CLA News / The Commonwealth Education Trust – Using EdTech to Transform Teacher Practice
The Commonwealth Education Trust works across the Commonwealth countries to reach teachers in underserved areas through digital platforms which provide professional development opportunities.
The organisation began experimenting though our partnership with Coursera to provide teacher training MOOCs (massive open online courses), but we have since moved on from this model. What our team has come to realize through a review of evidence is that, in context of the “global learning crisis,” even if schools are built and resources are provided to assist with learning, teachers are the ones who are in the classrooms every day and making a difference. As such, our work has shifted towards investing in teachers and harnessing the multiplicative power that training teachers can have.
Traditionally in most lower income countries, teacher professional development training models have consisted of sending a teacher to a conference or a meeting where they receive training and then return home. As these opportunities are infrequent, or just a one off, their practice does not necessarily change.
As technology has expanded and we conducted visits to our partner communities, we found that teachers were interested in transforming their teaching practice, but were constrained by the density of their curriculum, which often dictates how they need to deliver content to their students. We have found a low-cost, non-prescriptive approach allows teachers to improve their teaching skills and become more active in their own professional development. Using digital devices to deliver this learning presents an opportunity that traditional face-to-face teacher training does not necessarily provide.
For the last three years, we have been working with our community of teachers and schools to identify what a blended model might look like using high quality digital content. From those conversations, our platform, Teach 2030, emerged.
Some teachers directly enter our platform or are connected organically through our social media handles and others are linked through partnerships with governments or non-government organizations.
Our vision is that this model helps promote a whole-school, continuous professional development (CPD) approach. Instead of teachers taking part in one-off workshops, we suggest our programme is integrated into staff meetings or another format throughout a term or semester, where one course is accessed regularly, ideally each or every other week. We believe that this approach will help to sustain learning and ensure that teachers are using the skills they are gaining. Here’s how it works.
Our platform is web based, rather than in an app, to keep costs low, and ensure accessibility across a range of devices. Our platform is simple to use and teachers can browse our course offerings to choose one suitable for them.
All of our courses and curriculum are mapped to the Cambridge teaching standards, which we used to align our original MOOC courses as well. Our programme has eight themes ranging from “What makes a great teacher,” to “Classroom management,” to “Effective assessment.”: each of our courses is included in one of these themes and we plan to build four courses per theme.
We have seen some incredible transformations amongst teachers after they watch themselves and notice some of the things, they might not have thought about otherwise.
However, when new technology is provided and teachers do not understand how to use it effectively, they are bound to be sceptical of its potential to improve their instruction.
Over the last year, due to the pandemic, and based on feedback from teachers about accessibility concerns as many used their mobile devices to view content, we developed a new course “Becoming a Digital Learner: Using a Smartphone”. This was designed to help our teachers develop and strengthen their digital literacy skills and know the power of a smartphone as a learning tool. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have seen a large increase in users, and the interest continues to grow.
At the end of 2021, we revised our strategy and redesigned our impact model with a focus on four key pillars;
- Build Capacity (Provision of Courses)
- Work Together (Collaborate, Guide, Co-Create, Scale)
- Advise and Support (Working closely with local governments, international agencies, and other organisations)
- Elevate Voices (Celebrate the teaching profession and celebrate and empower teachers)
We aim to continue to build teacher communities through our work, partnerships with NGOs, Commonwealth Accredited Organisations, and the private sector, as well as companies which have an interest in developing learning outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa and Low- and Middle-income countries.
We also use a whole school approach which helps build our partners’ capacity and further expand our teacher training efforts. For example, there are three key roles: facilitator, head teacher, and coach, which form a triangle of support for the teaching team.
Our EdTech platform Teach2030, has been selected as one of the ten Most Impactful and Scalable Innovations out of 435 nominations by HundrED for their 2022 Global Collection. To compile this year’s Global Collection, HundrED selected 100 inspiring innovations that are changing the face of education in the post-COVID world.
We were also one of the 2021 Winners of the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Innovation for Sustainable Development Awards
Covid has only exacerbated the global learning crisis and teachers are the one resource in classrooms across the globe who can improve learning outcomes. By investing in them and building their capacity, we can begin to free children from poverty by giving them the quality education.
Betty Abeng is the Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Education Trust. She has had a varied career working in the not-for-profit sector and prior to her appointment as CEO served on the board as a trustee of the CET. Having experienced the issue of learning poverty first hand, and knowing that EdTech became a powerful learning tool, she now works alongside a small team to help combat Learning Poverty and improve learning outcomes, for those living in some of the most underserved parts of the world.
You can also have a look at their innovation page on the HundrED website.