Transnational learning networks and teacher professional development in India: Perspectives on potential

Year: 2018

Author: Khan, Atiya

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Professional development of teachers is long recognised in relevant educational research and policy literature as essential for improving the quality of school education. In recent years, education authorities in India have understood this and developed a range of teacher professional development programs, more so in response to rapid changes in educational theory and practice, and rapidly evolving educational technologies. Yet, the quality of and access to these programs are often uneven, inadequate, or in some cases non-existing. As transnational forces continue to shape the greater social, cultural, political and economic interconnectedness among countries, innovations in communication technologies offer possibilities for teacher professional development through transnational learning networks. The purpose of this presentation is to highlight the findings of PhD research into the potential of one such transnational learning network, the Australia-Asia BRIDGE School Partnerships Project, to support teacher professional development in India. The research involved participants from eight BRIDGE schools in the Delhi region of India and surrounding urban districts. Data were generated from multiple sources, including interviews with teachers and principals, observations and document analysis, to explore their expectations from the BRIDGE program and account for the teachers’ experiences within the program. The aim was also to gain insight into the opportunities and challenges for their professional development within the program. The findings reveal that the teachers and principals had rudimentary conceptualisations of transnational professional development and demonstrated basic beliefs and assumptions about the nature of their participation in the transnational learning network and its potential. They perceived the potential of the network pragmatically and transactionally, aiming to improve teaching practice and student learning within their schools’ pre-determined transnational agendas. The teachers’ expectations from the transnational learning network and their experiences within the network fell short of realising the network’s potential for enhancing the quality of their professional development. The findings emphasise the need for transnational learning networks, like BRIDGE, to explicitly unpack the potential of such networks for improving both the availability and quality of teacher professional development. Additionally, what may also be needed is for such networks to create a range of strategies that aim to explore and enhance teachers’ transnational understandings, thinking processes and aspirations for transnational professional development.