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Development in the frame

Vanja Madzgalj looks at Montenegro’s new professional development plan

Montenegro’s first experience with a continuous professional development (CPD) framework was in May 2012 at a British Council conference organised for policymakers and teachers of English. Five months later the ministry decided to adopt the framework in its entirety and replace its own model of professional development with the British Council’s.
So what happened between May and October? Here’s the story.

At the conference the deputy minister explained, ‘The new role of the teacher is to lead students into achieving full autonomy in learning. In order to help learners achieve academic excellence, teachers must strive for excellence themselves. This is only possible through continuing professional development. One who stops being better, stops being good.’
It is this initial experience that started the ball rolling, setting the stage for what has become a fantastic partnership based on mutual interest. The deputy minister was thrilled with the framework, and so was Dusanka Popovic, head of the Department for Continuing Professional Development. They understood the depth in which this tool described the professional behaviours of teachers and the ways they can advance. They saw its potential to connect well to a number of related areas, such as teaching standards, quality assurance and career progression, all of which are on the ministry’s agenda. We knew we had to use this momentum.

The CPD framework is a structure which maps development courses and resources to different levels of development and experience in teachers – enabling them to create a pathway through which they can progress and improve their teaching skills.

The regional spirit of cooperation led by Damian Ross was critical in developing this initiative further and bringing it to fruition in Montenegro and other countries. An international network of professionals went to the UK to experience its innovation and know-how in the field of education. In a peer-to-peer environment they studied at Nile in Norwich, where they were encouraged to exchange views of their own development systems and discuss the CPD framework’s advantages.

Pivotal to the ministry’s appreciation of the framework was the fact that the existing school-based CPD model enabled the reform to take place at a local level. The Montenegrin delegates were invited to present this model at the next Iatefl conference and the next level of regional networking in Sarajevo. This appreciation of local achievement was needed for progress. Praise goes a long way.

At the same time, our British Council team was working with teachers learning the framework. CPD materials such as the Lifelong Learning Portfolio, in which teachers systematically gather evidence of development, are a great help. Teachers find it logical, powerful and enriching. Every month our teams of professional trainers and teacher trainers run forums where we offer individual support to teachers.

Relations with the ministry culminated in a memorandum of cooperation whereby the framework was launched to several hundred English teachers. It will be customised and made fit to serve all other subjects and levels, including pre-school, primary and secondary school teachers.
The framework will be officially presented to all school principals and CPD school coordinators in two separate presentations in March, together with accompanying brochures and materials.

There is a huge task ahead of teams representing other subjects, providing resources to teachers of maths, history or physics. A group of English teachers will be trained to cascade the implementation further and enable a seamless introduction of the new system. There has never before been an innovation adopted in practice in full synchronicity with the policy level and so well absorbed by teachers, who are registering for our next forum right now.

Vanja Madzgalj is country director for the British Council Montenegro

Regional spirit: Delegates at the first continuous professional development conference. Courtesy British Council Montenegro