SMT members’ perceptions of their role in the Continuous Professional Development of teachers in two schools in the Umgungundlovu District.
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It is generally expected by those in the educational fraternity that members of the SMT contribute to the professional development of their teachers. Thus, this research study looked at the role played by members of the School Management Team (SMT) in the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) of teachers under their care in two Umgungundlovu schools, being Glow Primary School (GPS) and Diamond Primary School (DPS). Instructional leadership was judged to be the most suitable theoretical framework to underpin this study as it promotes the Continuous Professional Development of teachers. It is envisioned that teachers’ enlightenment through their engagement with professional development activities, may result in empowerment of their learners, thereby creating a progressive and positive culture of learning and teaching (COLT) in schools. Acknowledging that Professional Development (PD) is not just a once-off event, but continues throughout one’s career, the study suggested that it was in the hands of SMT members to exert their influence on teachers’ participation in CPD activities. In like manner, the leaders in this study were found to lead with a vision, and to stimulate their teachers intellectually through the provision of various PD enterprises within their schools. Their intention was to help their teachers to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge so that they can perform at their optimum and thereby contribute positively to their learners’ academic performance. A qualitative method of inquiry was employed to look at the two case study schools holistically within their context, and to illustrate the experiences of these schools. I documented the narrations and voices of my sampling population comprising of two school principals, one deputy principal and four heads of departments who recounted their perceptions and challenges experienced in their endeavours. I paid special attention to abstractions of the data which were elicited via semi-structured interviews so that I might acquire a clearer picture of the SMT’s attitudes, understandings and feelings during their enactment of their role. Thus, I approached this research project occupying the role of an interpretivist researcher, which meant that I made sense of the elicited data drawing from my personal reference framework. This process saw me looking for recurring patterns. These were identified based on my individual social meaning which I attached to the phenomenon of teachers’ professional development leading to improved learner outcomes. The SMT members were found to promote the ideology of teachers learning collegially and collaboratively in networked teams with others, although this proved a challenge at time. Furthermore, this study undertook to discover the extent to which the SMT members forged and built professional learning communities (PLCs) both within their schools, as well as externally with other schools. I demonstrated that cross-case analysis had a catalytic effect on comparison of commonalities and differences in the participants and schools under study. The findings highlighted that the SMT members and teachers in this study appreciated that they were lifelong learners, and both sought to continuously keep abreast with the latest trends. As agents of transformation in their schools as learning organisations, these leaders motivated, inspired, encouraged and offered their unwavering support to their teachers who coordinated projects to empower their peers, whilst participating in CPD initiatives to professionally develop themselves. This research study successfully produced new knowledge in relation to the manner in which these SMT members led, managed and overcame challenges in their quest to professionally develop their teachers. Thus, both new and existing knowledge and experiences were augmented and then disseminated for future use in the academic fraternity.