Well , having finished the manual on school based training, we immediately thought perhaps it is better if there were opportunities for teachers to work with teachers in other schools close-by. It is not new, but we have now embarked on cluster based training.
The work in PEDC covers 40 provinces and 126 districts, involving more than 4,000 main schools with their 14,000 satellite sites, aiming to reach the most ‘unreachable’, but luckily not ‘unteachable’!
Many students in the more isolated areas are ethnic minority students (there 53 ethnic minorities in Vietnam), some of whom find themselves being taught in a language of which they only know a few words. Such is the challenge for teachers and teacher trainers.
What should a cluster look like? How many schools?
Its a bit like forming groups in training sessions – about 4 seems just right, 2 is too small and 6 can be too big, but of course it all depends on geography and communications. In some of our more mountainous provinces distances can be quite far between satellite sites, let alone main schools.
Here are some criteria we are considering using for identifying the ‘lead’ school in a cluster
- Main school should be centrally located for easy access to the other three main schools.
- Head teacher should be trained (under 50?) and with proven experience of leading professional development activities.
- Low number of students repeating grade 1 in 2009.
- Have at least one key teacher who has trained teachers at district level.
- School has potential as resource base for the school cluster (could be linked to Inclusive Education resource teachers).
- Has proven effective School Development planning process and implemented plan.
Not wanting to be ageist, but the lead school head teacher will be an investment for the future and needs to have some more years to serve.
Leadership of the cluster could of course be rotated depending on the overall competence of the school managers, but again geography may necessitate for one central school to maintain coordinating responsibility. Facilities, such as a large meeting room, may only be found in the lower secondary school , so the lead school may be chosen with that in mind, as well as the presence of electricity.
What do the cluster schools do?
The obvious starting point is monthly professional development activities where follow up discussions and sharing of experiences can occur following a training workshop. Workshop (1) can be a school or cluster based activity (of about two days not to disrupt the school week too much )
The trials in the classroom can be part of an action research cycle and can include ‘lesson study‘ or lesson observation activities. The results of these activities are brought together once again , as a cluster , in workshop ( 2 ) which consists of feeding back and reflecting as well as gaining new knowledge and skills, and the cycle continues.
Trainers, managers and teachers are encouraged to keep a ‘professional diary’ which provides notes for reflection and action .
The note book can be quite simple with three columns .
|Reflection and Discussion||Action points|
At the start of workshop (2) teachers can bring their notebooks to input some ideas for approaches that have worked well and to raise issues that other teachers can help explore through collaborative problem solving – such as the use of force field analysis:
In Colombia, in Escuela Nueva microcentres, teachers meet together to adapt the learning guides so that learning guides fit the local context.