Article Notes: Cascade training and teachers’ professional development – David Hayes

‘Article Notes’ is a set of blog posts in which I write down my notes about articles that I read. These notes are not meant to be ‘academic’ or ‘formal’; rather, they are my ramblings and immediate thoughts in reaction to the content I read. I’ve written them up to help me remember the article, and to share my thoughts with those who are interested. I welcome you feedback and comments!

Summary and notes

Hayes (2000) article Cascade training and teachers’ professional development looks at Cascade training, i.e., a training model in which “training is conducted at several levels by trainers drawn from the level above” (Hayes, 2000, p.137). In essence, a group of trainers/teachers go to a course/session, and then return to the local context and pass on this knowledge. Kennedy (2005) touched on these, and mentioned that they fall within the lower end of the transmission ‘spectrum’.

Throughout the article, Hayes describes how the cascade model, often criticised for the dilution of content that occurs (Kennedy (2005) also wrote that the cascade model often leads to teachers discussing the skills/knowledge aspect, rather than the experience). However, Hayes (2000, p.138; emphasis in original) is adamant that it is “not the cascade model per se which is the problem, but the manner in which it is often implemented”. He writes that for the cascade model to be effective, essentially it needs to focus on less transmission, more reinterpretation, and with ‘expertise’ dispersed. This is the summary that he (2000, p.138) includes:

  • the method of conducting the training must be experiential and
    reflective rather than transmissive;
  • the training must be open to reinterpretation; rigid adherence to
    prescribed ways of working should not be expected;
  • expertise must be diffused through the system as widely as possible,
    not concentrated at the top;
  • a cross-section of stakeholders must be involved in the preparation
    of training materials;
  • decentralisation of responsibilities within the cascade structure is
    desirable.

He later speaks about an example of an effective use of the cascade model in Sri Lanka. One of the most interesting aspects of this example is the set of criteria and principles underpinning them (see below). Whilst there is a lot to unpack (see my notes), I feel that these criteria are excellent – both for cascade models and general training courses!

Hayes, 2000, p.141

Hayes also speaks about sets of seminar ‘themes’ which connect to the principles above. What I found most interesting about this section, however, was the checklist that was co-constructed between tutors and trainers from the course. Again, this checklist was used for sessions in the cascade model ‘course’, but I feel this are excellent questions to use in evaluating development programmes in general. Here is the list:

Hayes, 2000, p.143

Whilst at times I found this article a little ‘vague’, I do think that Hayes presented a brilliant set of guidelines for using a cascade model, and perhaps inadvertently, a great set of principles and checklist that could be beneficial for development programmes in general.

Points from article My notes
Innovations are often seen as
threats to stakeholders in the system: any disturbance to the status quo may have unforeseen and possibly damaging consequences. (p.135)
Especially when money/power/status is involved.
As such, the innovation
may be well grounded in theory but alien to current practice, and take little account of the practicalities of the process of change for individuals at a personal level. (p.135)
An example might be TBLT in certain Eastern contexts, although these teachers also had to contend with mismatches between syllabus design and assessment.
“It is important to understand that innovations are not adopted by
people on the basis of the intrinsic value of the innovation, but rather
on the basis of the adopters’ perception of the changes they personally will be required to make. […] It is others who will have to modify their behaviours and very often to modify them rapidly in fairly significant ways, and with little previous or even gradual preparation…” (Havelock and Huberman, 1986). (p.135)
Any change no matter how beneficial will always be met with some kind of resistance.
It should be clear then that, if any innovation is to have a chance of
moving from the planner’s desk to the classroom, the process needs to be carefully managed. (p.136)
Agreed.
Section: Managing innovation: sources of behaviourSection: Managing innovation: sources of behaviour
Recognition that the social context of teaching and learning is equally important has come late to the EFL world (see for example Holliday, 1994; Coleman, 1997). (p.136)Perhaps the most influential ‘innovations’ in our industry come/came from the applied science branch (e.g., audiolingualism) – these were implemented globally with very little to no ‘attention’ paid to the local teaching/learning context.
From this exploratory research it is clear that it is not internal course features which are the sole determinants of the success of INSET: . . . the teacher’s own personal disposition towards change may be a key variable. […] we will only arrive at anything like a full understanding of the processes of in-service teacher development if we consider the teacher’s personal biography, situated within its socio-educational context.(p.137)Agreed. I wonder – are we doing this now in my academy? Are we really taking everyone’s profile into account? Perhaps having the CPD file is not enough – we need to build up a most more detail ‘profile file’ which includes information about teachers previous teaching experiences (including methodologies worked with), influences, socio-economic background, etc. I can see issues with collecting this information, but I can also see the benefits of having this on hand. For example, having and understanding of their educational experiences as a learner might give a clearer understanding as to why they make certain pedagogic decisions.
As a basic minimum, we would hope that the innovators had at the very least consulted with the community within which innovation was to take place (parents, teachers, children). (p.137) Again, in every article I read, the need to get the ‘local’ perspective on needs and wants is ever present. Saying something?
Section: Strategies for introducing innovation: ‘cascades’ Section: Strategies for introducing innovation: ‘cascades’
However, using trainers drawn from successive tiers of the cascade also has potential disadvantages, the principal one being dilution of the training – less and less is understood the further one goes down the cascade. (p.137) Excellent point.
Yet it is not the cascade model per se which is the problem, but the manner in which it is often implemented. A prime cause of failure is concentration of expertise at the topmost levels of the cascade, allied to a purely transmissive mode of training at all levels. Active participation in the change at all levels is, then, a sine qua non of successful cascade training. (p.138) This fits with pretty much all my experiences with this type of ‘training’.
Reinterpretation of the training experience rather than unthinking
acceptance was thus a key factor, something to be welcomed rather than to be feared. (p.138)
Yes! Encouraging teacher reflection and activating critical thinking is likely to ensure that the one who ‘cascades’ brings their own understanding, as well as more chances of the next step being less transmissive and more transformative.
Important also was involvement of a cross-section of stakeholders in the production of training materials. (p.138) So, if we want to train teachers on X, we need to get their input on context and materials for training.
To sum up, for cascade training to be successful, there appear to be a
number of key criteria which the programme should take into account:
– the method of conducting the training must be experiential and
reflective rather than transmissive;
the training must be open to reinterpretation;
– rigid adherence to
prescribed ways of working should not be expected;
– expertise must be diffused through the system as widely as possible, not concentrated at the top;
– a cross-section of stakeholders must be involved in the preparation of training materials;
– decentralisation of responsibilities within the cascade structure is desirable. (p.138)
Not only a great list for cascade model of training!
Section: The Sri Lanka Primary English Language Project (PELP)Section: The Sri Lanka Primary English Language Project (PELP)
Finally, I shall briefly examine the means by which the project attempts to measure its impact. (p.139) Very interested in this as I imagine such a model must be hard to measure in terms of impact.
Section: Project training and development Section: Project training and development
The key characteristic of PELP is participation throughout the system. […] it is a basic tenet that development strategies must promote a sense of ownership in teachers and trainers of the programmes in which they are involved and the centres through which they operate. (p.139) I think this is great, but I imagine this sense of ownership must be difficult to always ensure happens. This is my the element of ‘reinterpretation’ is so important.
A transmission model of training is inconsistent with a programme
which seeks to develop a sense of ownership at the grass-roots level
amongst teachers and trainers. The project therefore, utilizes, participatory ‘normative re-educative strategies’ (Chin and Benne, cited in Bishop, 1986: 16) which examine principles underlying the use of classroom or workshop activities, evaluate the effectiveness of existing
practice, and use this heightened awareness as a basis for modifications in that practice. (p.140)
Need to unpack this as it’s quite vague. Had to go look up normative re-education: “in social psychology, the idea that societal change should be based on active reeducation of people within the framework of their cultural milieu. Normative-reeducative strategy holds that a program for social change based only on rational appeal is inadequate because behavioral patterns are largely determined by traditional attitudes and cultural norms” (“APA Dictionary of Psychology”, 2022). So, what I am getting from this is that any change that we plan, no matter how ‘rational’ (Lamb touched on this) it is, it needs to be implemented within the culture and traditions of the local context.
For teachers to adopt different methods of teaching English at the
primary level they need to be sure that these methods will bring benefits both to themselves and their learners. (p.140)
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges when bringing research into the training room – or even new ideas!
Though practice is informed by theory, an understanding of theory
alone is insufficient as an agent of long-term change. (p.140)
Agreed!
Learning does not finish once trainers or teachers leave a course. (p.140) Damn right!
Supportive workshop and classroom observation and counselling can ease this process, but it is recognized that not every trainer nor every teacher can be offered such support on demand. Self-appraisal skills must, therefore, form an important part of a trainer’s or teacher’s repertoire. Trainer and teacher development courses seek,
accordingly, to develop a heightened degree of reflectiveness and critical
awareness in participants. (p.140)
We need to create the conditions for development to be able to continue post-course/session. This may, in my opinion, include identifying weaknesses in a ‘programme’ and providing solutions for how to address these.
Section: Seminar themes Section: Seminar themes
2) Developing as trainers; developing as teachers.
It was thought to be vital to emphasise that training and teaching were mutually dependent. One does not stop developing as a teacher when one becomes a trainer. (p.141)
One of the best things I’ve ever read! I would even say that as a trainer, the emphasis to develop is even stronger.
6) Learners (at any level) may need to be helped to develop strategies for active, involved learning.
We cannot presume that trainers, teachers, or children used to
transmissive modes of education will automatically know ‘how to’
learn in an activity-based way. Learner-training may be required to support the new modes of learning. (p.141)
Very interesting. Having only taught and trained in Spain, I feel I lack extensive experience with dealing with mismatches in learning modes. This being said, I have noticed that teachers, at times, have certain pre-conceived notions of what/how training should be, and at times this is at odds with how the session is unfolding.
However, experience shows that
even a national, prescribed curriculum will be interpreted in different ways by individual teachers. The goal of any teacher development programme, therefore must be, to give teachers the power-in the form of knowledge, skills, interpretive frameworks and a reflective disposition- to make informed choices about how best to teach in their own classes (taking into account such things as a national curriculum).
Love this. Falls in line with what Richards talks about in Beyond training – the idea of student-based views of teaching, and working with a curriculum, but with learner needs as priorities.

References

APA Dictionary of Psychology. (2022). Retrieved 13 June 2022, from https://dictionary.apa.org/normative-reeducative-strategy

All the extracts (and references within) have been taken from:

Hayes, D. (2000). Cascade training and teachers’ professional development. ELT Journal, 54/2, p.135-145.

Kennedy, A. (2005). Models of Continuing Professional Development: a framework for analysis. Journal of in-service Education, Volume 31/2, p.235-250.

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