How peer learning could solve our teachers’ training woes

Sam Blyth, Director of Schools, FE & Learning Providers – Europe at Instructure discusses how tech-enabled peer-to-peer learning can help teachers alleviate CPD concerns

Today’s teachers face a number of significant challenges: demanding classroom environments, momentous workloads, stiflingly low pay. These factors undoubtedly contributed to 15% of 2018’s new teachers quitting the profession by the end of their first year, and no doubt played a leading role in the three-year teacher retention rate dropping from 80% in 2011 to 73% in 2017.

As if these three core challenges weren’t daunting enough, they are constantly being exacerbated by a lack of professional training available to teachers once their careers are underway. All too often, our novice educators are finding themselves in the crucible of the classroom without the right level of support or continuing professional development (CPD).

So, the problems that teachers are facing are very real. And whilst nobody can claim to have all the remedies to the sector’s ills, there are certain actions that could be undertaken to significantly alleviate the pressures on teachers, especially the less experienced amongst them.

Unlocking the value of experienced staff

One such measure is the adoption of technologically-enabled peer-learning. Schools already preside over a great wealth of knowledge and expertise, with top-class teachers working under one roof, classroom-by-classroom. However, are these great minds working in unison? Rarely. Are they sharing their professional tactics, their educational insights? Again, rarely. Thus, these valuable resources and strategies remain closed secrets. As a result, schools are missing a critical ingredient; the facilitation of mutual learning, needed to significantly alleviate these challenges.

All too often, our novice educators are finding themselves in the crucible of the classroom without the right level of support.

In an era when our schools are notoriously cash-strapped, it is essential that they tap into their pre-existing resources. But how do teachers self-train each other when they are equally time-strapped? They do not necessarily have the flexibility to host their own teaching tips workshops. Nor is it particularly convenient to have teachers give up large chunks of time to sit in on their colleagues’ classes.

One option, which remains largely untapped, is the adoption of technology to facilitate training and development in schools.

Tech and teacher time

New technology that can facilitate the democratisation of teacher training is becoming more and more readily available to institutions in the UK. Innovative web-learning programmes create a low-risk environment for any teacher, regardless of stage, subject area, or pedagogy, to develop both competence and confidence. Educators are empowered to ‘learn by doing’ and receive timely, and actionable peer and expert feedback as part of CPD.

By providing access to this kind of programme, teachers no longer have to sacrifice precious non-teaching time. Instead they are free to dip in and out of the training, connecting with other educators at their own pace. Thankfully, options are becoming more plentiful by the day, and technology allows the less experienced to learn from the most, and vice-versa, with new ideas that challenge the existing teaching conventions, being shared across online training platforms.

In an age when 20,000 teachers are working in schools with extremely limited budgets for CPD, affordable, effective software may well hold the key to upskilling a workforce in desperate need of support.

Collectively, teachers may already have the tools required to combat their primary challenges. But individually, the very same challenges can appear insurmountable. That is why it is crucial to provide teachers with the means to share their invaluable expertise and help and support one another in a structured, strategic way.

Exclusive update: Canvas will be announcing their new peer-learning tool, Practice, at Bett 2019.

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