SENTENTIA. European Journal of Humanities and Social SciencesReference:
Opportunities and challenges for professional lifetime development in the tertiary educational system
Abstract.The subject of this article is the ever-rising demand for professional development for tertiary teaching faculty dictated by educational evolution and innovative pedagogy in Russia. In their article, the authors substantiate the idea that teacher development is a lifetime process, starting from the initial pursuit of this career to retirement. Therefore, this study attempts to review all available internal and external models of continuous education, on-job and outside trainings that will potentially enhance teachers’ productivity and professionalism throughout their careers. Driven by the realization that even the most recent approaches today seem outmoded, the paper aims at illustrating what options are currently available in a particular country at a specific timeframe. The authors utilize the quantitative and qualitative analyses of data collected, which demonstrate a paradigm shift in the urgency of continuous evolvement not only of professional, but also personal competencies mediated by either the administration, or individual initiative.
Keywords: innovative pedagogy, in-service training, certificate courses, professional development, higher institution faculty, educational innovations, life-long learning, competative edge, reliability, competence
“Professional growth means just that – growth. It’s about making good work great, and making great work exceptional and transformational”.
Current digitalized century is seen as an era of radical changes and shift in global, as well as Russian educational system which expose new tendencies and prospects for modern universities. Almost all societies are highly involved in these challenging reforms where the role of educators is of utmost importance as they are the core change supervisors and leaders of these transformations who are always open to adopting innovative pedagogical and methodological skills. Accordingly, G. A. Bannykh & S. N. Kostina (2012) stated ‘the primary role of every educator is to provide learners with professional and life competencies, which are required and relevant to the world’s continual evolution’ . Such a learner-centred approach definitely doubles the educators’ role, thus forcing them to pursue lifelong professional development in their career path to meet all opportunities and alterations.
It has been proven that the initial teacher education is inadequate and obsolescent to equip them with competitive skills and professionalism for successful teaching career. Moreover, the skills–based and technically-equipped commune emphasizes the value of further education and vocational growth of the university faculty making it an all-time task which should be prioritized. Hence ‘the traditional approach of studying for a finite period of time to complete education before moving to the labour market is increasingly replaced by the continuous learning throughout the entire lifecycle of the individual,’ reasoned E. Reinsch (2007) .
2. Methods and Methodology
The survey respondents were 57 members of Foreign Languages Department 1, Plekhanov Russian University of Economics. 50 members of the faculty are EFL teachers with diverse degrees and further qualifications (Senior Teachers, Associate Professors, PhD candidates and Doctors) and age from 30 to 70, and other 7 educators and specialized in other languages (French, German, Spanish, Chinese, etc.).
The research is grounded mostly on the empirical and comparative analyses of the earlier and current studies on this issue. The collection and assortment of the qualitative and quantitative data contributes to the revealing and comprehending the implications of the incessant personal and professional development.
3. Review of Literature
At present the ever growing demand on adopting lifetime learning strategy and continually enhancing teaching expertise has led to controversial arguments among researchers. From one standpoint, the urgency of lifelong learning is seen as a sign of inadequate teaching standards, just undervaluing the fact that an educator is a well-qualified specialist with a great teaching experience. However, a contradicting argument is expressed by O.V. Polyakova, L.A. Latypova and D.D. Sungatullina (2017), who claimed that ‘this tendency and belief are dictated by the global work experience and collaboration’ . It is ascertained that most educators are highly committed specialist who work rather hard under pressure of educational transformations. Nowadays ‘employees are keen on learning over and over with some intervals throughout their career paths’ continued M. Elton (2007) . Later, referring to the issue of lifetime learning G. A. Bannykh and S. N. Kostina (2012) said ‘people learn to develop and make an attempt to improve their capabilities and adapt to information era’ .
Nevertheless, a minor group of researchers opposed the importance and ever-rising demand for life-long learning against ‘the improved healthcare and prolonged life expectancy, growing dependency on the elderly generation, the surging willingness to have better life, improve well-being…’[5-7]. The given points of views are supported by L. Lassnigg (2011), T. Çalık & F. Sezgin (2005) and E. R. Carlson (2016), who associated the necessity of the constant evolution with the life-quality progress, communal welfare and technological revolution.
In the tertiary educational sphere, where the greatest emphasis is on transferring global values and expertise to individuals, and to nurture information society with competitive skills, K. Cotton (1998) and E.M. Pongratz (1996) reasoned the necessity of life-wide learning for teachers saying that ‘even high educated people need to learn something more’ [8-9]. And more than a decade later I.A. Popescu (2012) confirmed this point by testifying that ‘the firms have been forced to create differences and innovate themselves to compete in the global world’ . Educational institutions in this point complete an ultimate role as the future of any society starts from every citizen’s rearing, like the growth of every tree depends on the planting of a corn. Likewise, M. N. Dudin and Y. S. Shishalova (2019) claimed, ‘higher education should be open to changes and largely reflect public and economic and technological trends to ensure that specialists on the labor market have broad and relevant competencies’ .
Hereafter, this research work was an endeavor to prove that with the emergence of such concepts as personal brand, unique competitive edge, professional accomplishment and self-actualization, not only higher institution faculty need to follow lifelong professional development, but nearly in any sphere or industry sector the new scope of competencies driving to continual investigation, self-education and growth are both welcomed and demanded in current volatile epoch. Individuals in the mid-twenties till sixties can learn informally during their working lives through the use of instructional media, mostly from their occupations, work-places, colleagues, touring, mass media, information technologies, environment and nature. Adults learn from experiences and problem solving. They therefore need continuous improvement of both intellectual and emotional capabilities based on reliability.
“ Taking into account aforementioned skills, the First Certificate for Teachers of Business English (FTBE by London Chamber of Commerce and Industry Examinations Board) proves to be a great tool for mastering them. From the professional standpoint, the preparation for this exam includes three general parts valuable for a Business English teacher. Firstly, it deals with basic business awareness, which the majority of them lack. Secondly, it deals with a wide range of professional skills necessary to develop course curricula and syllabi (needs analysis, lesson planning, etc.). The last of the three encompasses fundamental methodological issues concerning using authentic materials, approaches to classroom practice, developing language skills. Thus, these three parts help to revise and fundamentalise the knowledge and skills, which teachers got from their basic university education in philology or pedagogy spheres, expand this base by enriching personal teacher awareness of a set of business related issues and methods to transfer it to students.”
- Dmitry Yenegin, FTBE holder, PRUE
This observation is an echo of our reality with all changes and upcoming transformations mostly in the higher education. Consequently, the educators realise the vitality to move forward, acquire future skills in order not to be lost in the maze of the worldwide progress.
The study encompasses 3 stages of analyses. At first, the researchers discussed some worries and controversial issues like: What is the ideal frequency of upgrading our professional skills? Where is the borderline between the initial specialisation and lifetime education? The replies were quite divergent averring that‘humans in the age group from 25-60 learn informally from their vocations, work-places, colleagues, mass media, ICT, nature and globalized environment’ either ‘teachers learn from experiences and problem solving’. But the authors consider the personal and professional growth as a self-driven activity with the aim to improve the educators’ performance and work effectiveness.
The next stage suggests the key channels of undertaking further practices for expanding and enhancing professionalism and pedagogical competencies. The multidimensional exploration has revealed the following available courses and life-long learning practices which are grouped under three headings:
- Scheduled: TKT,CELTA, DELTA, LCCI FTBE, CELT-P, CELT-S, Train the Trainer, BEC, English for Business, TEFL/TESOL, etc.
- Non-scheduled: Competitions, Webinars, Seminars, Workshops, Conferences, Symposiums, Trade fairs, etc.
- Random: Articles, books, research works, blogging, vlogging, co-teaching, etc.
In the final stage of the research the respondents were suggested a list of questions for SWOT analysis of their personal and professional strengths and weaknesses. The questions were designed to reveal also all opportunities and threats challenging future educators. What else can I do? What are my professional / personal strengths and weaknesses? What skills do I need for reaching the vocational excellence?
The surveyed answers were quite valuable, thus affirming that ‘The main advantage of any in-house or other course or exam is professional development. However, the problem is that not all courses available on the market are of good quality. That’s why for me maybe in-house courses are interesting indeed, because I see how they are prepared and knows the competence of the teachers who are going to present their expertise there. If to consider the PRUE case, it should be mentioned that annual winter schools devoted to teacher development are a nice example of a really valuable in-house opportunity, because every year the instructors do try to present some of the best methodological novelties to the participants.’
As E. R. Carlson (2016) mentioned ‘lifelong learning requires creativity, steadiness and stamina’ . Even ‘interpersonal relationships seem as a motivational factor in the complicated process of continual professional development’ proved V.R. Helterbran (2005) and I.R Conford (2002) [12-13].
The next phase of quantitative analysis is presented in Diagram 1, which studies the alterations in the objectives of the annual Winter Scientific Schools, organized by Foreign Languages Department 1, PRUE. The data is based on the in-company reports and proceedings which illustrate the following paradigm shifts from traditional teaching and learning models to modernized and technology assisted learning modes. In the period of 2010-13 the core focus was ESP course peculiarities, cross-cultural and linguistic features. Later, the emphasis shifted on fostering academic mobility of ESP teachers and learners. And the last 3 years under study encouraged, even forced the faculty to enhance personal and professional competencies via continual evolution, investigation, research and study. ‘I don't think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday’ Abraham Lincoln .
Diagram 1: transformations in Winter School Goals, PRUE case
With reference to international and national certificates, acquired both externally and internally by Foreign Languages Faculty (57 members) during the surveyed period (2010-2019), the official reports and recordings showed that the number of acquired international certificated programs doubled during these years, whereas the national ones increased threefold, from 6 to 13, and from 22 to 60 respectively. What refers to the final three years (2017-19) under the review, there was a noteworthy growth in the in-company provided trainings and regaining position of the international ones (68 and 13 correspondingly).
Observations following each year’s in-house professional development trainings and external practices disclose a steady growth in the faculty’s overall performance and contribution, increase in self-awareness and well-being. What refers to the significant misbalance between national and international programs, it is explained by some key factors: great fluctuations in currency rates, time-consuming and work overload, which discourage some educators to get hold of international qualifications.
Foreign Languages Department №1 with Pearson center carried on an empirical study in two groups, control and experimental, trying to reveal the effectiveness of LCCI FTBE course organized and held in PRUE. Within the last 3 years (2017-19) 27 members passed the above mentioned exam, and other 15 are in the waiting list. So, grounded on the survey criteria the certified staff members showed twice, even thrice higher results in the points which are of core importance for the university’s overall ranking and effectiveness:
- active participation in international projects, i.e. visitor lecturing, conference attendance, and worldwide student contests;
- development and delivery of in-company ESP virtual courses which meet changing demands in the educational sphere;
- commercializing some programmes to gain financial benefit and expanding FLD’s core activities;
- high-level student approval which leads to increased educators’ self-actualization, self-realization and job satisfaction.
T a b l e 1. Results of the survey in control and experimental groups
Note: C - control staff group; E - experimental staff group.
It should be highlighted that EFL/ESP teachers are multitasked and multidimensional professionals who, on the one hand, need to be quite competitive in the classroom, provide learners only up-to-date materials with modern teaching techniques . On the other hand, the educators’ academic profile presents his professionalism in such networking platforms as Google scholar, academia.edu, researchgate.net, elibrary.ru or in-house websites. Consequently, the only path to reach personal and professional excellence and not become extinct is possible through continuous lifelong learning.
The rising urge to constant exploring and improving our personal and professional skills leads educators to take diverse practices, trainings or extra qualification courses. In order to act in accordance with the 3rd millennium demands based on educational evolution, PRUE EFL faculty attend long-term or short-term certified programs, which arm them with necessary skills and expertise to gain excellence in the classroom and to feel high-level self-realization in their tough and challenging career path. Lifetime professional development not only enhances the sense of social inclusion, welfare and emotional quotient, but rather increases educators’ competitiveness and ensures long-term employability in the knowledge era.
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