In all my education work I have attempted to engage students more, to provide opportunities for students to develop skills so that they can participate more effectively and be more independent learners. One of the reasons I was particularly interested in the Escuela Nueva (EN) education model was the prominence of the student government. In Colombia, students in EN schools will be fully involved in the management of the school and all relevant decisions. So Student Parliaments are the next obvious steps to develop leadership , communication ,cooperation, decision making and participation skills. The reference below is for a new handbook on child participation in parliament:
This handbook, a collaborative effort of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and UNICEF, addresses some of the key ways in which parliamentarians can guarantee that children’s voices, concerns and interests find expression in and are taken into account by parliaments. It aims to provide parliamentarians with information on a variety of effective mechanisms to ensure that children’s participation in parliaments is meaningful, reflects the voices of the most marginalized and contributes to policies, laws and budgets that will help correct the disparities and inequities that afflict the world’s children.
This publication can be ordered from the IPU Secretariat.
Year of publication: 2011 Languages: English and French
In a centralised state such as Vietnam it is often helpful to see the benefits of centralisation. When it was realised that too many motorcyclists were being killed or severely injured on the roads in Vietnam,the government instituted a law to mandate all motorcyclists to wear helmets.
In Hanoi, almost overnight,everyone was wearing one. So centralisation can have its benefits.
This approach may not work with training teachers,though. I am working in education and find that the nearer the ‘trainee’ is to their workplace,the more likely they are to implement what they have been trained. So decentralisation to the district and more importantly to the school is a challenge as well as an opportunity.
Although in Vietnam, teacher training is centralised, the PEDC project decided to work at the local level and provide training for trainers for ‘school based training’. What does this mean in practice?
Normally the Ministry of Education and Training will provide training during the long break (July/August). The problem with this is that there is no organised follow up ,unless a head teacher makes it his/her duty to observe the application of training in the classroom. This approach, although common, is obviously not learner -centred. The teacher is expected to receive much ‘content’ , which is often subject based, and then after the training and their holiday, attempt to apply all of the knowledge and concepts, on their own, in their classroom. This model is doomed in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.
With school based training focused on active learning in the classroom the first question to ask is:
If we want teachers to manage an effective and stimulating classroom where all students participate, learn new skills and knowledge and achieve well – how do we train the teachers?
Answer: they have to be trained in an effective and stimulating training room where all participate, learn relevant new skills and knowledge, evaluate themselves and achieve, as well as develop new attitudes towards their teaching and the students.
As imagined, training has to be fully participative and challenging (including group problem solving) and learning is through participation, reflection and analysis.
Participants have to take some responsibility for their learning environment as well as the training process and are organised into workshop committees , such as public relations, games and singing, materials and welfare as well as evaluation.
As emotions are a key element in learning it is important to develop the psycho-social environment as much as the physical environment. Apart from committees the facilitators try to
•Increase participation and involvement (e.g. creative group work tasks)
•Increase use of effective pair and group work through relevant activities (appropriate to their working context).
• ‘help and support’ participants to learn
•Encourage good workshop relationships – by the use of games, singing etc.
Effective training can include creative and practical problem solving activities focusing on group cooperation, lesson planning,making teaching aids and the needs of students.
To summarise, the benefits of school based training:
1. Pedagogically effective – closer to the real school situation. Professional development is continuous based on action research and cooperative learning.
2. Administratively effective – more flexible for planning and organizing. Less disruptive of classes
3. Cost effective – less travel time and accommodation costs
A new publication from Participation Works called ‘How to support children and young people’s campaigning’ provides information on how to support children and young people’s campaigning.
Participation Works has produced a series of free ‘How to…’ guides available to anyone with an interest in youth participation. ‘How to support children and young people’s campaigning’ helps practitioners support children and young people to design, deliver and evaluate campaigns that bring about change.
Participatory forms of training have proven themselves during the last 30 years or so. New brain research has helped define good practice around the concept of learning by doing. Lecturing can still be part of a trainer’s repertoire ,fifteen minutes maximum and supported by a variety of visual media, as part of trainer’s toolkit.
Participation now considers all participants not just a select few, or the majority. It is now the facilitator’s duty to involve all participants, to adapt training activities to meet participants’ needs. Training is now more demanding but at the same time more satisfying as you watch participants ‘grow’ through their involvement in various training challenges,leading to skill development.
For teacher training, one – off training is not seen as affective. A training package is now seen as:
follow up in the classroom with a mentor
more follow up at classroom level where application of training concepts can be observed and even assessed if necessary.
Another relatively new development is classroom action research. Reflective teaching or classroom action research,brings educational research into the application to solving classroom issues,rather than consideration of system reform/change.
Action research tied to ongoing democratic forms of training can be a powerful innovator for change at grass roots level.
The other aspect of training is that for school teachers the content should be relevant to their working situation and challenge them in ways that motivate them to apply in the classroom. Creativity is a concept that could be explored in a workshop and then applied in the classroom in any subject. Short videos of classroom experimentation followed by group discussion can be a powerful approach to teacher learning and improvement.
Following action research by teachers during in-service training there is no reason why students at whatever age should not engage in action research themselves. They can explore their own ways of learning. Look at this example from Croatia:
It may seem a simple approach but the development of a range of skills related to ‘metacognition’ -or learning about learning will prepare them for lifelong learning.