21 Sep

Teacher Recruitment and Retention: An international CPD crisis?


If you browse some of the adverts in the international jobs section of the Times Education Supplement (TES) which many teachers do at this time of the year, you will see that schools often use phrases like “we are committed to professional development’ or “we are committed to developing people” or the less subtle “CPD opportunities available” in the benefits section of the adverts, but what does this actually mean for a teacher taking an international post?

Professional learning (PL) or continuing professional development (CPD) is an implicit responsibility within today’s evolving education sector. Teachers must be committed learners and school leaders must be invested in their learning to retain them and harness their expertise. The teachers that view professional learning as an intrinsic part of their role are more likely to embody the same learning behaviours with their children, and create an environment where learning is facilitated by the teacher and the children.

International schools must up their game when it comes to CPD to attract and retain the best candidates. The days of the international backpacking teacher are slowly coming to an end, as high caliber candidates see the international sector as an important step on the ladder to senior leadership.The popular headline of the day is that ‘Dubai will have twenty seven more schools’ in the next two years; the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) stipulates that new schools must recruit from outside of the Emirate within the first three years of it being open. This means that schools have to be extremely intelligent in their search for outstanding teachers but also offer extremely rewarding professional learning opportunities to retain teachers.

A bigger question to consider is: what should professional learning look like for an international teacher in 2016? For some individuals, staying on top of the latest initiatives back in their home-country is a high priority to ensure that re-entry is seamless. This is brilliant if you are planning to move back but not entirely relevant for your role and career in the context you are working in. For others, it might mean attending a training course or a conference from time to time. Again, these experiences can be fantastic but, it’s also very difficult to evaluate the impact of a conference on a child’s learning outcomes and this is where it gets very tricky for school leaders who are managing resources and trying to get the best out of people. For school leaders, CPD is often directly linked to a school improvement plan, therefore, depersonalising the experience.

The pace-setting schools continually seek to be more effective, efficient and evidence-based so that processes and outcomes can be continually improved. Huge amounts of resources are spent every year to recruit teachers but also to research, support and improve professional learning; however, schools must consider the actual impact this has and re-evaluate their approach.

Marion Dadds argued that “Teachers do not enter into CPD has empty vessels. They bring existing experiences, perspectives, and most usually, anxieties about the highly complex nature of their work. They usually begin with implicit or explicit beliefs about education and their work with children. They come with differences, disagreements, preconceptions and uncertainties. These are all useful resources which can be drawn upon and considered within professional learning.”

One particular model that has evidenced positive outcomes is collaborative CPD. Collaborative CPD is defined as “Teachers working together on a sustained basis” (Hargreaves, 2012). It can be a tough sell to certain teachers but with strong leadership, this type of professional learning has been proven to have the biggest impact on children and teachers.

International schools within the UAE are competing with schools in Sydney, Hong Kong, Doha, Kuala Lumpur, Europe, the USA and the UK for the best teachers. With more schools opening, what are the implications for school leaders within the UAE? Professional learning needs to be more than a bolt on, more than activity; it should be part of the DNA of the school and driven by the students’ and teachers working collaboratively to improve classroom practice. School leaders need to be at the forefront of this and demonstrate their commitment to professional learning, rather than committing more resources to recruitment adverts using the latest buzz words.


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  1. david

    September 21, 2016 at 11:06 am

    A great post Shaun.

  2. Cody Claver

    September 21, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    International schools need to work under a commonly held definition of “what good teaching is”…Charlotte Danielson’s work “Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching” provides that definition. It clearly outlines for teachers and administrators the standards of teaching as well as becomes a vocabulary whereby professional conversations can center around improvement. The FFT provides a framework for effectively evaluating teachers too!
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