I have been working in the mountainous regions for four years in the capacity of teacher trainer for REED (Rural Education and Environment Development Centre) Nepal. It is a national level non-governmental organization, primarily working in the field of teacher training in rural areas of the country for one and a half decade. The organization has been implementing whole school modality where all teachers gather at a venue. This year, I got an opportunity to coordinate a school-based teacher training program in Kharikhola of Solukhumbu district. This model is a new intervention of our organization and a new approach in Nepali context. In this brief essay, I discuss the steps of implementation and my observations toward the training model.
At the initial phase, we had an intensive discussion among teacher trainers, representatives from Ministry of Education (MoE), and experts from other parts of the world. The discussion highlighted the needs to focus on students’ progress through training rather than teachers’ attractive presentation in a simulated environment. The training has been divided into three phases: pre-training, while-training and post-training stages.
Pre-training stage (Preparation)
This is a preparation phase. In the first place, we invited a meeting of the head teachers from 17 schools in Kharikhola area. It was a very good discussion over the basic principles, processes and preparation for the training. I found myself excited as the head teachers were positive toward this model. Then, teachers from 17 schools were invited in three venues, the leader schools in the area. Therefore, the venues were the schools, not the teacher training centers nor were they resource centers. Teachers from two to three academic subjects attended at the assigned venues; other teachers continued teaching in their schools. In this regard, trainers worked with a small number of teachers at a time; it was all six times we worked in these three different venues. A teacher had to work at the venue for three days.
While Training Phase (Operational)
This phase is more collaborative in nature and a real operational phase. Once the teachers attended at the venue, they had to be present in the Morning Prayer with students. Then, they worked with trainers to prepare lesson plans for presentation. The lesson plans were based on learning outcomes specified by the curriculum and followed in Continuous Assessment System (CAS). All the lesson plans were done in terms of identified and analyzed needs. While developing the lesson plan, there was a good discussion among teachers and trainers over learning outcomes, teaching strategies and activities. The trainees also developed necessary teaching materials and set time for each activity of the lesson plan with the help of trainers and fellow trainees. Then, the trainers and teachers in each subject group went to the real classroom. One of the teachers led the lesson in the classroom and rest of them including trainer observed the classroom teaching. In some cases, they assisted teacher and students in various activities. During observation, students’ involvement and learning were the key elements to be considered. No matter how efficient and excellent lesson delivery took place, the key part of observation was to diagnose the learning of students. Mostly, students’ eagerness in learning, their participation in different activities, creativity and engagement in all sorts of learning processes were the major elements of observation in relation with the objectives set in the lesson plan.
Post Training Phase (Reflection)
The third phase was the reflective one. We discussed over the delivered lesson. Firstly, the teacher, who led the lesson, shared his/her feeling on the lesson. Then, every trainee was invited to put their views over the lesson on the basis of observation checklists. If the lesson objectives were not fulfilled, the lesson needed to go for revision, re-plan and deliver next day. Again, the revision went in collaboration with facilitator and fellow participants in some cases. In other cases, participants needed to plan for new lesson.
I was involved in this training program in all phases. In my observation, I have found five major features:
Training in real situation: We organized most of the face-to-face training programs and practised teaching skills in artificial settings in previous years. This time the training was organized in a natural situation i.e. in the real classroom. Teachers and trainers got opportunity to work in schools with students.
Focus on students’ progress: How teachers presented lesson does matter little but what learning outcome was seen on students is a major focus of this school-based teacher training model.
Lesson plan: Trainees worked on lesson plans instead of session plans.
Collaborative: The model is highly collaborative in nature as trainees received a lot of opportunities to work and collaborate with fellow trainees and trainers in different phases of the training.
Focus on local context: It is obvious that facilitators and participants work in a specific context in this training model so that it could be more effective and teaching skills are transferable. Sometimes, training received in a different context may not be applicable in other contexts.
The school-based teacher training model we implemented is definitely time consuming than previous face-to-face model. It took twelve days to cover a six-day previous training model. However, the model provided an ample opportunity to teachers to improve their teaching. It is participatory and student-centred as it involved students within the framework. In addition, the training was more economic in terms of money we expended there than previous models. Therefore, school-based teacher training approach could be replicated in other contexts. However, further researches need to be carried out in its theoretical and practical aspects.
Mr. Koirala is an MA in English and an LLB from Tribhuvan University. He has been working in the capacity of a senior teacher trainer of English for REED Nepal. His area of interest also includes writing, theatre performance and art.
-From ELT Choutari