In search of suitable professional development models for administrators in Vietnamese higher education

Abstract. Professional development plays a vital role in improving knowledge, skills and expertise of lecturers, staff members and educational administrators. In Vietnamese higher education context, while there have been many professional development programs designed and implemented for lecturers and staff members, there seems to be little concern about professional development for administrators. This paper, therefore, aims to investigate international experience in providing professional development for educational administrators, particularly models of professional development, through which proposing the models that are suitable for administrators working in Vietnamese universities. First, this paper presents the context for the study focusing on professional development in Vietnam’s education system. Second, the research highlights several concepts of professional development, especially those are for administrators. Third, it discusses the significance of professional development for higher education administrators. Next, the research reviews models of professional development. Lastly, the paper provides discussion and recommendations which suggests the possibilities of implementing professional development models for higher education administrators in Vietnam

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3 HNUE JOURNAL OF SCIENCE DOI: 10.18173/2354-1075.2017-0169 Educational Sciences, 2017, Vol. 62, Iss. 12, pp. 3-10 This paper is available online at IN SEARCH OF SUITABLE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT MODELS FOR ADMINISTRATORS IN VIETNAMESE HIGHER EDUCATION Nguyen Huu Cuong School of Education, The University of New South Wales, Australia Abstract. Professional development plays a vital role in improving knowledge, skills and expertise of lecturers, staff members and educational administrators. In Vietnamese higher education context, while there have been many professional development programs designed and implemented for lecturers and staff members, there seems to be little concern about professional development for administrators. This paper, therefore, aims to investigate international experience in providing professional development for educational administrators, particularly models of professional development, through which proposing the models that are suitable for administrators working in Vietnamese universities. First, this paper presents the context for the study focusing on professional development in Vietnam’s education system. Second, the research highlights several concepts of professional development, especially those are for administrators. Third, it discusses the significance of professional development for higher education administrators. Next, the research reviews models of professional development. Lastly, the paper provides discussion and recommendations which suggests the possibilities of implementing professional development models for higher education administrators in Vietnam. Keywords: Professional development, models, administrators, higher education, Vietnam. 1. Introduction Professional development is the popular strategy educational institutions and organizations across the world use to ensure that educators continue to strengthen their practice throughout their career. Professional development in the education area refers to many kinds of educational experiences related to an individual’s work. Teachers, staff members, educational managers and leaders participate in professional development activities to learn and apply new knowledge and skills that will enhance their performance on the job. The associated literature has shown that teaching quality and education leadership are the most important factors in improving student achievement. Professional development is an effective way teachers and educational administrators can learn so that they are able to better their performance and raise student learning outcome [1]. Professional development also receives great concern in Vietnamese higher education setting. The Government and the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) have promulgated several policies in professional development. Universities have also organized many professional development activities. However, most of them were for teachers and staff members. Leadership professional development programs are argued to be limited. This study is expected to fill part of this gap through an investigation of professional development models for educational administrators. Received: October 19, 2017. Revised: December 18, 2017. Accepted: December 21, 2017 Contact: Nguyen Huu Cuong, e-mail address: cuong.h.nguyen@student.unsw.edu.au Nguyen Huu Cuong 4 Through a synthesis of professional development concepts, significance and models, the research suggests suitable models of professional development for administrators of Vietnamese higher education. 2. Content 2.1. Background of the Study The area of professional development in education has been of growing interest in Vietnam for the past few years. There are several legal documents issued by the government and MOET in this regard. For example, Circular No. 20/2013/TT-BGDĐT promulgated by the Minister of MOET on 6 June 2013 regulates professional development contents, programs, organizational and assessment methods for lecturers of higher education institutions. The main professional development contents are innovation in Vietnam’s higher education, global trends in higher education, and updating of knowledge, expertise, research and instructional methods. The professional development method is only full-time training (short-term or long-term) at the institutions that are assigned by authorized organizations [2]. Also, the Prime Minister approved a project on training and providing professional development for school teachers and educational managers (Decision No. 732/QĐ-TTg dated on 29 April 2016). The main contents of this project focus on improving professional capacity, abilities in foreign languages, informatics and technology, and abilities in management and administration for school teachers and educational managers. No specific professional methods or models are stated in this project [3]. Many universities in Vietnam have also organized professional development programs and activities. However, the majority of them were for teachers, supporting staff or middle-level managers (department directors/vice-directors, deans/vice-deans). Otherwise, the professional development programs were designed for core institutional managers [4]. This means that educational leaders participated in the same professional development programs with other staff members. Actually, there have been not any programs or activities developed for them. Professional development for educational administrators has received concerns from the government recently. The project "Capacity building for lecturers, administrators of higher education institutions and teacher training colleges to meet the requirements of the fundamental and comprehensive innovation of education and training in the 2018-2025 period, 2030 vision" (drafted by MOET) aims to provide professional development in higher education administration and governance for all Vietnamese university presidents, vice-presidents and university council presidents [5]. This is a very ambitious objective. However, which professional development models and strategies will be implemented to achieve this purpose has not been stated. 2.2. Concepts of Professional Development The literature offers a number of definitions of professional development and similar terms, including ‘staff development’, ‘academic development’, and ‘educational development’. In this study, the term ‘professional development’ will be used as a general term to cover all. According to Eraut (1994, cited in Bacheler, 2015), professional development “is simply defined as the formal and informal improvement of skills, knowledge, and attitudes required for success in the workplace” (p. 154) [6]. Similarly, Guskey (2000) argues that the focus of a professional development program is In search of suitable professional development models for administrators in Vietnamese higher education 5 to improve the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to be an effective professional [7]. In Vietnam, the Circular No. 20/2013/TT-BGDĐT dated on 6 June 2013 promulgating regulations on professional development for lecturers of higher education institutions states that one of the purposes of professional development is to improve lecturers’ abilities in teaching, education, research, abilities in organization and management of institutional activities [2]. The term ‘professional development’ generally refers to a formal process such as a conference, seminar, workshop, coaching and mentoring, or collaborative learning among members of a work team, or a course at a higher education institution. Professional development can also happen in informal contexts such as conversations, discussions among work colleagues, observations of a colleague’s work, independent reading or research, or other learning from a peer. Even experienced teachers and educational administrators encounter challenges every year, including new instructional and assessment methods, student learning needs, changed regulations and procedures, and advances in technology. Those who do not receive effective professional development do not improve their knowledge, skills and expertise to perform better job [1]. 2.3. Significance of Professional Development for Educational Administrators It is important to note that in the education setting, the terms ‘administrator’ and ‘manager’ are both used to convey more or less the same meaning. Educational administrators are those who are responsible for “the administration and/or management of institutions designed to foster teaching and learning” (p. 38) [8]. Good educational administrators influence student achievement. They support and develop successful teachers and implement effective institutional practice [9]. In this study, educational administrators refer to presidents/vice-presidents or rectors/vice-rectors of higher education institutions. In general, effective professional development affects students. Student learning and achievement increase when key stakeholders in institutions such as teachers, staff members, and educational administrators engage in well-prepared professional development programs focused on skills educators need to address students’ learning challenges [1]. Consequently, professional development programs help educational administrators identify effective instructions and assessment methods; they then assist their teachers in improving instruction and assessment strategies. Professional development can also build a collaborative community of educational administrators, deepen their content knowledge, and strengthen supervisory skills to enhance their leadership capacities. In addition, professional development can support educational administrators in recruiting teachers and supporting staff, and obtain financial resources and budgeting [9]. Most educational administrators begin their careers as faculty members, then school heads, department vice-deans and deans. As they follow many career paths, their knowledge, skills and expertise have been developed through on-the-job experience. However, they have had minimal management and administration training. The newly appointed administrators find that they must quickly develop new and different knowledge and skills needed to manage and lead their institution, while administrators in senior positions must regularly update their knowledge and skills to adapt to the continually changing world. Apparently, professional development is crucially essential to educational administrators. It helps increase the capacity of the individual administrators to provide effective leadership, to be successful in their work and thereby enhance the effectiveness and quality of a university or a college [10]. Nguyen Huu Cuong 6 2.4. Models of Professional Development The literature has identified a range of models for professional development. They have been categorized into nine models, including training, award-bearing, deficit, cascade, standards-based, coaching/mentoring, community of practice, action research, and transformative. Each of them will be considered in turn. 2.4.1. The Training Model According to Guskey (2000) and Kennedy (2014), the training model is most widely used in professional development practices [7,11]. Guskey (2000, p. 22) discusses this model as “typically involves a presenter or team of presenters that shares its ideas and expertise and experience through a variety of group-based activities” [7]. Moreover, Eun (2011) states that the training model includes large group presentations and discussions, workshops, seminars, colloquia, demonstrations, role- playing, simulations and micro-teaching [12]. This model of professional development is acknowledged as an effective means of introducing new knowledge and is capable of reaching a large number of participants. However, it still has some drawbacks such as its lack of opportunities for individualizations and follow-up support [11,12]. 2.4.2. The Award-bearing Model An award-bearing model of professional development can be defined as “one that relies on, or emphasises, the completion of award-bearing programmes of study – usually, but not exclusively, validated by universities” (p. 339) [11]. Kennedy (2014) also explains that the validation from higher institutions can be considered a mark of quality assurance, but equally can be viewed as the exercise of control by the validating and/or funding bodies [11]. 2.4.3. The Deficit Model This model was proposed based on the concept that “professional development can be designed specifically to address a perceived deficit in teacher performance” (p. 340) [11]. In other words, the deficit model uses professional development to attempt to remedy perceived weaknesses in individual teachers. However, it is argued that the deficit model is not always consistent as the root causes of poor teacher performance are related not only to individual teachers, but also to organizational and management practices [13]. 2.4.4. The Cascade Model According to Kennedy (2014, p. 341), “the cascade model involves individual teachers attending ‘training events’ and then cascading or disseminating the information to colleagues”. Kennedy (2014) also adds that this model of professional development is commonly employed in situations where resources are limited [11]. Nevertheless, the cascade model has some drawbacks. For example, Solomon and Tresman (1999) argue that one of the limitations of this model is that what is passed on in the cascading process is generally skills-focused, sometimes knowledge-focused, but rarely focuses on values [14]. 2.4.5. The Standards-based Model Beyer (2002, p. 243) points out that the standards-based model “represents a desire to create a system of teaching, and teacher education, that can generate and empirically validate connections between teacher effectiveness and student learning” [15]. Accordingly, Kennedy (2014) suggests that In search of suitable professional development models for administrators in Vietnamese higher education 7 this model of professional development relies heavily on a behaviorist perspective of learning, focusing on the competence of individual teachers and resultant rewards at the expense of collaborative and collegiate learning [11]. However, Beyer (2002) also criticizes the standards-based model as narrowing the range of potential conceptions of teaching to focus on quality assurance and accountability [15]. 2.4.6. The Coaching/Mentoring Model The coaching/mentoring model is defined as the one-to-one relationship, generally between two staff, which is designed to support professional development [11]. Although they both share this characteristic, coaching is more skills based and mentoring involves an element of “counselling and professional friendship” (p. 301) [13]. Moreover, according to Dearstype (2010), the best leaders use a coaching style: they work with their employees to guide, discuss and help them achieve as part of a team [16]. While mentoring often implies a relationship where one partner is novice and the other more experienced (Clutterbuck cited in Kennedy, 2014) [11]. 2.4.7. The Community of Practice Model This model of professional development has some common characteristics with the coaching/mentoring model. However, a community of practice generally involves more than two people, and it would not necessarily rely on confidentiality. Also, it is highlighted that learning within a community of practice happens as a result of that community and its interactions, and not merely as a result of planned learning episodes such as courses [11]. 2.4.8. The Action Research Model According to Burbank and Kauchack (2003), the action research model has a more significant impact on practice when it is shared in communities of practice or enquiry, and indeed, many communities of practice will engage in action research. They also argue that collaborative action research provides an alternative to the passive role imposed on teachers in traditional models of professional development [17]. In 1992, Ortrun Zuber-Skerritt published the CRASP (Critical attitude – Research into teaching – Accountability – Self-evaluation – Professionalism) model of action research, which is also the model for professional development in higher education. Zuber-Skerritt’s aim in developing the CRASP model was to find a way of bringing together educational theory and teaching practice in higher education through the use of action research [18]. 2.4.9. The Transformative Model The transformative model of professional development involves the combination of several processes and conditions which are drawn from other models discussed above. In other words, the transformative model is not a clearly definable model in itself; rather, it recognizes the range of different conditions required for transformative practice [11]. Moreover, Kennedy (2014) argues that the key characteristic of the transformative model is its effective integration of the range of models described above, together with a real sense of awareness of issues of power [11]. Nguyen Huu Cuong 8 2.5. Discussion and Recommendations The section above reviews nine popular models of professional development. It is important to note that each model support one typical purpose of professional development. According to Kennedy (2014), professional development models serve three purposes, including transmission, transitional and transformative. The first four models—the training model, the award-bearing model, the deficit model and the cascade model—can be viewed as a ‘transmission’ of professional development. The next three models—the standards-based model, the coaching/mentoring model and the community of practice model—can support the ‘transitional’ purpose. The action research model and the transformative model can be considered ‘transformative’ [11]. These nine models are for all stakeholders of professional development. Consequently, not all of them are suitable for educational administrators; particularly those are working in Vietnamese higher education area. This study argues that the most appropriate models for professional development of Vietnamese educational administrators are the training model, the action research model and the transformative model. Whereas, the coaching/mentoring model and the community of practice model can also be effective in Vietnam’s higher education context. As discussed above, training is the most popular format of professional development. This model has also been used the most widely in professional development programs for teachers, supporting staff and managerial staff in Vietnam. Therefore, it can be implemented in professional development for administrators of higher education. Training for educational administrators can be in the form of short courses, conferences, workshops or seminars. The content of training programs for them can focus on techniques of leadership, knowledge of theory and behavior of organizations and people. It can also about human resource management, financial management and control, resource allocation, and institutional advancement. Training programs should also be designed to develop their excellent written and oral communication skills, negotiation skills, and problem-solving skills in internal relations (with students, teachers, and staff members) and external relations (with the government, the media, and the public) [10]. The action research model is typically effective to enhance k
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