Diversity, Leadership, Opinion, Teaching

Effective Teacher PD in Canada in the New Millennium

First and foremost, we have to help children get along with each other

What constitutes effective educational professional development (PD) in a rapidly changing diverse country like Canada? Well, given that our nation is vast, stretches in all directions, consists of ten provinces and three territories, and boasts a multiethnic, multicultural and multi-linguistic population of over 34 million people, PD is going to look remarkably different from one region/community to the next. It may even look different from one school to the next within the same community. And in our minds, it should.

The “one-size-fits-all” PD session that many educators lament about cannot address the educational requirements for teachers and educational leaders in the new millennium. We are hardly the first writers to have observed this. From our research and experience, as well as drawing from the interactions with many graduate students in our leadership program – many who are studying online with us from across Canada – we continue to wonder and worry if this isn’t the PD process that many districts across our nation are still employing. In fact, many of our graduate students are confirming what we suspect – that is, PD is vertically driven from the top down and educators have minimal input for the PD that their districts are directing them to engage in. This may leave many educators unsure how the PD they are involved in within their schools and districts supports them in their work with students they teach.

In this era of increasing accountability for educators in North American schools, PD is often dedicated to simply raising tests scores for children[1]. Though we support PD in core curricular subjects, we also believe teachers require PD support in other important areas, especially given the changing nature of the schools and communities they work in. Our current research interest lies with the demographic changes occurring in Canada and how to effectively help teachers respond to them. All over Canada, communities are changing rapidly – not only in the mega-city landscapes that we have drawn extensively from the past few years [2] [3] [4]. Rural regions across Canada are also undergoing change and it is in this context that we would like to suggest that educational leaders consider PD topics that are focused on supporting educators working in their increasingly diverse communities. We argue that it’s equally – if not even more important – to help students and their families in Canada increase their cultural understandings and competencies, share their histories, values, knowledges and worldviews. We advocate for schools and district leaders across Canada to lead the way.

First and foremost, we have to help children get along with each other

In our mind, we believe this is a more profound and effective form of PD for our ripening diverse Canadian society. Admittedly, we might not make this claim if we felt PD was consistently focusing on topics related cultural diversity in our country. We do not believe there is enough being done. We have the fear that if our children cannot get along together, do not know much about each other and cannot break the shadowy stereotypes about each other and their families that they may harbour, it may not matter how well they can read or perform math operations in the future.  

Effective PD is focused on topics related to diversity that will help “teachers transform their instructional practices and classrooms and enable them to build their capacity to function effectively in highly diverse classrooms and schools”[5]. This should take place in both urban and rural contexts, everywhere. Essentially, teachers would be encouraged to learn more about how to serve children from multiple linguistic, religious, racial and cultural backgrounds. Our university institutions have an opportunity to help in this educational process by initiating lead action on this as new teacher candidates enter education programs across each year. New and experienced teachers in Canada will be educating students who will be living in a diverse, globally-networked society and using digital technologies that put them in touch with people from all over the world. Most importantly in our thinking, it does not matter if students exist in a monoculture dominated by one language, which still occurs across Canada in many rural regions. These children, even more so perhaps, require diversity education and it is important that educators help children understand their own worldviews, backgrounds and values, before they engage children who do not see the world as they do, do not practice the same religion or speak the same language. There is no question in our minds; children in Canada will engage multiple cultures and languages. They need to be prepared to do this effectively and their teachers need to help them do this.

Related Reading
Lyle Hamm wrote this feature-length article in the Nov 2014 issue of Education Canada Magazine.

The Culturally Responsive Classroom
A proactive approach to diversity in Canadian schools

This blog post is part of CEA’s focus on the state of Teacher PD in Canada, which is also connected to Education Canada Magazine’s Teachers as Learners theme issue and The Facts on Education fact sheet, What is Effective Teacher Professional Development? Please contact info@cea-ace.ca if you would like to contribute a blog post to this series.

[1] Starratt, R. J. (2005). Responsible leadership. The Educational Forum, 69, 124-133. https://login.proxy.hil.unb.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ683738&site=ehost-live&scope=site
[2] Lund, D. (2008). Harvesting social justice and human rights in rocky terrain. The Ardent Review, 1. 62-67. http://www.arts.ualberta.ca/~aadr/contentsvol1no1.htm
[3] Ryan, J. (2003). Leading diverse schools. Dordrecht, NL: Kluwer Academic Press.
[4] Stewart, J. (2007). Children affected by war: A bioecological investigation into their psychosocial and educational needs. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg.
[5] Hamm, L. (2014). The culturally responsive classroom: A proactive approach to diversity in Canadian schools. Education Canada, 54(4), Web exclusive. www.cea-ace.ca/educationcanada

Meet the Expert(s)

lyle hamm and kevin cormier

Kevin Cormier

Instructional Technology Specialist and the System Administrator for Desire2Learn (Learning Management System)

Kevin Cormier is an Instructional Technology Specialist and the System Administrator for Desire2Learn (Learning Management System) with the Centre for Enhanced Teaching and Learning ...

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Lyle Hamm

Assistant Professor of Educational Administration and Leadership

Lyle Hamm is an Assistant Professor of Educational Administration and Leadership in the Faculty of Education at the University of New Brunswick. He teaches courses in Educational Theory and School Administration, Teacher Supervision, and Leadership in Culturally Diverse Schools.

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