A community-based action research program to improve student learning outcomes by changing methods of professional development and improving collaboration among teachers.
Research in Israel has continuously indicated that disadvantaged communities, typically located in the peripheries, lack access to a strong educational infrastructure. The local educational authorities in Israel’s social and geographic periphery struggle to improve their education system, and the gap between them and the more affluent local authorities keeps on growing.
In 2013, the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute initiated two policy research papers which focused on the management and development of the teaching workforce in Israel. The two main findings were: a. 15% of the teaching workforce are being employed as ‘contract teachers’ (meaning that they have been outsourced to private entities), an ongoing trend that may undermine any attempt to improve teaching and learning processes; b. local authorities are currently a wasted resource that must be included in any endeavor to improve teaching and learning (and thus student achievements), in particular if the aim is to sever the connection between socio-economic status and educational achievement. Following these research papers, VLJI initiated a pilot program in a small community in the south of Israel to examine the possibility of redesigning the professional development of the teaching workforce, while involving all stakeholders—and in particular the local authority—in the process and aligning it with evidence-based needs and abilities.
VLJI developed an action-research project that first maps the needs, resources, strengths and weaknesses of the teaching workforce in the local authority, as well as the available resources to address needs and to support the teachers. Based on real evidence, a long term plan was formulated in collaboration with all the stakeholders which included time allocations for school principals to work with their teachers, and ways to enhance teamwork among teachers.
The project’s predominant goal is to improve student achievement by promoting teachers’ collective efficacy.
Any professional development of teachers that does not address real needs and specific local circumstances can have no effect on the quality of teaching and learning.