. The dialogue that a completed task can spur between the trainer and our educator adds to the qualitative analysis.
We further build on academic research to tell us how teachers can be best supported to engage with and deliver effective entrepreneurship education. We know that teachers need to be equipped with the right skills, knowledge, and attitude to be able to provide their students with the new curricula, pedagogies and learning environments that they need if they are to acquire entrepreneurial competencies. As such, we focus our CPD programme in the first instance on ensuring that teachers understand the concept matter because if teachers do not like a change, do not understand it, do not agree with it, or think it is impractical, then the change will likely be implemented incompetently, insincerely, or not at all. Similarly, it is often the case that unless teachers understand and adopt a new approach such as entrepreneurship as a transversal skill-set, which is available to all students and taught as a theme rather than as a separate subject at all stages and levels of education, they will not be able to incorporate it in their teaching practices. We set out to change the role of teachers to that of learning facilitators.
Deliberate practice for teacher development - teachers as action researchers
Entrepreneurship does not occur in a vacuum, and personality traits, human capital and environment weave the context for each attempt to start and operate a new business. Individuals do not construct knowledge in a vacuum. People’s construction of knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and skills are socially and culturally situated. However, research tells us that building a widespread entrepreneurial culture requires policy, systems and support that embrace innovation, creativity, competitiveness and inclusiveness and have a clear understanding of the entrepreneurial competencies. We will employ teacher action research to engage in the assessment and improvement of educator’s own practice.
Embracing this role within the project will allow teachers to be an active part of the CPD design and development process, enriching both their experience and the results emerging from the project implementation.
The concept of deliberate practice in professional development could be seen more as the continuous progressive refinement of core professional activities, that are intended to foster either the performance of the teacher or of the student. This is again all about 'design-thinking' approach as shown in the design thinking process.
To learn more, click here for details on the academic research behind our work.
About the authors:
Olabanji Odeyemi is a PhD researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel’s (VUB) Department of Educational Sciences. VUB brings its expertise on personalised learning, professional development, pedagogical models, and educational innovation to EntreCompEdu. They lead our work package on CPD development.
Rebecca Weicht co-founded entrepreneurship education non-profit Bantani Education. She co-authored EntreComp into Action - Get inspired, make it happen: A user guide to the European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework.