Teachers are the backbone of education systems and the key to reaching learning goals, regardless of context and situation. Within the COVID-19 crisis, they are on the front line in ensuring that...
Teachers need training and support, not just an internet connection, to deliver quality distance education
This blog is based on the findings of Distance learning and teacher training strategies. Lessons from the Caribbean, a recently published report by the Teacher Task Force. It was written by Anna C. Conover, Consultant
Distance teaching and learning have expanded rapidly around the world since COVID-19 school closures first began in 2020. The transition exposed a wide digital divide in many countries, where lack of access to devices, online content and internet connectivity hindered universal access. Equally crucial, the shift shone a light on the need for more and better teacher training in digital and relevant pedagogical skills.
However, in spite of this urgent need, ministries of education in many countries are only now integrating ICT competencies and standards into teacher policy frameworks. Moreover, traditional teacher training programmes do not necessarily adequately cover digital and related pedagogical skills in initial teacher training and continuing professional education.
Teacher training can help improve learners’ and teachers’ experience of distance learning
In response to the demand for training in distance learning and technology integration in small island developing states (SIDS) in the Caribbean, the Distance Learning and Teacher Training Strategies in the Caribbean SIDS teacher training programme was created to enhance the capacity of national education systems. The Teacher Task Force, UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition, Blackboard, the Caribbean Centre for Educational Planning (CCEP), UNICEF Jamaica, and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development collaborated to develop, implement and monitor the programme.
Building on the 2020 pilot project, Professional Development for Teachers for Blended Learning and Online Strategies, the programme was designed to strengthen teachers’ digital and related pedagogical skills. It took a holistic and context-sensitive approach to strengthening teachers’ capacity to guarantee that the most vulnerable students were not left behind during the crisis.
The project aimed to confront challenges such as: how to maintain engagement and interaction for learning; how to convert content into appropriate online learning formats; how to handle school management issues, such as the need to respect normal school hours; and how to work with students with diverse needs. Providing support in these areas also helped to address teachers’ psychosocial well-being, since the abrupt transition to online teaching led to significant disruption of teachers’ professional and personal lives, causing uncertainty and other emotional challenges.
Careful course design, adaptable materials and supportive communities of practice are essential for successful distance learning
A key lesson from the programme was the importance of high standards for course design, content, and capacity for collaboration and delivery. Online platforms or learning management systems must be intuitive and user-friendly; courses must include different forms of interaction and student-teacher feedback loops; and time and space must be allotted for collaboration, reflection and experimentation. Since parental involvement is important for successful distance learning, course design should also include guidance for parents and reliable channels for them to communicate with teachers.
Preparing and adapting materials for online learning is one of the most challenging and time-consuming tasks for teachers in transitioning to distance learning. So, teacher training should include guidance on tools to facilitate this work, such as “live worksheets”, which are interactive and support assessment at a distance. And programmes should use open-source materials where possible, or explicitly state copyright conditions when needed, to increase scalability and enable teachers to re-use materials.
Teachers who participated in the teacher training programme particularly appreciated being part of a community of practice, enabling them to make new connections with distance education experts and other teachers in similar situations across their country and region. This feeling of belonging to a supportive network, as well as their newly acquired skills, boosted their personal and professional confidence in applying digital technologies and the required skills in their classrooms.
Teacher training for distance education should prepare teachers to create inclusive online learning environments
Ensuring inclusive education should be a priority in distance learning. Even though this form of schooling can limit teachers’ interactions with students (e.g., by reducing opportunities for spontaneous communication and gestural cues), it can also provide opportunities to promote inclusion. Designing courses with accessibility in mind is essential to create inclusive learning environments. For instance, to accommodate the needs of learners with disabilities, participants should be given a range of ways to access materials and participate in courses. This may include offering asynchronous* and synchronous** options for discussion, multimodal (visual, aural, textual, etc.) delivery of content, and downloadable as well as livestreamed content.
In multilingual contexts, adapting to teachers’ language needs is also essential. In the SIDS programme, course content was often only available in French or English. However, to allow participants to conduct discussions in the language with which they were most comfortable, course facilitators allowed participants to form online breakout groups using other languages.
Flexibility is a key feature in planning for teacher training
Training teachers for distance education must be flexible, since teachers have competing and sometimes unforeseen demands on their time. Course content, pacing and assignments should be adjusted throughout the course according to participants’ changing needs. This is particularly important during emergency situations. For accreditation transparency and to maintain teacher motivation, courses can adapt to teachers’ time constraints by offering different levels of certification and micro-credentials for specific ICT skills.
Careful planning that considers school calendars and teachers’ accessibility needs, as well as good communication campaigns, are essential to ensure successful enrolment and sustained attendance in teacher training. Registration should be easy and obstacle-free, and directly available online. In general, teacher training should not be scheduled at the beginning or at the end of the school year when teachers are busiest, or during long summer vacations when many teachers are not available.
Partnerships are important for developing teacher training programmes for distance education
Partnerships are particularly important in delivering distance education, since it requires considerable expertise and resources, including costly devices, uninterrupted connectivity, education software, open educational resources, and pedagogical and organizational expertise. Given that connectivity and device availability are often a barrier in online education, governments and stakeholders should develop partnerships with technology companies and internet providers to identify solutions, while ensuring that data security and participant privacy are respected.
Educational technologies have proven to be useful to ensure continuity of education in emergency situations. Increasingly true to all societies, they are also among the basic tools needed to fully participate in our contemporary world. However, investing in these technologies will not achieve the desired results unless we also invest in teachers’ digital and related pedagogical skills. Initial and in-service teacher education must therefore be re-imagined including these skills and technologies. With their first-hand experience of the challenges and opportunities of remote teaching, teachers must be involved in the design, implementation and monitoring of distance learning and technology integration. In such a way, they must effectively be placed at the heart of wider education transformation.
*Asynchronous online learning: Education and learning that occur online at a different time compared to when the teacher is instructing.
**Synchronous online learning: Education and learning that occur online at the same time, but not in the same place with teachers and/or other learners.
Photo credit: Abir Roy Barman/Shutterstock.com
National and regional policy learning: Latin America and the Caribbean: Teacher professional development and standards
As part of its new main line of action on national and regional policy learning, The Teacher Task Force is co-organising a series of workshops for the Latin America and the Caribbean region with CARICOM in cooperation with St Kits and Nevis and Brazil. The first workshop will be held on 13 July, followed by a second workshop in October/November. Between the two workshops, additional reflection by the TTF Secretariat and the regional Steering Committee members will take place to verify assumptions and refine regional policy learning needs for the second workshop.
In particular, the workshops aim to foster exchange and discussion in support of holistic and comprehensive teacher policy development as illustrated in the Teacher Policy Development Guide (TPDG) and its nine interconnected dimensions as a framework. This workshop will focus on common policy learning need related to teacher professional development and standards. Regional standard frameworks and how these can be translated into countries are critical to establish teacher education, teacher qualification, licensing of teachers, career structure and teacher motivation. In addition to this, countries demonstrated an interest in the pedagogical skills in hybrid and remote education of teacher education including innovative practices to share across countries. They also demonstrated learning needs related to social dialogue and school leadership.
Country focal points and deputies, including both country and organisational members, will be invited to the Latin America and the Caribbean regional workshop. Other key partners with regional remits will be consulted and invited to actively participate as they are familiar with regional policy learning needs.
As part of its new main line of action on national and regional policy learning, The Teacher Task Force is co-organising a series of workshops for the Asia Pacific Region with the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO), in cooperation with Philippines. The first workshop will be held on 1 July, followed by a second workshop in October/November. Between the two workshops, additional reflection by the TTF Secretariat and the regional Steering Committee members will take place to verify assumptions and refine regional policy learning needs for the second workshop.
In particular, the workshops aim to foster exchange and discussion in support of holistic and comprehensive teacher policy development as illustrated in the Teacher Policy Development Guide (TPDG) and its nine interconnected dimensions as a framework. This workshop will focus on common policy learning need related to teacher education and teacher standards including issues related to capacity building, teacher training, qualifications, licensing, and its relationship to the professionalisation of the teaching career framed in regional framework to establish teacher standards. In addition to this, countries demonstrated an interest in the ICT dimension of teacher education including ICT skills and pedagogies for remote and distance teaching. They also demonstrated learning needs related to social dialogue and school leadership.
Country focal points and deputies, including both country and organisational members, will be invited to the Asia Pacific regional workshop. Other key partners with regional remits will be consulted and invited to actively participate as they are familiar with regional policy learning needs.
Échanges régionaux et nationaux sur les politiques prometteuses - Afrique francophone : Former les enseignants pour se relever de la COVID-19
Dans le cadre de son nouvel axe d'action principal sur l'apprentissage des politiques nationales et régionales, L’Équipe internationale sur les enseignants pour Éducation 2030 (TTF), en collaboration avec l'Institut international de l'UNESCO pour le renforcement des capacités en Afrique (IIRCA) et l'Association pour le développement de l'éducation en Afrique (ADEA), organise une série d’ateliers pour l’échanges régionaux et nationaux sur les politiques prometteuses.
Le premier atelier régional virtuel aura lieu le mardi 21 juin à 16h00 heure de l'Afrique de l'Est, UTC +3 hrs ou (15h00 heure de Paris), suivi d'un deuxième atelier en octobre/novembre. Entre les deux ateliers, une réflexion supplémentaire par le Secrétariat de la TTF et les membres du Comité Directeur aura lieu pour vérifier les hypothèses et affiner les besoins d'apprentissage des politiques régionales pour le deuxième atelier.
Les ateliers visent à favoriser l'échange et la discussion à l'appui du développement complet de la politique enseignante, comme illustré dans le Guide pour l’élaboration d’une politique enseignante (TPDG) et ses neuf dimensions interconnectées en tant que cadre. La série d'ateliers de cette année se concentrera sur le développement professionnel (notamment en ce qui concerne les compétences en TIC et les pédagogies hybrides), y compris leur relation avec les parcours de carrière et les normes applicables aux enseignants. L'atelier est le premier d'une série de deux qui seront organisés pour les partenaires nationaux et régionaux de la TTF et les parties prenantes de l'éducation dans le cadre de sa nouvelle initiative visant à renforcer l'apprentissage des politiques en temps utile pendant la période de reprise du COVID-19. Ces ateliers sont destinés à s'appuyer sur les besoins des pays en matière d'apprentissage des politiques, tels qu'ils ont été exprimés non seulement lors du Forum de dialogue politique de Kigali, mais également dans le cadre d'une enquête de suivi visant à consolider les besoins les plus urgents en la matière.
Les points focaux et adjoints de la TTF, y compris les membres des pays et des organisations, seront invités à l'atelier régional de l'Afrique anglophone. D'autres partenaires clés dotés de compétences régionales seront consultés et invités à participer activement.
Pour plus d'informations contactez Thomas, Yael (firstname.lastname@example.org) ou Soto Echeverri, Emilia (email@example.com).
See the Consultation Report here
The 2023 Global Education Monitoring Report will examine education challenges to which appropriate use of technology can offer solutions, while recognizing that many of the solutions proposed may also be detrimental. The report will examine issues of access, equity, and inclusion in education, looking at ways through technology can help reach disadvantaged learners but also ensure more knowledge reaches more learners in more engaging and cheaper formats.
The report will also explore three system-wide conditions that need to be met for any technology in education to reach its full potential: ensuring that all learners have access to technology resources, protecting learners from the risks of technology through appropriate governance and regulation and supporting all teachers to teach, use and deal with technology effectively.
In a rapidly changing world affected by technology, and in the aftermath of the global COVID-19 pandemic, teachers face large and increasing demands to engage with technology in education and develop related competencies. As a result, this consultation, convened by the Teacher Task Force and the GEM Report, will look into the way that education systems can support all teachers to teach, use and deal with technology effectively.
Teachers face many barriers to the use of technology. Therefore, in order to identify the best ways to help teachers teach and use technology effectively, the discussion will focus on three key issues, including the lack of access, training and system support. Each area will be discussed on separate rooms:
- Barriers to access and equity
- Teacher professional development and pedagogy
- Systemic support and collaboration
This event is by invitation only, if you wish to participate or need more information, please contact Soto Echeverri, Emilia (firstname.lastname@example.org).
How has teaching been affected?
Responses and innovations to ensure comprehensive learning in Latin America and the Caribbean
The pandemic and school closures have resulted in an unprecedented loss of learning, which is one of the key challenges that the region is beginning to face in the short term, and which educational communities are already addressing as education systems begin to return students and teachers to schools.
In this sense, the Knowledge and Innovation Exchange Hub of Latin America and the Caribbean - KIX LAC-, an initiative implemented by SUMMA, the first Laboratory for Research and Innovation in Education for Latin America and the Caribbean in partnership with the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States - OECS -, with the support of the Global Partnership for Education - GPE - and the International Development Research Centre - IDRC, meets with high-level professionals and/or academic experts to discuss strategies, research and innovations to address the challenges of comprehensive learning recovery from a global, regional and national perspective.
From a global perspective, the conference will provide the perspective of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the scenarios that are envisioned for future education, as well as concrete experiences to respond to the challenges imposed by the pandemic. This will be complemented by the work that SUMMA and OECS are carrying out in collaboration with the countries and different educational leaders in the region.
Specifically, the conference will present the progress and results of different projects implemented by non-governmental institutions that are part of the KIX ecosystem in Latin America and the Caribbean, addressing the following educational priorities: strategies to promote gender equality and prevent gender-based violence in rural schools (CLADE Network), literacy and reading supports in primary schools (World Vision Canada), distance and blended learning models (Ceibal Foundation), teacher professional development systems (SUMMA - FIT-ED), use of data to improve educational equity and inclusion (UNICEF), common scale assessment of early mathematical learning (PAL Network), peer mentoring of teachers and school leaders for equitable rural education (Education 2020 Foundation), teacher training and scalability of educational innovations (Université d'État d'Haïti).
See the agenda and more information here.
Interpretation in English, Spanish and French will be available.