Farkas Olga
Szegedi Tudományegyetem
JGYTF Kar Neveléstudományi Tanszék
Szeged, 2001

 

Quality improvement in the notion of „everydayness”. On the expeience of a teacher training group in quality management program - improvement [1]

The Quality improvment of the public education is one of the basic governmental purposes. Fron the 90’s the appearance of the „service” feature can be experienced well. In the value representation of the service institutions it is in the center of the attention to meet the needs of the client, the satisfy the client, and also the enhanced institutional moral is an expectation. The realization of the basic principles is greatly influenced by the professional training of the pedagogues, and their commitment to high standard. Forming of this quality awareness in the teachers’ attitude is a great task for the higher education, as well. If we expect from the public education institutions to take into consideration the needs of the parents, children, own colleagues, and the needs of the maintainer bodies, it is elementary expectation from the training and from the further training institution to react to the demands of the public education.

            On this basis The Szeged Universitz, Juhasz Gyula Teacher Training College, Pedagogy Department working team - responsible for practical training - has been working out such an adequate training program that starts from the above mentioned and articulated and experienced needs. During our work we considered it compulsory for ourself too, to keep the most important rules of the quality management. Namely to survey the needs of the partners, to react to those needs, to form purposes that starts from reality and that are achievable, the continuous improvment principle: asserting in the daily work the logic of „ plan, accomplish, check, modify” [2]

According to our view, it is expectable to accompish a preparation focussing on for the practice of everyday life if the purposes of the quality improvment trends is to accompish a quality improvment in pedagogical practice in wider circles.

            I.  Antecedents

1.   Surveys

Together with the Szeged University, Center for Distance Learning and Post- Graduate and Special Training we turned to practising teachers for a common brainstorming. It appeared in out intention to have a better picture about the expectations, and to react to those with effective expertise. We asked teachers from 38 special training high schools to summarize their experiences about professional further training of the latest three years according to given point of views. [3] In the point of views we highlighted on the following ones: The level of the practical relevance of the acquaried knowledge, skills, also the ways of applicabilty of the acquaried knowledge in the work of the teachers’ staff. In processing the data we applied the method of content analysis that provided quality analysis for us. We are not discussing the survey in details, because the here the purpose of this study is to focus the attention to the importance of purpose adequate program forming approach and attitude by means of showing the process stages of the program formation.

            In the complete model formation primarily the analysis of the surveyed controversis helped. Among the anomalies it sharply appeared that theory and practice are separated. According to the view of the asked people, often theory experts  - with no practical experience at all -  overtake to improve practice. In other cases, profit oriented organizations form basicly not profit oriented institutions. Those who are not familiar with the inner processes of public education do train those who are familiar with the inner happenings. In connection with programs based on economic approach many people said that: things that function in economic surroundings  do not  or less likely to function in the actual reality of school.

In the mirror of the practising teachers” opinion the following need emerged: need for practise oriented courses that help the everyday pedagogical work.

            Narrowing - focusing on the human resource development

For a more defined needs analyses and aiming for a targeted reaction we asked our colleagues to concentrate on the human factors of the teachers’ staff. We asked them to write down their impression in an essay titled: „The barriers and possibilities of human resource development in the everyday practice of the pedagogical work”. The view was pretty overall. In the writings the description of the barriers of the improving was dominant. In many times tehere were references that the level of the interpersonal communicational culture is under the expectational level. Sometimes the teacher bodies that are overloaded with unsolvable and un-managable conflicts, are less able to reach high standard of common achievement. In the essays less attention was devoted to the summaries of the human resource development possibilities, and to the solution suggestions. The people asked define money, higher salaries as the the only condition of changes.

            Let me give an example for the presentation how urgent it is to provide a modern program variety that is novel in its approach and content on the basis of an essay of a teacher:

„ Our teachers’ staff is a small one. Untill the mid of the 90’s everything was idillic. Everybody was sure about what he did, the teacher had time to teach. Half of the teachers were local people, younger, older both. We often found time for a talking, common outings. Then as the economic situation was getting worse the uncertanity became more and more dominant. The number of the pupils decreased, due to this many teachers had to look for other workplace. The young colleagues are not able to live on their salaries so they are in a hurry all the time. They are taking second, third jobs, they started to work for second degree, and meanwhile we have less and less time for each other. I experience it with sorrow that the intergenerational communication is not successful either. The standard of the incoming pupils is getting worse. Not only less number of children are born in our village, but less number of children re registered in our village school. However, with less number of pupils it is more possible that schools are merged. The mere thought of this frightens many parents away from our school. So concerns become reality. It is not difficult to prophesize that this situation will lead to a worse stage when the teacher give the material, and she hardly waits to leave for home and to do that she does not really like but at least she can live on it. The teachers’ staff became disintegrated and at the moment there is no force that could reorganize it again.”

2. Possible answers

On the basis of the real example we were looking for answer for the following question: How can we make the teachers’ staff integrate. Since existance of the school  can depend upon how much the school as an organizational unit can fulfill its task. We set off on this road and we were focusing our attention to this question. In the sense of quality management we only volunteered for what we could accomplish.  We were looking for answers in areas where we considered ourselves prepared. As a starting point we defined to make people aware of the importance of cooperation. We had to work in team so as to be able to give the possible answers that would help to change the given situation.

It is very common that a „super manager” is appointed to a school. „ He is the one who is outstandingly intelligent, but not lost in theories. He manages the school with strong hand but he is sensitive to the human problems. He is dynamic and tolerant. He is a good communicator, and he is a good listener. He makes decisions quickly with consideration. But only a team can hold such - mainly exclusive - features.  So the secret of the constant success is the effective team.  The most necessary competence of the outstanding managers is the ability to build teams. Team is a group whose results mainly depends upon the cooperation of the members.” [4]

From this principle and from merging of our faith, training experience and theoretical knowledge we created our theoretical model the so called „ We need a good team”, that is an eight hour training course. As a purpose we stated that it is important to encourage the team building, in wider sense we meant the teachers’ staff. In a narrow sense we stated that the activation of the creative energy is important. The awareness raising in the importance of team building is among our sub purposes. As well as the searching for the possible means of team building in an institution. As a target team  we found the total group of the teachers’ staff for it (divided if necessary). In headlines the training content sounds like this: searching for the connecting points between people to improve the organizational effectiveness. Understanding the importance of the teamwork. The possibilities and the barriers of the cooperation. The interconnection of the individual achievement and the organizational total production.  Developing democratic attitudes: openness, trust, confidence, constructive thinking, positive approach. Methods: practice-oriented, experience related learning with a short theoretical material. After each session there is an evaluation, and the feedback is incorporated into the next phase. Our promises: encouraging the change in attitude, improvement in behaviour. Forming supportive atmosphere. Giving living example: know how of the team work activities and participation in team work activities.

II. The Test of the Theory in Practice

            1. Testing - correlation

Our questions to answer: does our model fit to the practise? If yes, how?  We tried out our ideas in ten groups with graduate and postgraduate students, in a class called: „The methods of skill development” [5]

We were looking for answers for the questions: from the point of view of the effectiveness what responsibilities the program creator has and what responsibilities the program participants have. How can we fit the working team activity into the planned time framework? What changes are necessary so that the common work serve better the improvement of practice. We focused our attention to the students’ reactions greatly. During the classes we made observations, we took notes so as to be able to trace back the necessity of changes in the drafted direction and in the scheduling.

First experience

Considering the chances of implementing the quality management logics „ plan - make - check - change” in our daily pedagogical work, we presupposed before the starting of the practice related work that among our students’ skills the following features are available: the task-oriented thinking, creative-active behaviour, self-reflection attention to others, self-evaluation, evaluation of others’ skills, giving feedback and receiving feedback. In our observations we were looking for how much these values are available in the reaction of our students.

The summary of the first experiences provided important information for us already. Namely in all the ten groups concentration for the actual task gave difficulty. So task oriented behavior was less typical. During the summary of the tasks’ results the students were disorganized - thoughts often rambled in time and in space as well. That means that their attention did not focus on the „here and now” happenings. The „intake” attitude was more dominant than the creative-active behavior. We considered it worth of attention that they used plural in their style dominantly. In spite of the fact that we asked them to summarize their thought is first person singular the students tended to use plural and they wrote down over generalizations like: „ we thought that... , I agree with the previous speaker... , Everything has already been said already... . Our impression was that the participants considered as if they were not involved in happenings.

2. Essentially emerging problems

 During our practical work the following development-need areas - using the quality management  terminology - appeared. Referring to the pattern that we observed firstly: the ability of self-evaluation, it was hardly available in the actual observations. For most of the participants it was difficult to answer for a very simple question: How do you consider your participation in the common work? The validity of our observation widens the borders of the academic debate on self-evaluation that was published in the Tani-tani pedagogical journal. [6]

The opinion of those who took part in the debate reflected that in wide circle it is not general at all that the pedagogue concentrate on his own work, or to analize that. Although it is expectable but it is not common that the teacher faces himself and the constant self-control improves his own work. It is questionable that in the age of the quality how an organizational body can conduct the evaluation of their own institution - as it is expectable - if the people making up the organizational unit are not able to evaluate themselves more or less ?

Secondly: the culture of giving and receiving feedback needs improvement as well, as it can be a precondition of modifying the behavior. We were not surprised at this observation because serious attitude change presupposes the existence of highly sophisticated pedagogical-psychological culture; the feedback on the others’ behavior means a constructive building possibility for the individual and it does not induce defence and attack mechanism in the individual. Thirdly: in connection with the question of responsibility we found that the individual did not find himself responsible for the formation of happenings. During the sessions the participants moderately got involved in psychological sense into the process of influencing the actions. For the fourth comment: the active participation in forming the team rules and keeping these rules did not appear as an evidence in the daily behavior. Such simple things as keeping the time limit or to  be punctual  meant a problem. We would like to make a comment that if participants of the public education would keep those regulations that are prevelant as much as we keep the traffic rules at least, we could experience crucial changes in quality.

3. About the future

We formed methodological questions to be solved: How can we form such a pedagogical area in the everyday practice where the expected behavior elements responsible for the activation of the inner energy sources, would get dominant emphasis? More exactly the concentration upon tasks, the target oriented behavior should become more explicit. Further more, the individual should take more part in the formation of the development of his own improvement and in his organizational development. It is outstandingly important to search the answer for this question since the individual’s responsibility for his own development would mean greater assurance in the process of taking responsibility in the organizational improvement. Next, How can we accomplish  that people keep rules, regulations, norms? What influencing style shall we apply - without using external pressure - to urge colleagues for purpose oriented improvement of the above mentioned skills.

Our modifications

Although we moderately thought over our tasks, we could not accomplish the planned tasks entirely. Regarding the fact that we strictly insisted on the notion that we build our next tasks on the reaction of the ream, we lost quite a lot of time during the task that aimed to improve the compromise building skills.

In the view of these problems for us we dined the following tasks to fulfill: we have to enrich the program with elements that raise the awareness of the importance of the controlled behavior. It can contribute to the process of raising interest towards the need for personal improvement, it can urge the person to form an active - creative problem solving approach.  It can activate sense of responsibility, and it can forma a necessary motivational basis for the actual responsibility taking. These can help to show the long run advantages of keeping norms and rules, so with this these can inspire the keeping of those.

To sum it up: we highly concentrated on the individual. We approached to the teachers’s staff through the improvement of the interpersonal connections, we meant teachers’ staff as the energy source for the activation of the organizational unit. The emphasizing of the human side meant serious shortening in the professional content as we described it in the second point as the training content. However we were working on to move along towards the parallel improvement of the personal and the professional factors.

From one side we can evaluate our work saying that we were less effective because we could accomplish half of our original purposes. On the other hand we can say that we made quality work in stead of quantity work. For our work the proverb is valid  that says that „ The less is morein all those cases when the message got to the listener side, that can assure improvement of the actual practice. The greatest outcome of the sessions for us was that we mutually formed each other. In our purpose definition reality and feasibility got emphasis. We gained experience in working out processes to find the purpose adequate methods and means. [7]

During the constant controll we could form a balance between practice and theory by applying content and formal and methodological changes.

            From the point of view of the crucial changes we said that it is the responsibility of the program creator that he has to offer a variety of courses that can be implemented in wide circles. In all those places where the personality of the managers represent the value-oriented model that we offer. Also we have to mention among the participants’responsibilities the faith and willingness that we really consider important.

III. Summary

Re-evaluted principles

Our practice oriented team work resulted in re-evaluation of our previous training principles. According to our opinion the activation of the inner deriving energy souces and their realization can better contribute to the crucial quality changes then the external indicated improving programs. If we want to enhance the effectivenes of the educational process that means in the teacher’s work the building of the inner vital power, the teachers - who accomplish these purposes - need similar training that is based upon similar methodological culture and approach. Most of the teachers’ staffs are able to find their own answers and solutions there where the question and the answer are together: on local level, in the given community, if we help them to find the key to the solution.

Consequences

So as to be able to understand better the improvement possibilities in the teaching learning process it is advicable to try out first the program that we are intending to improve. The program creator has better chances to offer an effective improving course if he has experienced the possibilities and the barriers of the realization of the quality improvement principles in the daily pedagogical practice of the public education, and in the relativelly constant interval of the dailz happenings, getting involved in the processes personally, pocessing the personal experiences of it.  During the implementation process we can not neglect the principles of the learning processes. Finishing the program without the serious control of the practice may induce a picture about the quick feature of it, but if the changes are not incorporated in the organizational culture, we can consider the improving training less effective. Our work done in the field of theory and practice can result in understanding. Namely, the ideas can be accomplished in such an extend  as much as theprocess making participants are suitable for the task. It is not enough to concentrate on reaching the purpose without taking care of the processes that help to reach the purpose. In the processes people are the participants, the quality of their participation is defined according to the relation system they have to themselves, to other people, to their profession. Change in attitude and in behavior is a result of a long process that is going on in the everyday life. From the point of view of enhancing the process it can be more effective if we build our courses on positive feedback, aiming at the inner motivational power, strengthening the implementation of these courses against the theoretical models that are far away from the reality. If the purpose is to improve practice, in the content of the trainng and further training courses as much theory is expected as much can help the solution of the practical problems. We can find the quality improvement purposes feasible if we experience changes in the everyday practises.

Our suggestions

The initial steps of the quality improvement  - considering the human factors of the quality - the personality development of the pedagogues has to move towards skill development. In connection with the staff level working methods we suggest the team like method that activates inner energies, where the manager acts more like a facilitator and not director. In harmony with our previous research, according to our experience this kind of managerial style makes it more possible th emergence of creative energies, and the improvement of quality culture on individual and on organizational level. It is advicable that teachers’ staffs join in courses - of pedagogical and psychological bases that encourage creative changes. We consider three courses important: starting course, constant upgrading course and deepening team work.  Where the team leader helps the cognitive learning processe based upon individual experience, he gives theoretical framework related to the topic at the and, gives handouts with references and reminders. Desirably the encouragement of the quality management goes on paralelly with the understading and the acceptance of the notion why quality is important on individual and on organizational level and will be it more adventagouos for everybody the functioning of a more effective system.

Megjelent: In: Farkas Olga: Útkeresés és továbbadás ... 25 év a pedagóguspályán. Designer Stúdió, Szeged. 2000. 210-218.o.



[1]      A tanulmányt angol nyelvre Joó Marianna főiskolai adjunktus fordította.

[2]      The source of the continuous quality improvment: Kondor István (1997): Mi micsoda a minőségügyben? Gépipari Tudományos Egyesület, Ipari Minőségi Klub, Budapest. 46-47.o.

[3]      The date of the data collection: 1998/99 academic year, II-nd semester. The volunteer teachers are from the following places: Baja 1, Berettyóújfalu 1, Békéscsaba 5, Budapest 2, Cegléd 1, Dévaványa 1, Elek 1, gyomaendrőd 1, Gyula 2, Hódmezővásárhely 1, Kétegyháza 1, Kiskunfélegyháza 1, Kistelek 1, Makó 2, Martfű 1, Mezőhegyes 1, Orosháza 1, salgótarján 3, Szeged 9, Szentes 2. Those students helped in the survey that were undergraduate and  graduate students of the Juhász Gyula teacher Training College, or took part in further training programs organized by the college between 1994- 1999.

[4]      Meredith Belbin (1998): The Team or the Cooperating Group. SHL Hungary LTD. Budapest. Klein Sandor’s introduction.

[5]      The group activities were conducted in the 1999/2000 academic year, 1st semester, at the Juhasz Gyula Teacher Training College, Pedagogy Department. Groups involved into the survey: I./5. Szeged (manager, pedagogue, 20 members), I./8 Orosháza (39 members), I./8. Békéscsaba (29 members), I./8 Szeged (Móra Ferenc group 56 members), I./8 Szeged (Bálint Sándor group 53 members), I./8. Szentes (35 members), II./5. Szeged (pedagogues 9  members), IV./8 Kecskemét (pedagogues 15 members), II. /5. Szeged (manager 10 members), II. /5. Budapest (manager 16 members). Totally: 80 working hours, 282 people were involved.

[6]      The academic debate was published under the following headlines: Humanistic teacher, pedagogical diary. Tani-tani pedagogical journal AKG, Budapest 1998/4. 62-72.o., 1998/6. 81-91.o., 1999/8. 49-53.o. See in details: Madarasz Klara: Why self-evaluation is frightening? Tani-tani pedagogical journal. 1999/8.51-53.o.

[7]      A relatively final method  first was used in the 1999/2000 academic year IInd semester, in the actual reality of the following public institutions: Budapest Police High school, Szeged Gábor Dénes Secondary Grammar School and Technical High School.


Vissza