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    South African Journal of Education

    Print version ISSN 0256-0100

    S. Afr. j. educ. vol.29 no.4 Pretoria Nov. 2009

     

    Perceptions of teachers on the benefits of teacher development programmes in one province of South Africa

     

     

    Raj MestryI; Ilona HendricksII; Tom BisschoffIII

    IAssociate Professor in the Department of Educational Management at the University of Johannesburg and specialises in the fields of financial management and human resource management. E-mail: rajm@uj.ac.za
    IIEducator in the Gauteng Department of Education and holds an MEd degree in Education Management
    IIISenior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham and Emeritus Professor from the University of Johannesburg. He is the co-author of seven books, the latest of which is on financial school management

     

     


    ABSTRACT

    Evidence in literature indicates that Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of teachers is essential in creating effective schools. Since 2001 the implementation of education legislation and policies has progressively shifted the new agenda within a transformation framework aimed at reconstructing the education system to the fore. The many changes that have taken place in the education system arise out of the implementation of legislation and policies and the restructuring of the education system to align with the vision of the National Department of Education. One such policy, the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) was introduced in an attempt to improve the culture of teaching and learning in schools. CPD is a performance standard in the IQMS policy which aims to contribute to the professional development of teachers. Quantitative research was used to investigate the perceptions of teachers in South African public schools on the importance of continuing professional development. The data analysis from questionnaires administered to teachers revealed that two factors form the underlying components of CPD as an aspect of IQMS, namely, purpose of teacher development programmes, and the process of teacher development programmes.


     

     

    Introduction

    In a study by Menlo and Poppleton (1990) it was clearly argued that the single most significant factor why teachers should be professionally developed is based on the conviction that the quality of teachers influences the quality of the learners' experience and achievement in a positive way. Presently in South Africa there is an energetic political press to judge teachers' quality by measuring learner performance. Raising the quality of teacher performance through teacher development programmes is essential, it is believed, to improve the overall performance of the education system, which makes the debate about school type, school-by-school performance, and class size, among others, look irrelevant. A large percentage of the national education budget of countries is spent on teachers' salaries and departments of education wish to see high level performance by teachers (Coombe, 1997). Governments are judged on their performance in the field of schooling by the outcomes learners achieve. All this places teacher development programmes at the centre of scrutiny.

    There is consensus in the literature regarding the importance of effective development programmes for teachers (Loxley, Johnston, Murchan, Fitzgerald & Quinn, 2007; Sandberg, Ansett & Wahlgren, 2007). Even at school level, the leadership of principals in professional development activities is given particular attention to create a school climate wherein schools' curriculum and administrative issues receive collaborative attention by all the teachers in the school (Widdens & Andrews, 1987). It is principals who formulate the action plans that seem most effective in achieving their aims and objectives and it is important that these principals systematically reflect upon the outcomes of their plans.

    The stark realities of the South African situation is accentuated by the following statement made by Kader Asmal, the former Minister of Education for South Africa, in a speech on World Teachers' Day in the National Assembly in Cape Town. After recognising the importance of teachers and their work he said "these are good sounding words, but somehow without life or meaning in so many of our schools" (Asmal, 2001).

    In this study we acknowledge that the sample drawn from the primary and secondary schools in one province (highly urbanised and not representative of the country as a whole) is limited but still maintain that useful information was derived to improve our understanding of teacher development programmes in the professional lives of teachers. We briefly discuss the present relationship between the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) and teacher development programmes in South Africa then we look at the research design employed in the study. The research is framed by the school effectiveness and school improvement movements that clearly established the link between teacher development programmes and learner achievement.

     

    Background to the research problem

    The culture of professional development has been severely affected by the legacy of apartheid education. The former Department of Education and Training encountered political resistance to evaluation and appraisal because many inspectors and principals were viewed as being politically biased collaborators with the Apartheid regime (Mestry, 1999). According to Phillips (1996:14), the secrecy which surrounded the whole system created enormous malcontent and the possibility of evaluation and appraisal acting as an incentive was severely negated. The poor results in the Senior Certificate examinations as well as the drop-out rate of children, especially in black schools revealed that to some extent teachers were not performing at an optimum level (Chisholm, 2004:20; 247-248).

    Professional development as an important agenda in schools could be seriously affected because IQMS (the integration of the Developmental Appraisal System, Whole School Evaluation and Performance Management System) has not yet been successfully implemented in some provinces such as Mpumalanga and Limpopo whilst in other provinces (Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal) implementation is at a very slow pace. Some of the reasons cited (Mboyane, 2002:4; Mokgalane, Carrim, Gardiner & Chisholm, 1997) are that:

    • The National Department of Education's advocacy programme on IQMS is not intensively driven.
    • The provincial Departments are not providing sufficient training to teachers in the field of IQMS. In fact, most of the teachers undergo once-off training. In some provinces training was outsourced to institutions of higher learning and private consultants who themselves had inadequate knowledge and practical experience to undertake such training. The cascading model of training, the lack of insight into IQMS by facilitators, the untimely implementation of IQMS, the top-down approach of the Department, the poor leadership of principals and school management teams, insufficient resources in previously disadvantaged schools, are some of the reasons for teachers not displaying initiative to implement the IQMS. The Department together with principals has been severely criticised by teachers for forcing the implementation of IQMS.
    • The low morale of teachers due to their poor working conditions and remuneration packages, their inability to deal with massive policy changes, and not getting to grips with Outcomes-based Education (OBE), the Revised National Curriculum Statements (RNCS) and the National Curriculum Statements (NCS), and the top-down approach of the different provincial departments in policy matters has seriously infringed on the successful implementation of IQMS.
    • The resistance of the different unions because of the unilateral decisions taken by the Department on IQMS.

    Taking the above information into account, it appears that the research question can be encapsulated as follows:

    What are the perceptions of teachers of the teacher development programmes offered to them?

    Our purpose in this study is to elicit the perceptions of teachers on the teacher development programmes offered to them.

     

    Teacher development programmes and the Integrated Quality Management System in South Africa

    The Department of Education (1998:130-137) purports that in-service training (INSET) should be seen as an ongoing process of professional development. In-service education and training is seen as a process whereby teachers continuously improve their skills, knowledge and attitudes while continuing their employment (Farrel, Kerry & Kerry, 1995:115; Oldroyd, Elsner & Poster, 1996:19). Elmore (2001), Firestone (1996), Guskey (2000) and Dean (1991) suggest that teacher development programmes are the process by which teachers learn to be more effective and efficient. These programmes focus on the improvement of learners' learning experiences through teacher enhancement of their knowledge, skills, values and attitudes. These authors suggest further that the essential purpose of teacher development programmes is to improve the whole school system and not just the individuals thereof.

    Professional development should be seen as a process by which teachers review, renew and extend their commitment as change agents to the moral purposes of teaching; and by which they acquire and develop their knowledge, skills and attitudes (Day, 1999:4; Dean, 1991:5). Bradley (1991:2), Sybouts and Wendel (1994:149) and Craft (2000:9-10) state that there are many reasons for undertaking professional development, such as to improve the job performance skills of an individual, extend the experience of an individual teacher for career development or promotion purposes, develop the professional knowledge and understanding of an individual teacher in order to fulfil his/her responsibilities more effectively, extend the personal or general education of an individual, make staff feel valued, promote job satisfaction, develop an enhanced view of the job, enable teachers to anticipate and prepare for change and to derive excitement from it, and make teachers feel willing and competent to contribute positively to the development of the school.

    Teacher development programmes should be about school improvement and professional growth (Joyce, 1993). Jones, Clark, Figg, Howarth and Reid (1989:5) suggest that teacher development programmes provide the means for teachers to experience continuing education as part of a team of professionals. According to Bush and West-Burnham (1994:285-286), professional development embraces two related concepts, namely, expanding theory and improving practice which they explain as follows:

    • In the first place, professional development is seen as a process, spanning an individual's career, whereby the teacher continues to develop the knowledge and skills required for effective professional practice.
    • In the second place, it is the notion that knowledge acquisition and skills development should be more directly related, to a greater degree than in the past, to the substantive problems faced by teachers.

    The White Paper on Education and Training (South Africa, 1995) contends that the Ministry regards teacher education as one of the central pillars of the national human resource development strategy. The Ministry believes that the most direct way of raising the quality of teaching and learning is through a comprehensive reform and re-direction of professional development for teachers (ELRC, 2004). Professional development, in addition to being associated with the negative legacy of apartheid education, has to meet the mammoth task of developing teachers for a new agenda within a transformation framework aimed at reconstructing the education system.

    The demographics of schools have changed drastically since a large percentage of learners from township schools have migrated to schools in the suburbs. These learners represent a diversity of languages, cultures and experiences in schools. At the same time, school reform efforts demand that schools become places of excellence for all learners. According to Clair and Adger (1999) teachers committed to these reforms face enormous challenges, not the least of which is the education of teachers. Although relevant stakeholders must share the responsibility for improved schooling, school reform efforts place a tremendous weight on teachers. Clearly, professional development plays a role in equipping schools to meet the challenges facing them.

    In order to improve the education system of the country, a new system referred to as Integrated Quality Management Systems (IQMS) was formulated by the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC, 2004:1). The ELRC is comprised of various unions representing teachers and senior officials from the Department of Education (Gauteng Department of Education, 2004; Gardiner, 2004). The implementation of IQMS in every public school in South Africa is mandatory.

    The IQMS, which embraces three integrated systems, namely, the Developmental Appraisal System (DAS), Whole School Evaluation (WSE) and the Performance Management System (PMS), aims at identifying specific needs of teachers, schools and district offices; providing support for continued growth, promoting accountability, monitoring an institution's overall effectiveness; and evaluating teachers' performance (ELRC, 2003). The policy further assumes that most teachers recognise the need for, and responsibility to, improve themselves professionally (Ministerial Committee Report, 2009:17). Hence continuing professional development for teachers is located within the IQMS. DAS is used to appraise individual teachers in a transparent manner with a view to determining areas of strength and weakness, and to draw up programmes for individual improvement (ELRC, 2004:1). DAS represented a radical shift from previous teacher evaluation exercises in South Africa in that it was a stakeholder-driven, transparent form of appraisal targeted at teachers (Gallie in Ministerial Committee Report, Department of Education, 2009:16). WSE is introduced to bring about an effective monitoring and evaluation process of teaching and learning, which is vital to the improvement of the quality and standard of performance in schools (Steyn, 2003:6). Teacher professional development remains a recurrent theme in this policy. PMS is the process of determining and communicating to a teacher how he/she is performing on the job whilst ideally establishing a plan of improvement (Fisher, Alder & Avasaly, 1998:153; Loock, 2003:70). This is pursued by establishing a performance culture to improve a teacher's awareness and understanding of their work objectives, and the performance standards expected of them, as well as providing opportunities to devise plans to address their needs (ELRC, 2002). The implementation of IQMS therefore implies that professional development should be placed high on the school's agenda.

     

    Research methods and design

    This study was undertaken in the quantitative paradigm because we wished to elicit, as objectively as possible, the perceptions of teachers on teacher development programmes (Mouton, 2001). The intention was to obtain information in a standardized format (Denscombe, 2003:145). We developed a questionnaire, with input from colleagues.

    The design of the questionnaire consisted of three sections: Section A gathered biographical information, such as, gender, age, position the respondent holds at the school, and the union that the respondent belongs to. Section B was made up of 37 items aimed at gathering data on the experiences and perceptions of teachers regarding teacher development programmes. The last section, Section C, consisted of three general questions that dealt with the quality of teaching and learning in their schools, promotion of teachers and the essential aspects needed to prepare learners for life. We will not, however, report on this section here.

    A random sample of 50 schools was taken from the primary and secondary schools in Gauteng province; 66.6% primary and 33.3% secondary. Five hundred questionnaires were handed out to staff at these schools (10 at each school) and personally collected by the researchers and field workers. The respondents were re-assured that they would remain anonymous and that all information supplied by the respondents in the questionnaire would be confidential. We also ensured that the data collected would not be used to the detriment of those involved in the research project.

    Four-hundred and fourteen questionnaires were received back in a useable format and this represented an 82.8% return rate, which was very high and enabled us to draw valid and reliable conclusions. Females made up 75% of the respondents while 25% were males. Most of the respondents (49%) belonged to the National Union of Educators, while 23% were members of the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU), and 27% subscribed to the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU). The Afrikaans-speaking respondents comprised 56% while 35% were English speaking. Zulu-, Xhosa- and Tswana-speaking respondents made up 9%. The sample also indicated that more teachers held a teacher's diploma and a further diploma in education (48%) than teachers holding a Bachelor's degree (44%). A small percentage of the sample would be classified as under-qualified for the teaching profession when applying the departmental criteria and guidelines.

    Section B with its 37 Likert scale type questions needed some statistical preparation to ensure a reliable and valid analysis and the university's support unit, STATKON assisted in this regard. We used a four-point scale with 1 meaning strongly disagree and 4 meaning strongly agree with equal intervals in between.

    Before we could proceed with the first order factor analysis, the Kaiser- Meyer-Olkin (KMO) measure of sampling adequacy (MSA) and Bartlett's test of sphericity were used to determine whether one could comfortably proceed with the factor analysis of the 37 items. The KMO measure of sampling adequacy was good and the Bartlett's test of sphericity (p = 0.000) was also significant.

    The first order procedure involved a principal factor analysis (PFA1) and this procedure was performed using the SPSS 11.0 program (Norusis, 2000). The first order procedure resulted in seven factors that were used as input for the second order procedures which resulted in two factors. This consisted of a principal component analysis (PCA2) followed by a principal factor analysis (PFA2).

    The two factors that resulted from this procedure were named: purpose of teacher development programmes; and process of teacher development programmes.

    The purpose (benefits) of teacher development programmes consisted of 20 items with a Cronbach-alpha reliability coefficient of 0.892. Items associated with this factor are indicated in Table 1.

     

     

    On the individual item level, a few specific questions needed clarification and discussion because they presented themselves as outliers. Question B30 on whether teacher development programmes should take place after formal teaching was not favoured by the respondents and it is understandable probably because these programmes are seen as part of the job and should be conducted in working time. The result of B7, on the benefits of these programmes for improving the learning ability of learners, is also disconcerting to see that close to half of the teachers were of the opinion that it did not improve the learning ability of the learners. Read in conjunction with the benefits for the whole school (B36) and showing that teachers overwhelmingly agreed to it, it is difficult to understand why they did not agree that learners could benefit from this process. Clearly these perceptions need further investigation. It is also perturbing to see that teachers have the perception that peer appraisal is not seen as furthering team work. Teachers thus probably see peer appraisal as a judgmental rather than a developmental activity. On the other hand, it is not surprising to hear from teachers that class visits by the principal is still not part of the normal leadership role of a principal (B33).

    The process of teacher development programmes consisted of 17 items with a Cronbach-alpha reliability coefficient of 0.915. Items associated with this factor are indicated in Table 2.

     

     

    On the individual item level, a few specific questions needed clarification and discussion. With regard to B12 on the involvement of teachers in observation of lessons of other teachers became clear that it was something that is not generally happening as recommended in the IQMS document. It also correlates with the finding that principals do not do class visits. The Ministerial Committee (Department of Education, 2009) concurs with us that classroom observation or supervision is not undertaken at many schools. SADTU has not agreed to individual classroom observation or supervision on the grounds that teachers of poor schools struggle with difficult teaching conditions and demanding school policies, which are not backed up with sufficient support and resources from the education department. However, research conducted by Class Act (2007:3) found that at school level, there is a growing willingness to allow and positively support the idea and practice of classroom observation.

    Two other items that are disconcerting is that a large number of teachers perceived IQMS and specifically the DAS procedures as not beneficial to professional growth (B28) and they did not think that there is a tight fit between school staff development and the needs of teachers. Both these items beg for a closer collaboration between the designers and implementers of these programmes and the recipients of these programmes. The findings of the Ministerial Committee (Department of Education, 2009) reveal that there are tensions revolving around the appropriate support available to teachers to improve their practices and it is for this reason that they cannot see DAS as beneficial. District officials and NGOs complain that the support given to struggling teachers is rarely translated into practice because of the teachers' poor attitudes, culture and commitment to improve. Many schools and teachers, in turn, blame the district and the poor quality of some district officials. Similar research undertaken by Class Act (2007) found that most teachers and their Development Support Groups (DSGs) do not know how to conduct an effective analysis of teacher performance and prioritise their development need, and have not been given sustained high quality training and opportunities to meet these new expectations.

    An analysis of the two factors: Purpose (benefits) of teacher development programmes and Process of teacher development programmes as dependent variables in relation to selected independent variables revealed interesting information. The factor mean scores in relation to the various independent variables were compared with one another in order to determine whether the groups differed significantly from one another with respect to the two factors mentioned above.

    At the multivariate level two independent groups can be compared for possible statistical differences in their mean scores using Hotelling's T2. This implies that the vector means of the two independent groups are compared with respect to the two factors considered together. Should a significant difference be found at this multivariate level then Student's t test is used with respect to each of the variables taken separately. Concerning three or more independent groups, multivariate differences are investigated by means of MANOVA (Multivariate Analysis of Variance) with respect to the three groups considered together. The vector mean scale scores are compared and should any difference be revealed at this level then ANOVA (Analysis of Variance) is used to investigate which of these three groups is responsible for the significant difference. Groups are then further analysed pair-wise by means of the Scheffé test or the Dunnett T3 tests. If the homogeneity of variance in the Levene test (an advanced form of Student's t test) is more than 0.05 (p > 0.05) then the Scheffé test is used to investigate possible differences between pairs. Should the homogeneity of variance be less than 0.05 (p < 0.05) then the Dunnett T3 test is used to investigate differences between the various pairs.

    Professional development, as an aspect of IQMS, could be a powerful strategy to improve the knowledge and skills of teachers in order to enhance the quality of teaching and learning. Two critical variables: teacher attendance and mother tongue were found to reveal significant differences. These are so unique to South Africa and therefore nothing specific could be found in the literature on them.

    The following independent groups will now be discussed:

    • Attendance of teachers
    • Mother tongue

    Attendance of teachers

    The respondents were asked in the biographical section (Section A) whether they regard the attendance of their teachers as excellent, average or poor. For the purpose of the analysis we collapsed the last two categories into one:average/poor.

    The null hypothesis H0T reads as: The vector mean scores of schools with excellent teacher attendance and schools with average to poor attendance do not differ significantly from each other with regard to both factors. The alternative hypothesis HaT is: The vector mean scores of schools with excellent teacher attendance and schools with average to poor attendance do differ significantly from each other with regard to both factors. It is the null hypothesis that is tested using statistical techniques.

    Table 3 is a tabulated representation of the data that we will discuss.

     

     

    Table 3 indicates that there is a significant difference (p = 0.000) between the vector mean scale scores of excellent and average/poor attendance of teachers at the multivariate level in respect of the two factors considered together. Thus, the hypothesis H0T cannot be accepted.

    At the univariate level the excellent and the average/poor attendance of teachers differ significantly from one another in their mean scores in respect of the process of teacher development programmes only. Therefore H0T2 cannot be accepted. However, as there is no significant difference in respect of the purpose (benefits) of teacher development programmes, H0T1 is therefore accepted.

    From the mean scores in Table 3 it can be seen that both groups: teachers who view their school as having 'excellent attendance' and teachers who view their school as having 'average/poor attendance' considered the purpose of teacher development programmes to be important as they agreed with the factor. If the Department of National Education and district officials in the provincial departments of education embark on an intensive IQMS advocacy programme, teachers are more likely to be positive about implementing IQMS. However, the teachers who view their school as having 'excellent attendance' consider the process of teacher development programmes to be statistically significantly more important than the teachers who viewed their school as having 'average/poor attendance'. A possible explanation could be that teachers with poor/average attendance can see the benefits but find the process too time-consuming, considering that they themselves do not demonstrate time on task in their workplace. They may be looking for easier ways of gaining benefits by cutting corners.

    A second explanation may be that, because these teacher development programmes rely heavily on team learning, they find that too demanding. Quality circles have proved that group cohesion can put pressure on non-performing members of the team to "shape up or ship out" (Evans & Lindsay, 2001).

     

    Mother tongue

    The respondents were asked in the biographical section (Section A) to state what their mother tongue was. For the purpose of the analysis we collapsed all the African languages into one category, namely, African languages.

    The null hypothesis H0M reads as follows: The vector mean scores of the three language groups taken together do not differ significantly from one another with regard to both factors. The alternative hypothesis HaM is: The vector mean scores of the three language groups taken together do not differ significantly from one another with regard to both factors.

    Using the data in Table 4 it follows that there is a significant difference at the 0.01 level between the mother tongue groups at the multivariate level (p = 0.000). H0M is therefore not accepted in favour of the research hypothesis HaM. At the univariate level the factor mean scores of the three mother tongue groups differ from one another in respect of both factors, namely, purpose of teacher development programmes (p = 0.028) and process of teacher development programmes (p = 0.000). H0A1 and H0A2 are therefore not accepted in favour of HaA1 and HaA2.

     

     

    In respect of the pair-wise comparison, as reflected in Table 4, the following is noted:

    • Relative to the purpose (benefits) of teacher development programmes, teachers in the mother tongue group C (African) have a significantly higher mean score than teachers in the other mother tongue groups (A and B). The teachers in group C therefore perceive the purpose (benefits) of teacher development programmes as more important than the other two groups. The reason for this perception may be that the teachers who speak traditional African languages can see the benefits of these programmes since it gives them an opportunity to improve their teaching practice. They also believe in "Ubuntu" where the welfare of the group is more important that of the individual (Van Rensburg, 2007:49-50). In other words, they believe that, through collaboration, the benefits of these programmes are forthcoming. Most of the teachers belonging to group C were from previously disadvantaged communities and their initial teacher training was of an inferior standard. These teachers have the perception that to provide quality they should be actively involved in participating in professional development programmes. This group sees IQMS as a process of improving their teaching practice.
    • With respect to the process of teacher development programmes, teachers in the mother tongue groups A and C have higher factor mean scores than teachers in the mother tongue group B. Teachers who speak Afrikaans and traditional African languages feel strongly that processes that lean heavily on group work are acceptable in favour of individual activities which are more characteristic of learning styles of group B. Another possible reason for this behaviour is that at the end of the apartheid era in 1994, they (mother tongue groups A and C) continually attempted to improve their knowledge, skills and attitudes in order to have job security. It is also significant to note that teachers in the mother tongue group B (English) had the lowest mean score in respect of the process of these teacher development programmes. Teachers in group B did not perceive the process as important because they believed that they have sufficient knowledge regarding school matters. They consider it important to use educational resources to enhance their teaching knowledge, skills, and attitudes.

    Although the implementation of IQMS posed serious challenges for the education authorities and school managers, teachers, irrespective of their mother tongue, perceive the process of continually improving themselves as important. The Ministerial Committee (Department of Education, 2009) found a generally positive attitude among teachers and principals towards monitoring and evaluation through interventions like IQMS. Professionals testified openly about the value of expert visits, the opening-up of educational work to outside scrutiny, the positive advice shared, and the first opportunities to engage with peers about teaching and learning inside the school.

     

    Conclusion and recommendations

    The results of this survey allow us to better understand teacher development programmes in the South African context because they highlight the legacy of the past and deep cultural differences (as demonstrated in the language differences that impact on our education system). Professional development, as an aspect of IQMS, could be a powerful strategy to improve the knowledge and skills of teachers in order to enhance the quality of teaching and learning.

    From a systemic level it is important to initiate teacher development programmes centrally but with the involvement of the schools (specifically the needs of teachers in mind). Many districts (Department of Education) and schools have competing initiatives that drain their resources and dilute their efforts. Unless there is a coherent and integrated professional development plan that grows out of the school vision for learner success to which teachers are committed, workshops and other initiatives will lack meaning. In order to improve schools and provide quality teaching to its learners, teachers need to develop themselves professionally in their knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes. They need to be self-directed; they should display a willingness to learn when they have a perceived need and they desire immediate application of new skills and knowledge. For professional development to be effective motivation should be intrinsic rather than extrinsic.

    Professional development and training is critical to school improvement. Teachers should be positively inclined towards the implementation of IQMS. In order for the IQMS policy to be effective it should be well communicated and understandable to teachers; flexible enough to take into account the different circumstances of South African schools; and support (internal and external) should be constructive to help schools improve. The Department of Education should provide appropriate training for all stakeholders in order for IQMS to be implemented effectively in schools. The school management team, responsible for teacher professional development in schools, must encourage teachers to attend development programmes that will assist them in improving their knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes in order for them to become better equipped in the management of their classrooms.

     

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