The Impact of Professional Development on Elementary Teachers’ Practice in Curaçao
Zalm, Faisel F
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Since the introduction of a new elementary education school system in Curaçao, professional development has become a much needed commodity. The challenges the new system brought in the elementary schools of Curaçao made the need for effective professional development greater for both the teachers and administrators in the schools. More than a decade after the implementation of the new education system in Curaçao challenges regarding quality of professional development continue to be relevant. Elementary teachers still deal with professional development that does not fit the teachers’ need or that does not have a link with the teachers’ classroom practice. Despite recognition of the importance of professional development, the quality of the content of the trainings currently available to teachers is inadequate. The purpose of this study was to explore elementary teachers’ perceptions about professional development programs and their experiences with professional development programs in Curaçao. Specifically, an attempt was made to have a better understanding of the factors that have an influence on the elementary teachers’ learning and professional development. Data collection included interviews, observations, and documents. Nine elementary teachers were interviewed and three were conducted to obtain data for this research study. Findings show that elementary teachers need to be informed and educated in new philosophies and strategies of teaching and learning to increase their professional level and to perform more effectively. The findings affirm that way to construct elementary teachers’ professional knowledge is by providing them with professional learning activities that will equip them with the knowledge and skills that are contextually, timely relevant, with practical content, and directly applicable. The professional development should be related to the teacher’s content area and or grade level of the teacher. It should be linked to the curriculum of Curaçao’s elementary education, and meet the learning objectives as laid down in the “Core Objective Foundation Based Education”. Entities in charge of professional development for elementary teachers should promote research-based professional development for teachers. There must be a variation in the teaching model and or mode of delivery of the professional development presented to elementary teachers. Teachers must be acknowledged as professionals and the teaching experience and the professional knowledge they already have should be taken in consideration during training sessions. Findings in this research also indicate that elementary teachers must be provided the opportunity to participate in trainings relevant to the whole team or professional learning activities based on the knowledge that is relevant to her/him alone. Last but not least, mentoring or coaching must be an important part of the professional development program.