The 20th-century writer William Arthur Ward once said that “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Continuing Professional Development (CPD), is increasingly seen as a vital part of a teacher’s toolkit, to ensure they continue inspiring each other and those around them.

Modern-day teachers no longer follow the traditional chalk-and-board model of education they once did. They are now expected to impart understanding as well as teach critical thinking, encourage problem solving, and act as mentors to youngsters navigating an ever-changing landscape. This means ongoing training and development.

Just as businesses adapt to changing market conditions and medical professionals update their skills to stay current, educators too must continuously enhance their knowledge and expertise to remain at the forefront of innovation and maintain high-quality teaching standards.

Within our Jamat, those who have qualified from The Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS)’s Secondary Teacher Education Programme (STEP) are no strangers to CPD. Continual improvement is a key activity for graduates, and begins in their very first week on the job at Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Boards (ITREBs) around the world.

“The teaching and learning that secondary teachers undertake within each of the ITREBs is a complex community endeavour,” said Riaz Rhemtulla, STEP liaison manager at the IIS.

This requires, Riaz explained, “an extraordinary balancing act that draws from pedagogical best practices, the articulation of Islam and Shia Ismaili developments within the IIS secondary curriculum, and the contextual and lived realities of the students and Jamats globally.” 

CPD initiatives conducted by the IIS in collaboration with ITREBs help to support individual secondary teachers as they each navigate a series of obstacles in an effort to bridge the latest academic research with best classroom practices, and bring the IIS’ secondary curriculum to life. 

Such effort is often more fruitful via collaboration. Every week, teachers at each ITREB gather for a Professional Learning Community (PLC) session to share their challenges in the field and learn from their peers' experiences of dealing with them.

“Participating in the PLC is a powerful reminder that growth is a collective effort,” said Altaf Somani, a secondary teacher at ITREB India. “During these sessions, I've had productive discussions and exchanges with colleagues. These have improved my subject knowledge and instructional techniques, and have offered me perspectives on things I was unaware of.” 

Education today is about more than just knowledge acquisition. It’s a key part of character development. As such, teachers are increasingly concerned with social and emotional development, civic engagement, cultural awareness, and moral values among their students. Mentoring offers a way for teachers to build the aptitudes to better understand the needs of their students, and provide more holistic formative experiences in the classroom. As a bonus, it can even facilitate career growth for both mentors and mentees, as Anisha Lakhani in Australia can affirm.

Mentoring can also help educators to find and address skills gaps, refine their teaching methods, and make the curriculum current for students. By drawing connections between the historical and contemporary, between policy and practice, and between the universal and personal; learning can be more fun and engaging.

“We work with our teachers through leveraged mentorship, where we provide both subject matter and pedagogical expertise, to support our teachers in developing deeper insights while providing pastoral support,” said Dr Aliyyah Datoo, academic director at ITREB UK.

“Consistent rigorous support from mentors alongside honest reflections from teachers, allows for cascading effects that translate into creative and thought-provoking learning experiences both inside and outside the classroom.”

Beyond the formal CPD programming, some educators embark on their own, additional training by attending courses, workshops, and conferences; which can aid motivation and confidence, and bring fresh perspectives to class sessions. 

Nadia Bhamani, a secondary teacher at ITREB USA, attended an IIS short course last year in Tunisia, tracing the early footsteps of the Fatimid dynasty. 

“Scholars from the IIS offered us a wealth of knowledge on Fatimid history and art through captivating lectures, eye-opening field visits, and immersive cultural encounters,” said Nadia.

“Upon returning to the classroom, my students were excited that the images and details from the IIS curriculum were now brought to life through my stories and firsthand experiences. The course not only enriched my own knowledge, but also enabled me to inspire a new generation of Ismailis with the motivation to explore Ismaili history and culture.”

Investing in CPD is investing in teachers and students themselves. Ongoing training ensures that educators can fulfil their own potential, while serving to the best of their ability to inspire the next generation of ethically informed, emotionally intelligent leaders, ready to thrive in an ever more complex world.