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REL Pacific

Supporting Teacher Growth and Development in Palau

REL Pacific
Ben Cronkright
January 30, 2020

Recruiting, developing, and sustaining high-quality teachers is a high-priority need across the Pacific Region. K–12 and postsecondary education systems play a crucial role in designing professional learning experiences that foster the growth of pre-service and in-service teachers. Education stakeholders in Palau are collectively examining their education system to identify challenges and successes related to teachers' growth and development and engineer better system supports for teacher preparation, induction, retention, and instruction that will lead to improved student outcomes. Education stakeholders throughout Palau are increasingly considering professional learning as an essential strategy for supporting the complex skills students need to be successful in the Palauan society and globally. Research has shown a factor that distinguishes high-performing schools from lower-performing schools is implementing effective professional development for teachers (Silva, 2008). Research also indicates that inadequate resourcing, misalignment of policies and practices, and dysfunctional school cultures can all inhibit the effectiveness of professional learning across schools and systems. Implementing and sustaining effective professional learning requires systems to be agile and responsive to the needs of educators and learners and their contexts (Darling-Hammond, Hyler, & Gardner, 2017).

REL Pacific is conducting ongoing training and coaching sessions with the Palau Partnership for the Improvement of Teaching, which includes Palau MOE leadership, teachers and specialists and Palau Community College (PCC) leadership and faculty, to collaboratively identify how to design professional learning experiences that will lead to improved student learning outcomes in ELA and math within Palauan schools.

REL Pacific's technical support for this Partnership includes training and coaching sessions on:

  • Teaching Feedback Cycles: Partnership members analyze the characteristics of effective feedback to improve instruction in classrooms and investigate the factors and processes that contribute to an effective feedback system to support pre- and in-service teachers in Palau.
  • Professional Learning Standards: Partnership members focus on the characteristics of professional learning that lead to effective teaching strategies and practices, supportive leadership, and improved student outcomes within the Palauan context.
  • Instructional Leadership: Partnership members focus on deepening leadership capacity to establish a clear focus for school improvement, manage change effectively, and develop purposeful school communities.
  • Professional Learning Communities: Partnership members examine existing professional learning communities in Palau and the characteristics of and strategies related to high-functioning professional learning communities.
  • Rapid Inquiry Cycles: Partnership members think deeply about rapid inquiry cycles related to the implementation of schoolwide programs and practices in ELA and math, with the aim of redesigning professional learning to leads to change in practice and better outcomes for students.

The primary goals of professional learning are changes in teacher practice and improved student learning outcomes. REL Pacific's training and coaching sessions highlight the need to integrate a variety of supports for educators and to provide timely feedback and reflection within Palau's professional learning communities to support continuous improvement and foster teachers' growth within MOE schools. In addition, Partnership members learn about the value and purpose of coaching; specifically, that teachers are much more likely to attain the knowledge and skills needed to change their practice if coaching is incorporated consistently into professional learning design.

REL Pacific Infographic depicting framework for implementing professional learning to support continuous improvement and foster teachers' growth.

REL Pacific infographic depicting the Palau Professional Learning Framework which includes six professional learning standards and steps for improving educator learning to promote successful student learning. Standards include learning in communities, monitor and evaluate, leadership, coherence and alignment, implementation, and data. The infographic depicts the outcomes for student learning including empathy, communication, application, life-long learner, collaboration, culture, inquiry, and critical thinking and problem solving.

One outcome of the training and coaching sessions to date is the Palau Teacher Feedback Survey (2019), developed by Partnership members and distributed to all in-service teachers within the Palau Public School System. Partnership members are interested in learning more about teachers' practice and identifying the characteristics of feedback that encourage teachers' motivation to change and grow their instructional practice. Teachers' perceptions have revealed insights related to trusting relationships between teachers and principals, training on instructional practice and dosage, and peer-to-peer coaching.

Stakeholders have also developed the Palau Professional Learning Framework (2019), which is intended to guide and inform the design of professional learning activities while supporting desired learning outcomes for students in Palau. The framework is informed by research-based professional learning standards and is divided into six sections. Each section outlines a standard that is used to guide the design, delivery, and evaluation of professional learning activities throughout Palau. The standards are used to engineer professional learning experiences that are intended to result in systemic changes in student outcomes. The Framework encourages teachers to take responsibility for their learning and to practice what they are learning in their own teaching contexts.

REL Pacific is excited to continue working with our partners in Palau and
supporting their innovative work on professional learning!

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Resources:

REL Pacific Palau Partnership for the Improvement of Teaching

REL Project Page: Designing High-Quality Professional Learning Experiences in Palau

REL Pacific Research Study: How Current Teachers in the Republic of Palau performed on a Practice Teacher Certification Exam


References:

Silva, E. (2008). The Benwood Plan: A lesson in comprehensive teacher reform. Phi Delta Kappan, 90(2), 127–134. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/003172170809000211.

Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., & Gardner, M. (2017). Effective teacher professional development. Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/sites/default/files/product-files/Effective_ Teacher_Professional_Development_REPORT.pdf .