Good teacher overnight; Cooperative Learning in low-resource environments

I have recently been charged by an Uthman ibn Affan Trust to empower Syrian teachers in Turkish refugee camps.

The objective of the Trust is to give the next generation of Syrians the skill set needed to rebuild their country. These skills include not only subject knowledge, but, equally importantly, skills of collaboration, creative thinking, democracy and leadership and decision making, to name a few; what would be called 21st century skills.

Due to a number of logistic constraints, we are looking to turn a highly mixed group of trainees into outstanding teachers in as little as four-five days; which is in itself daunting. In addition to my didactic methods, the Trust is considering a host of ancillary objectives, including IT technology, and, potentially, preparation for Level 3 to 5 City & Guild teaching qualifications. Added to this are the logistic challenges presented by the war, language barriers, short time frame per team, and other potential pitfalls.


Think your school is low on resources?    (Image from Parallels)

The Trust has picked Cooperative Learning, as this method is the only way such a variety of objectives can be successfully achieved – which will in itself demonstrate its effectiveness to trainees.

Among the special benefits of Cooperative Learning in such an unstable and incoherent environment is that it is content void: it works with any materials teachers may have to hand.

As for the courses themselves, rather than waiting for content to be decided by various bodies – only to potentially be changed at the last moment – we aim to leverage this content void nature of Cooperative Learning to create a modular and flexible framework that will accommodate any content, from  subject knowledge of maths to teaching practice. Having this ready will allow the Trust to re-draw course in midflight, as necessary.

Using modules which can be put together like puzzle pieces will also ensure the meta-assessment needed to continuously identify and improve best-practice for future courses. This is utterly impossible without the clear sub-outcomes provided by the modules.

More on low-resource learning environments and Cooperative Learning in my presentation at the UKFIET in Oxford.


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