R. Lloyd Ryan
Not so long ago, we all believed in the virtues of continuing education, especially the inservice variety. It is strange, is it not, that the former adjective, "inservice," qualifying the type of continuing education, has evolved into a noun. INSERVICE now stands alone - in more ways than one.
INSERVICE is a funny animal. Everybody believes it to be necessary, but the product itself does not enjoy a great deal of popularity (Nicholson & Joyce, 1976). While the invective may not now be quite as severe as it once was, many teachers are still not greatly charitable in their assessment of their inservice education experiences. Many inservice providers are undoubtedly puzzled and are probably asking "Why is this? Why do teachers not appreciate the inservice that we burn our buns preparing for them? What do teachers want, anyway?"
In any review of the inservice continuing education literature, there is one lesson that seems to come through quite strongly. That lesson is that teachers want to be INVOLVED in their inservice.
Being somewhat of an amateur semanticist in my personal search for meaning, I wondered what INVOLVEMENT meant, but found that the literature did not clarify the meaning. What I did discover was that everybody using the term had his/her own assumed personal meanings.
I wanted to give the word back its meaning, because I thought that it would be useful to do so. I undertook a piece of research to find the meaning of "involvement," as it applied to teachers and inservice continuing education or inservice staff development.
The task that I set out to do was a difficult one, I found, because the words "inservice" and "continuing education" and "staff development" have also lost their meanings. One organization, the National Education Association (1966), for example, suggested that camping constituted inservice teacher education. It appeared that a great variety of experiences could qualify as inservice teacher education. So it was in the context of fluid meanings of words and slippery concepts that I tried to determine what teacher "involvement" in inservice education might mean.
People are complex beings. Becoming a teacher means that
the human being becomes even more complex. At one time we believed
that once a person turned 21, then s/he was an adult and continued on without
much change until senility. The eventual recognition of the female,
and later still the male, menopause caused beliefs to change. Eventually,
through the research of people like Gail Sheehy (1981, 1982) and Patricia
Cross (1981), we came to realize that adults are undergoing almost constant
change - physically, cognitively, sensually, emotionally, socially, attitudinally,
One of these significant changes characterizing adults is that they change as learners. Malcolm Knowles (1980) calls the related knowledge ANDRAGOGY and suggests that adult learners, such as teachers, want their wealth of experience to be acknowledged and to be used as a learning resource; they want greater independence and self-direction in their learning experiences; they want new learning to meet their real-life needs; and they want their learning to be goal-directed or performance-centred. Some of the implications of this new knowledge are: (i) inservice has to have an emphasis on experiential techniques; (ii) it has to have practical application; and (iii) it has to provide initial experiences to help teachers prepare for the new learning.
Other researchers (e.g. Schaiper & Delforge, 1982; Dunn & Bruno, 1985) have inferred from their research that adults have different preferred and optimal learning styles. For example, some prefer field-dependent, and others field-independent methods; some prefer auditory methods but others are more comfortable with visual, or tactile components. Other researchers talk about various conceptualizations of learning styles: visual language, visual numeric, auditory language, auditory numeric, tactile concrete, social individual, social group, concrete random, abstract random, concrete sequential, abstract sequential, oral expressiveness, and written expressiveness. These theorists claim that teachers will prefer some, maybe personally-unique, combination of these learning modes. One researcher (Guild, 1988) says that "every individual has basic fundamental patterns and approaches...as learners" (p. 2), that these styles can be identified, and that they can be taken into account when staff development activities are being designed. He also says that individuals study and organize differently, and that different staff development decisions about materials demand different instructional styles.
Related to these findings are those having to do with career stage. Several researchers (e.g. Neugarten, 1968; Kimmel, 1980) have discovered that people have unique personal ambitions and that they are always checking their career timetables to determine whether they are on track with their life plans. If they are on-course, they appear to be somewhat satisfied; if they are not on-course, if they are not achieving their aspirations, then dissatisfaction begins to set in.
There is a significant lesson for educational administrators and
other inservice providers in these findings. It appears that a great
many teachers are not finding fulfilment in their careers.
They feel that they are not making valuable personal contributions and
that their contributions are not recognized. Consequently, they begin
to pursue other interests outside of school where they do find either personal
self-fulfilment, or recognition for their achievements, or both.
That is, their energies are directed away from their jobs and they do not
invest the effort and energies into teaching
The challenge for principals and other administrators, here, is two-fold. Firstly, administrators have to try to enhance jobs so that teachers are able to develop a sense of self-fulfilment from them, and secondly, undoubtedly related to the first, administrators have to let teachers know, individually, that their contributions are recognized and that the teachers, as people, are appreciated and valued.
All of this is made to appear more complex, from a research perspective, when the literature of psychiatry is added to the mix. Then, we find that a person's behaviour is a function of personality and that personality is a function of personal experiences, at least to a significant degree. For teachers, some of these experiences are, of course, those having to do with past involvement in inservice continuing education.
It appears that the most significant experiential component affecting a person's psychological structure is the matter of general satisfaction, which seems to have an inverse relationship with the cumulation of stress related trauma. Again, continuing education experiences can play a significant role.
Numerous researchers have documented the degree of teacher stress
and its dysfunctional effects, both personally and professionally.
There is almost unanimous agreement (Moorhead, 1983; NTA, 1983; Rogers,
1992; Sparks, 1979) that teacher stress is quite high and that teachers
at all teaching assignments and at all ages experience it. The effects
of stress, popularly called "burnout," is readily recognized, and follows
a sequence: lack of enthusiasm, stagnation, frustration, and apathy
Probably, one of the most significant findings in the teacher stress literature is that there is one major culprit contributing to teacher stress ... and that is administrative behaviours (e.g. Lambert, 1968; Schroder, 1971; Holdaway, 1978; Moorhead, 1983). One might take some comfort (but it is cold comfort) from the research findings that indicate that the same is true of many business and industrial settings, where worker stress can be traced substantially to the behaviours of their managers and supervisors.
This relationship between the behaviour of principals and teacher
stress is manifested in a number of ways. From one study in Ontario
(Morehead, 1983) it was concluded that teachers' least complementary remarks
are reserved for district administrators, supervisory people, and their
principals. Teachers called them inept, incompetent, unreasonable,
and inflexible. In particular, teachers seemed to resent the lack
of involvement they had in decision-making which affected them. Another
researcher (Scrivens, 1979) claims that teachers feel used, and are frustrated
Related to this, Matteson & Ivancevich (1979, 1980) claim that teachers are stressed because of a lack of support from their principals, lack of status, poor communication, and other factors over which teachers have little control. Other researchers (Blase & Matthews, 1984) say that principals do not provide recognition to teachers for their accomplishments. They say that teachers feel manipulated, helpless, impotent, and frustrated over lack of possibilities for input. Another researcher (Unger, 1986) says that when teachers feel that they have little control over their professional lives, they become less productive.
This is not surprising, of course. It is pretty well an accepted phenomenon, now, that when people lose a sense of personal control, they become depressed and cease to strive. We see the same thing happening to students at school. Deming (1990) says that all humans want to be effective, and Rhodes (1990) says "that [people] are purposeful cognitive beings intrinsically motivated to seek satisfaction through the accomplishment of their purposes" (p. 34)
Now, the positive news is that principals have it within their
power to reduce teacher stress (Ratsoy, 1986; Dubrin, 1981; Bailey, 1983).
A number of researchers (Bailey, 1983) have pointed out that it is within
the power of principals to determine the organizational climate of his
or her school. These researchers say that principals have to assist
teachers in believing that they are successful. One of the most effective
ways to achieve this is for principals to ensure that teachers have a real
voice in decision-making. Other researchers (Moorhead, 1983) say
that principals must develop better
None of this should seem new or surprising. It is just well-known psychological phenomena now put in principal and teacher terms. Everybody knows about Maslow's hierarchy and how it is commonly accepted that the human being strives toward self-actualization - to be all that s/he can be. More than anything else, people need the approval of others, and they need to have their self-esteem supported and strengthened.
That is not to say, nor does most of the research suggest, that
teachers have to be involved in all school-level decision making.
There are several practical deterrents. Firstly, teachers simply
do not have the time, even if they had the inclination. Secondly, teachers
are not willing to spend the necessary after-school time in all the meetings
that would be required. Thirdly, most teachers want to be recognized
as professional people, and want their principals to help create a supportive
environment so that they can get on with their job. Fourthly, there
are simply too many decisions to
It has to be noted, though, that there are decision areas which
directly affect teachers, and the literature seems virtually unanimous
that teachers should be playing key roles in related decision-making.
One of these decision areas is the matter of inservice continuing education.
The wealth of research on inservice education is pointing very strongly
toward the principle that teachers want to be involved in planning
and carrying out their inservice, and they want opportunity to individualize
their inservice experiences so that these experiences will be personally
relevant. There is, also, the supportive psychological phenomenon
that is sometimes called "ownership". This
In research, conducted by Ryan (1989), in which 400 teachers in
nine school districts were surveyed, teachers were asked to what degree
they wanted to be involved in the various processes of curriculum development
for their inservice activities. The resulting data were analyzed
with respect to teacher age, sex, education, teaching experience, career
stage, job satisfaction, type of teacher training, and type of teaching
assignment. The teachers were asked to what degree they wanted to
be involved in the full gamut of activities characterizing the development
and expediting of inservice activities. These inservice curriculum
development activities were perceived to be (a)
Analyses revealed that there were some differences in the patterns of involvement which teachers prefer, and that these differences had to do with sex, age, education, and teaching assignment, primarily. In general, older, male, better-educated, and secondary teachers want more involvement in the various aspects of inservice than younger, female, lesser-educated, and primary teachers. However, it would be an over-simplification to leave things there. In actual fact, some teachers want some involvement in some aspects of the inservice curriculum development sequence, and almost no involvement in other aspects. That is to say that it is virtually impossible to look at a particular teacher or group of teachers and be able to predict what degree of involvement he, she, or they will want in a particular aspect of planning and expediting their inservice staff development.
The elegantly simple conclusion is that if one wants to know the pattern of involvement that individual teachers prefer in planning for and expediting inservice education, it will be necessary to ask them, individually. Furthermore, It should be expected that the pattern of involvement that a particular teacher wants will change over time, and may change radically from one inservice activity to another. In other words, although it is true that teachers want to be involved in the decision-making for their inservice, they simply have to be consulted about their individual desired type and intensity of involvement if the inservice activities are to be worthwhile.
It is important not to fall into the jargon and cliché
trap. However, it is vital to emphasize that teachers do need to
be involved in collaborative decision-making, especially if they are going
to be affected by the decisions. Very few decisions made in schools
will affect teachers more directly than those having to do with inservice
education. Not only will teachers feel better about themselves if
they are involved in inservice-related decisions, but that collaborative
involvement will help create a climate in which principals can have much
more professional interaction with teachers. When
While the word is used with reluctance, simply because it has already begun to lose its meaning, "empowerment" (Maeroff, 1988) will be gained, to some degree, by teachers when principals and teachers work together collaboratively, with mutual respect and cooperation, on inservice, and on other issues. From a psychological perspective, teachers are given some power over their own futures and feel more personal control over their own lives.
It is not being advocated that principals relinquish any of their
authority as principals. That is not the point at all! The
principal will still be principal. Neither is it a matter of "democratic
decision-making", which means nothing more than everybody-making-a- decision-and-nobody-
taking- responsibility-for-it. Having teachers involved will mean
that they will participate in all aspects of inservice curriculum development.
It also means that they will be involved in needs
A related inservice truth is that if inservice activities are not based on adequate needs assessment, then the resulting inservice activities have no valid reason to occur. One of the first phases of any inservice activity sequence is adequate needs assessment. Furthermore, needs assessment simply cannot be credibly conducted without teacher participation.
There is an interesting question related to this issue: "Do teachers know what their inservice needs are?" There are two answers, an unqualified "yes", and an unqualified "no". Some advocates say "Yes, because teachers are professional people"; others say "Yes, because we have to trust teachers". In fact, neither of these reasons supports the "yes" response. Teachers can be professional, and we can trust them, but that does not answer the question whether they do, in fact, know what their inservice needs are.
The more rational and supportable response to the question is
that SOME teachers know SOME of their inservice needs SOME of the time.
In fact, they will likely know some of their inservice needs that cannot
be identified any other way than by asking them -and for that reason they
should be involved in needs assessment. But, the principal, supervisory
personnel, and other teachers will also be in a position to recognize inservice
needs that individual teachers will not recognize, simply because it is
extremely difficult for individuals to look at themselves and see their
The caution is that school administrators can no longer decide for teachers that they are going to be summoned to some central location, where they will be talked to by some "expert", and then told to go back to their classrooms like good little boys and girls and do like the man said. That whole process has been demeaning; the teachers have gone back to their schools and said that it was all a waste of time, which it usually has been!
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