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PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHERS' PERCEPTIONS ABOUT MENTORS' ROLE IN THEIR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT.

Byline: SHAH SYED MANZAR-ABBASS, SAJAD AHMED and NAZIR AHMED MALIK

Abstract

This research paper addresses the mentoring program of the Directorate of Staff Development (DSD) Lahore, Pakistan for the primary school teachers (after words in this article "PSTs"), focusing on the mentoring indicators determined by the DSD. The objectives of the study were to evaluate the mentor 's role during mentoring, and identify the areas of mentoring as well as subjects where the PSTs need more support. The study was conducted on 270 PSTs from district Mianwali (Punjab), Pakistan. The data was collected through two research instruments, a self-developed questionnaire and check list.

The results revealed that district teacher educators were effective in terms of upgrading the PSTs' knowledge and skills by improving the areas of lesson planning, and lesson presentation, but relatively less effective for the use of audio-visual aids and activity-based teaching and assessment technique. Science, Mathematics and English were the identified subjects where teachers need more support from their mentors. The use of teaching kits may be helpful in improving teachers' skills for the use of AV aids; activity based teaching as well as assessment technique. The DSD may focus on need base training of teachers as well as the District Teacher Educators (DTEs) which may be more useful in overcoming the problems of teachers in the identified areas.

Keywords: Mentoring, Directorate of Staff Development (DSD), District Teacher Educator (DTE), Primary School Teacher (PST), Professional Development.

Introduction

Punjab is the largest province with respect to population in Pakistan. The population of Punjab is about 60% of total population of the country (Mahmood and Azhar, 2013). The education system of Punjab is 3-tier: elementary, secondary and higher education (Saeed, Reid, and Hussain, 2010). There are thirty eight thousand and forty seven primary schools in public sector of the province. The detail of these schools is as: Government Primary Schools (thirty four thousand four hundred and thirty nine), Municipal Primary Schools (two thousand three hundred and seventy), and Mosque Schools (one thousand two hundred and thirty eight), (Punjab Education Census, 2013). Forty lac, seventy eight thousand, four hundred and forty eight students are enrolled in these primary schools.

One lac, six thousand, nine hundred and six primary school teachers are performing their jobs to provide quality education in these schools (ibid).According to the National Education Policy 2009, five main pillars have the major contribution to enhance quality of education i.e. curriculum, textbooks, assessment, teachers and the learning environment of institution and relevance of education to public market.

The Government of the Punjab is determined to enhance the quality of education and providing all the facilities for the achievement of both national as well as international goals. The Punjab Education Sector Reforms Program (PESRP) was the key initiative taken by the government in this regard.The program has stressed that the goal of quality education and governance cannot be achieved without improving accountability of teachers (Govt. of Pakistan, 2009).

To achieve the objectives of reforms program, the Education Extension Centre (EEC), which was established in 1959 and was renamed as the Directorate of Staff Development (DSD) in 1993, has developed a conceptual framework for the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) of the teachers. The vision of the DSD is developing a well-informed, loyal, provoked, expert and ethically sound cadre of education personnel to ensure the delivery of top quality education to the students in government sector schools of the Punjab (DSD, 2007).

Quality of teachers in public sector is unsatisfactory (Govt. of Pak, 2009). The CPD framework of the DSD provides scheme for teacher development in the Punjab which expanded the scope of teacher development from mere "teacher training" to "continuing professional development" for quality learning of students. It combined the in-service training of teachers (INSET) with follow-ups, in-class teacher support, mentoring, monitoring, accountability, incentives, and teacher career growth. These actions were formerly not included in the teacher development in the Punjab (Government of Punjab, 2013).

The program recognizes that the target of quality education cannot be achieved without improving professional capability, motivation, and liability of teachers. In line with the government's decentralization policy, the DSD also adopted the decentralized approach to effective execution of the CPD framework which means that all CPD activities for teachers started to be organized at the district level. Support networks were created to provide in-service teacher training to primary school teachers close to their places of duty, each district was divided into clusters of schools to be supported by a Cluster Training and Support Centre (DSD, 2007). In terms of supporting the process of teacher change, studies find that teacher professional development is more valuable when it is local, sustained, and involves collective contribution.

Professional development is more effective when it is situated where teachers work, so that it can be sensitive to local constraints (Cobb, McClain, Lamberg and Dean, 2003). Professional development is of many types, including consultation, coaching, practice, lesson study, mentoring, reflective supervision, and technical assistance (National Professional Development Centre, 2008). Professional development activity, engaged in by teachers, which enhance their knowledge and skills, and enable them to consider their attitudes and approaches to the education of children, improves the quality of the teaching, and learning process. The variety and range of the opportunities that teachers have for learning make the in-service teacher education difficult. Teachers learn from many activities, formal and informal.

They learn from practice itself when stopping to consider a struggling student's response to a homework question, conversations in the hallways and lunchrooms with other teachers, observing in a peer's classroom, results from a supervisor or mentor's visit, reading, attending conferences, district workshops, university courses, and in all sorts of other often unanticipated ways. Each of these activities may refresh a teacher's commitment to teaching and expand their understanding of the work of teaching, or they may not (Wilson and Berne, 1999, p. 174). As a mean of guiding and supporting practitioners to ease them through difficult transitions, teacher mentoring is essential for unblocking impediments to change by building self-confidence and self-esteem as well as directing, managing and instructing (Fletcher, 2012).

Mentoring is the interaction between a novice (the student teacher) and an expert (the teacher), which contributes to the novice's learning (Collison, 1998). He rather gives the concept of active mentoring which he means, responses offered by the mentor to the student teacher's teaching whilst that teaching is on-going (Saeed, Reid, and Hussain, 2009; Collison, 1998).

Mentoring is a proficient method for supporting novice teachers (Saeed, Reid, and Hussain, 2009; Lindgren, 2005). Mentoring is a creative method of promoting professional development that sets in motion the process of self-actualization and growth (Klein and Dickenson-Hazard, 2000). Mentoring for in-service teachers (those requiring additional training on the job) involves veteran teachers who provide support, encouragement, counselling, and guidance to less-experienced teachers, and it has become the primary form of teacher professional growth(Anderson and Shannon, 1988). Mentoring was viewed as either a model of transmission in which the expert mentor transferred his/her knowledge about teaching to the teacher, or as a model of transformation in which mentors assisted teachers in understanding school culture and teaching in order to reform classroom instruction, school development, and community work (Cochran-Smith and Paris, 1995).

The secondary and Higher Secondary schools are working as CTSCs in all districts of Punjab. Every CTSC consists of 25-30 schools situated within the radius of 16 kilometres. CTSCs are supervised by the heads of schools, and are also called as CTSC head. To support the CTSC one or more mentors (DTEs) are appointed. It is a fact that teachers are best supported by qualified peers. It is to benefit from this finding that mentors are being recruited among the existing teachers serving in government schools. The number of mentors deployed at a CTSC can vary in accordance with the number of teachers requiring mentoring and support in the district (DSD, 2007).

With regard to mentioned scenario of teacher education in Punjab, it was important to investigate the quality of in-service teacher training program of DSD. To assess the quality of the program, primary school teachers' perceptions were collected towards DTEs role according to mentoring indicators. It was necessary to analyze the mentors (DTEs) role, so that mentors' training may be made effective to achieve the targets. At the same time it was also important to know that how much effective this program was with regard to teachers' professional competencies. This study may also be noteworthy for DSD to arrange need based training programs for the teachers.

Research Objectives

Objectives of the study were to:

a) Evaluate teachers' perceptions about mentor 's role in their professional development

b) Identify the areas of mentoring where PSTs need extra support c) Figure out subjects of study where PSTs need extra support

Research Methodology

Reseach Population and Sample

All the primary school teachers from three tehsils of district Mianwali were included in the population of the study. Sample was selected in two stages. First, 20% (eleven) cluster centres (three from tehsil Isa Khel, five from tehsil Mianwali, and three from tehsil Piplan) from the total number of fifty four clusters were selected randomly. At the second stage, we sampled 30 PSTs from each cluster centre conveniently; resulting 330 participants were selected in total. Among 330, only 270 (82%) respondents participated in the study.

Research Instrument

Two types of research instruments were used for data collection. For seeking PSTs' perceptions about mentors' role, five point Likert Scale was deemed appropriate tool. But for collection of information about areas of mentoring and subjects of study where PSTs need more support, check list was thought appropriate research tool. Indicators of mentoring recommended by DSD in mentoring visit form (MVF) provided the focal guide lines to develop the instruments.

Questionnaire was prepared as it is a cost effective, efficient, and brief way to gather data from a large geographically dispersed population. Questionnaire was comprised of biographical information and five point rating scale comprising two distinctive parts; part-1 and part-2 respectively. Besides biographical information fifteen closed ended items were finalized in the questionnaire. One open-ended question was also included for collecting participants' suggestions about how to improve the program of professional development.

Two main factors, areas of mentoring and subjects of study, provided fundamental guidance in the development of checklist. For the identification of mentoring areas, researchers sought help from the nine indicators suggested by DSD. The names of all the subjects being taught at primary level were also included in the checklist.

To establish the validity of instruments, experts' opinion and pilot testing was conducted, instruments were improved in terms of content, format, language, and style. Ambiguous and unclear items were modified or discarded. After piloting, internal consistency was also found using SPSS data analytical software. The value of Cronbach's Alpha was 0.85, which was quite appropriate to administer the tools.

Research Findings and Discussion

First part of the questionnaire consisted of biographical information. Tehsil wise distribution of the respondents showed that, 30% teachers belong to Isa Khel tehsil, 47% from tehsil Mianwali and 23% from tehsil Piplan. The information has been given in Table 1.

Table 1. Demographic Information of the Participants

###Variable###Category###Frequency###%

###Tehsil###Isa Khel###81###30

###Mianwali###128###47

###Piplan###61###23

###Locality###Rural###226###84

###Urban###44###16

###Gender###Male###149###55

###Female###121###45

###Experience###0-5 years###55###20

###6-10 years###25###10

###11-15 years###41###15

###More than15###149###55

###Academic qualification###Matric###35###13

###FA/F.Sc###30###11

###B.A/B.Sc###155###57

###M.A/M.Sc###50###19

###Professional qualification###PTC###40###15

###C.T###25###09

###B.Ed###160###59

###M.Ed###45###17

The data given in the table reflects that 84% (226) of the total participants belong to urban area, while 16% (44) belong to rural area. In regard to gender, data disclosed that 45% (121) respondents were female and 55% (149) respondents were male in this study. Experience wise data reflected that 20% (55) teachers had the experience of less than five years, which means they were newly recruited. 10% (25) teachers have 6-10 years teaching experience, 15% (41) have 11-15 years experience, and 55% (149) teachers have experience of more than 15 years. This experience wise description of data shows that more experienced persons were included in the study and their perceptions were more valuable for the study.

In regard to academic qualification data showed that 13% (35) teachers have qualification of secondary school certificate, 11% (30) have just intermediate, 57% (155) have bachelor degree while 19% (50) have completed master degree. Data reflected that Government is focusing to enhance the quality of education and in the new recruitment policy minimum qualification for elementary school teacher should be B. Ed, but ground reality according to the data in this study showed that 15% (40) teachers have PTC, 9% (25) have C.T, 59% (160) have B.Ed, and 17% (45) teachers have M.Ed degree. Which reflected that almost one fourth of the teachers in this study have less professional qualification than the recommended criteria according to new recruitment policy 2014.

Teachers' Perceptions About Mentor's Role

The second part of the questionnaire was comprised of PSTs' perceptions about the mentors' role during mentoring the teachers. The results have been shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Teachers' Perceptions toward Mentors' Role

Category###Indicators###Mean###SD

Before Instruction###(i) Teacher dairy###3.28###1.32

###(ii) Assigning and Checking of Written work###3.26###1.33

During Instruction###(i) SLO (Taleemi Calendar)###3.57###1.36

###(ii) Activity based teaching and learning###2.61###1.34

###(iii) Visual aids and Support material###1.25###1.34

###(iv) Students' Assessment###2.42###1.37

After Instruction###(i) Adherence to lesson plan###3.45###1.38

###(ii) Interaction with students###3.58###1.36

###(iii) Classroom management###3.24###1.35

The results showed that over all teachers were satisfied with the role of their mentors. They were asked to give their opinion about the role of their mentors on a five point rating scale according to nine indicators. According to their perceptions about before instructions indicators (teachers' dairy, and assigning and checking of written work), their mentors were playing their role according to set criteria (Mean=3.28, SD=1.32). For the second indicator, they also perceived that their mentors were performing their duties well (Mean=3.26, SD=1.33). According to their perceptions about the indicators during instruction (SLO's or Academic Calendar, activity based teaching and learning, use of a.v. aids and students' assessment), teachers perceived that the mentor was providing them help according to set criteria with regard to academic calendar (Mean=3.57, SD=1.36) different perceptions were responded by them for rest of the indicators as activity based teaching and learning (Mean=2.61, SD=1.34).

Results of their perceptions about visual aids showed negative response (Mean=1.25, SD=1.34). Similarly they showed that mentors were not performing their role positively while mentoring of primary school teachers regarding students assessment (Mean=2.42, SD=1.37). Responses about the indicators after instructions (Adherence to lesson plan, Interaction with students and Class room management), they were in the favour of their mentors. As for adherence to lesson plan (Mean=3.45, SD=1.38), for interaction with students (Mean=3.58, SD=1.36), and for class room management (Mean=3.24, SD=1.35). The results revealed that teachers were satisfied with the role of their mentor. A study conducted in Rawalpindi also supported the results of this study.

Teachers' Need Regarding Areas Of Mentoring

Mentors have to provide help in nine areas while mentoring on monthly basis, which consisted of teacher diary, home work allocation and its checking, use of academic calendar, activity based learning and teaching, use of audio visual aids, students assessment, lesson planning, students interaction, and class room management. Results about teachers' needs regarding areas of mentoring have been reflected in Table 3.

Table 3. Teachers' Need with Regard to Areas of Mentoring

###Area of Mentoring###Frequency of Yes when n=270###%

###Teacher dairy###53###20

###Assigning homework and checking###30###11

###SLO (Taleemi Calendar)###48###18

###Activity based teaching and learning###188###70

###Visual aids and support material###162###60

###Students' assessment###48###18

###Adherence to lesson plan###40###15

###Interaction with students###48###18

###Class room management###95###35

First area was "to maintain teacher diary", according to respondents 20% (53) perceived that they required support from their mentor to maintain teacher diary while 80% (217) pointed out that they didn't require any support to maintain teacher diary. Second area was "allocation of home work and its checking"; in this regard just 11% (30) teachers were of the view that they required help from their mentor. Third area according to mentoring criteria was "use of academic calendar, 18% (48) respondents perceived that they needed help while large number of teachers 82% (222) said that they didn't need help in this regard. Fourth area was "activity based learning and teaching", teachers showed different responses than first three areas, 70% (188) teachers perceived that they required help from their mentor for activity based learning and teaching. It showed that mentors may be trained to provide support to teachers in regard to activity based learning and teaching.

In Pakistan, curriculum for elementary level is activity based, so it is a dire need to provide professional support to teachers in this regard for better results. "Use of audio-visual aids" was another area of mentoring. 60% (162) of teachers perceived that they required help from their mentor in the said area. So, mentors should be well aware of use of audio-visual aids according to need of the subjects and lessons. In this regards teaching kits which were provided by the government, may be utilized effectively. Mentors may make it possible that teachers use these teaching kits to make their teaching more effective and productive. Students' assessment was another indicator of mentoring; According to teachers' perceptions, only 18% (48) teachers needed support from their mentor in this regard. Seventh area was "lesson planning", 15% (40) teachers perceived that they needed help from their mentor in this regard.

The second last area was "students' interaction", 18% (48) participants told that they required support from their mentor in this regard. The final indicator was "class room management". In this regard 35% (95) teachers perceived that they required support from their mentor.

Subjects Wise Teachers' Need

Second part was related to identification of support teachers required from their mentor in the teaching subjects. Six subjects included in the course, English, Mathematics, Urdu, Science, Social Studied, and Islamic studies. Results have been reflected in Table 4.

Table 4. Subjects Wise Teachers' Need

###Name of Subject###Frequency of Yes when n=270###%

###English###118###44

###Mathematics###153###57

###Urdu###16###6

###Science###188###70

###Social studies###93###34

###Islamic studies###07###03

With regard to English, 44% (118) teachers showed positive response that they required help from the mentor. Similarly, in regard to Mathematics, 57% (153) teachers told that they need help, in Science 70% (188) teachers showed their need of support, in Social studies 34% (93) teachers needed support, and with regard to Urdu and Islamic studies, 6% (16) and 3% (07) teachers respectively perceived that they needed support from their mentor.

Suggestions For Improvement Of The Program

In the last part of the questionnaire respondents were asked to give their views so that the program may be improved. Some respondents criticize the mentors' selection criteria; some told that ranking areas are not publicized. So, diagnostic training became useless and wastage of time and resources in the past. Another important issue was raised that monthly base professional development days conducted by mentors are useless and no activities are done on these days at cluster centers. Mentors are not properly trained for activity based teaching, multi-grade teaching, and use of audio visual aids.

Conclusion

The results of the study revealed that the PSTs perceptions remained positive about the role of their mentors. It showed that program of the DSD is beneficial because positive relationship between mentor and mentee is essential for raising the quality of a mentoring program. Main findings of the study reflected that the PSTs are not clear about their evaluation criteria on the basis of which they are ranked and trainings are recommended. It is so because most teachers are not aware of areas of mentoring. Professional development days are not effectively utilized. With regard to areas of mentoring, teachers perceived that they required more support in two areas which were activity based teaching and learning, and use of audio-visual aids. It is recommended in this study that teaching kits which are provided by the government should be made functional through the DTEs.

Recommendations

Some important recommendations are made after this study.

i) It may be ensured that every teacher should know the indicators on which mentors evaluate.

ii) Selection criteria for mentor should be changed; mentor should be selected who has science background to improve the quality of the program.

iii) Mentors should be increased in numbers because one visit per month for mentoring is not enough for a mentor to achieve the targets.

iv) The mentors' training should be according to need and they should be trained to meet the needs of the teachers as activity based teaching and learning, giving help to make supporting material by available resources and applying low cost no cost method.

v) Mentors should be forced to make teaching kits functional as well as teaching guides provided by the government in the schools to increase the students' performance.

vi) Mentors should be trained properly to conduct the professional development days and heads of clusters training and support centers should play their role effectively. A sustained effort of professional development is also more effective than one-day workshops (Cohenand Hill, 2000).

Further studies may be conducted in other districts of the province to confirm the results of this study. Another study is recommended to examine the effects of mentoring program on enhancing the teachers' professional competencies.

References

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