I wrote most of these articles and conference reports while I was doing my M.Ed.(CI). Originally put up on the website TeachAsiaOnline.com (defunct since 2009), I have decided to archive them here as I think most of the information is still relevant and useful for others. (2012) I'm now picking up where I left off to write about more recent seminars I attended.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Leadership from Behind: The Role of the International Consultant in Educational Development

Speaker: Prof. Dr. John Dewar Wilson, International Education Programs, Burapha University, Chonburi
Organised by: ABAC Faculty of Education, Bangkok
Date: 3 December 2005
Location: Salle d’Expo at ABAC (Ramkhamhaeng Campus), Bangkok

Dr. Wilson was involved as teacher education consultant in the Secondary Education Sector Improvement Project (SESIP) in Bangladesh from 2001. The project goal of SESIP was “…to increase relevance of secondary education to the workforce”.

Teacher education was one component of SESIP. Its two main targets were:
  1. The development of policies for secondary teacher education
  2. The introduction of a new modernised teacher education curriculum (SESIP News)

Gordon Wells introduced the term “Leadership from behind” in 1986, when he described the problems of students constructing meaning. (Wells) Dr. Wilson defined “leading from behind” as pushing (instead of pulling), democratic (instead of authoritarian) and positively influencing the development of programs and people to achieve worthwhile goals.

In his lecture, first he described the (often difficult) working situation in Bangladesh, where teacher training is still based on instruction instead of construction. To overcome this situation, a national policy for secondary teacher education was to be developed, teacher educators were to be trained in New-Zealand and a program of initial secondary teacher education was to be set up. The international consultants worked together with local consultants.

The existing B.Ed. program was analysed to identify problems. The main problem was that students did not have enough teaching practice (TP). As part of the solution a group of teacher educators (TE) was trained in New Zealand. After this, all parties involved (teacher educators, teacher training centre (TTC) management, international and local consultants, government representatives and schools) were part of the discussion on how to revise the teaching practice for the B.Ed.

Based on his experience in the SESIP, Dr. Wilson summarises the ways to “lead from behind” as follows:
  1. Know the direction (identify, clarify and analyse problems, propose possible solutions)
  2. Know the limits of your stewardship (the local organisations must take ownership of the changes)
  3. Develop your own skills as a leader (lead organisations involved into backing the proposed changes)
  4. Help colleagues perform well (support the local organisation)
  5. Evaluate the effectiveness of the work (analyse, report and feedback).
The main message of Dr. Wilson is that international consultants should only support the local organisations to improve their working practice. The local organisations should still be in charge of the process; international consultants help them to reach their goals. This is a very logical approach, as the local organisations are the ones that have the knowledge of the environment and culture they work in and are therefore most suitable to determine the chances of success and guide the implementation.

International consultants are not wizards with a magic wand; changes will only be successful if the local organisation supports them.

SESIP News. 1 April 2002. Cambridge Education Consultants. 26 December 2005. http://www.camb-ed.com/documents/SESIP.pdf
Wells, Prof. Gordon. The Meaning Makers. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann Educational Books, 1986.

(c) cafavier, 2005-2011

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