Empowering Teachers

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There are no quick fixes in the world of education. Instead, we must support and commit to the laborious task of incrementally improving the competences of the teachers and the environment in which they teach, whilst providing teachers with a respect and trust commensurate according their critical societal roles. In this evolutionary context, the consolidation of “good practice” looks for a bottom-up approach to setting the grassroots for new teaching innovations and, at the same time, for an effective approach to holistic policy-making, in order to reach the right balance with top-down planning, thus meeting the challenges for emerging paradigms concerning access to learning, the creation and sharing of knowledge and the building of competences in learning communities.

ESIA will apply a bottom-up approach, starting with the practitioners, building upon the best practices, needs and intrinsic knowledge of the teaching and the teacher training profession.

ESIA provides a platform to showcase innovative ideas of teachers and good practices that have been successfully tested!

The Pull Approach

ESIA is introducing a “pull” rather than “push” approach in the modernization of school innovation, teaching and teacher professional development programmes. ESIA will highlight and promote best practices in various fields, e.g. teaching science by inquiry, multi-disciplinary teaching, STEAM, etc. This process is crucial to identify and chart the course into the future.

By building on the best of current practice, ESIA aims to take us beyond the constraints of present structures of schooling toward a shared vision of excellence. ESIA is presenting exemplary teaching practices, resources and applications that provide teachers (and their students) with experiences that enable them to achieve scientific literacy, criteria for assessing and analysing students’ attainments in science and learning opportunities.

There is plenty of evidence pointing to the difficulty of empowering teachers to engage in innovation, especially in tightly accountable systems based on performance targets. In education, there is no shortage of energy and expertise, and certainly no lack of commitment amongst teachers. How could we support them, and give them the creative space and incentives they need to be innovative? What sort of interventions could both release professional imagination, whilst encouraging work that is disciplined and system relevant? How can the system learn from the resultant innovation and its process characteristics so that these can be taken to scale? How can busy, performance-driven teachers become aware of approaches and techniques which are emerging in other sectors – private and voluntary, as well as across public services more widely?

It is enormously difficult in practice to be fully alert to developments and methods outside one’s “zone of operation” (and sometimes even within it) which offer improvement potential. Some teachers do manage to scan other horizons for ideas with transfer potential. How far can this be done on their behalf, to shortcut the investment of time, and optimize the scope for adaptation?

Such an approach holds a great potential as it is enabling all stakeholders (teachers, teachers’ trainers, curriculum developers, policy-makers) to examine their own practices in the light of the best performing approaches that set the standards on what can be achieved and provides them with a unique tool to bring about improvements in their everyday practice.

ESIA will collaborate closely with teachers to develop a set of support services which help schools and teachers to implement the necessary changes, to develop the diagnostics and intervention skills necessary to plan and diffuse innovation in their own contexts. An effective training approach will provide the starting point for equipping teachers with the competences they need to act successfully as change agents, developing a language/terminology necessary to describe the dynamics of change processes, and making them able to recognize different forms of resistance and addressing it in their own context. At the same time, it will provide a common

The Importance of Professional Development of Teachers

Outstanding initiatives are happening in science classrooms every day. But they are only taking place because devoted, extraordinary teachers do what needs to be done despite the conventional practice. These teachers move over and above the official vocabulary-dense textbooks and encourage student to gain 21st Century Skills, inquiry-based learning and participation. They also make their courses relevant to students’ lives, instead of simply being preparation for another school course.

Teachers are key players in the renewal of school education. Many studies, surveys and the widely accepted understanding of education analysts support the idea that the critical evolution of the school system has should do with the changes related to the role of the teacher. On their study “How World’s Best-Performing School Systems Come Out On Top” McKinsey&Company (2007) have studied the characteristics of top performing educational systems from the past decade and the lessons of their success, which are simple: The only way to improve an educational system is to improve instruction.

Link to ESIA Training

The Important (Albeit Changing) Role of The Teacher

Our societies depend on the activities of teachers. Identically, they are working to grow the basement of the students. No matter it is school, college or university, a qualified teacher is the builder of a student. Even a teacher on the special skills or technical courses is keeping role responsibilities on the societies. For this reason, the leader of tomorrow is created by a teacher. At the same time, if a teacher fails to discover the eternal power of a student, the student fails in his whole life. That means a teacher is the best mentor for a life of the student.

Teachers must exchange the “instructor” role for that of the coach of learning or in other words to “learning strategist” as the white paper from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (Martinez et al., 2016) says. ESIA would like to support this process by presenting opportunities for new forms of teaching, and outlines strategies for how teachers’ roles and conditions can support and enable deeper learning for students. Teachers can successfully achieve a better, deeper learning with students when they “personalize learning experiences, apply real-world knowledge to learning, and use technology in a way that enhances and empowers student learning”.

The bottom-up approach of ESIA

ESIA applies a bottom-up approach, starting with the practitioners, building upon the best practices and intrinsic knowledge of the teaching and teacher training profession. After the many attempts of the past years to change education policy top-down, it is time to trust the teachers and follow their lead!

In this context, the consolidation of “good practice” looks for a bottom-up approach to setting the grassroots for better and more innovative school education in schools and, at the same time, to determine an effective approach to professional development and in-service teacher training by analysing the courses currently offered in this regard (e.g. many informal, not officially recognised courses are published in School Education Gateway, and similar online course catalogues).

This way, ESIA will support European policy-making, by proposing measures based on practitioner-led bottom-up activities and innovation that can be translated into more effective top-down policy planning and implementation, meeting the challenges for emerging paradigms concerning inquiry based science education, student- and project-based learning, the use of new technologies in classrooms, access to learning (the once “infrastructure-equipment” mandate), the creation and sharing of knowledge (the once “learning materials” availability) and the building of competences (the teachers professional development quest).

Top-Down versus Bottom-Up Innovation

The ESIA Network & Teacher Community

Being part of a European network allows teachers to improve the quality of their teaching and supports their motivation. Networks are an effective component of teachers’ professional development, are complementary to more traditional forms of in-service teacher training. It has shown to stimulate morale and motivation. Recent studies demonstrate the potential of such approaches. In the framework of ESIA we will explore and build upon such examples (e.g. participation in virtual communities) as forms of professional development as ways to support teachers competencies development and we will prepare a series of activities to keep teachers engaged and enable their participation in ESIA.

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