Super Teachers to the Rescue!


The call is going out for Super Teachers who can meet the demands of the 21st century. They must facilitate learner-centric education, serving as coaches and mentors, while keeping up with new developments in technology, pedagogy, and their subject fields. To be prepared, they will need to be life-long learners, not only taking classes themselves but also working more closely with their colleagues.

That was the central theme of yesterday`s livestream panel entitled “Training teachers of the future”, part of the European Training Foundation’s LearningConnects series.

The event was linked to the launch of a new ETF study “Listening to vocational teachers and principals”, based on a survey of over 10,000 vocational teachers and some 750 school principals in nine countries in the European Union neighbourhood: Albania, Algeria, Belarus, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Tunisia and Turkey.

“Our concern was to try to understand things from the teachers’ perspective, not because they're always right, but because it's important”, said Julian Stanley, VET Teachers and Trainers Specialist, ETF. To ensure improvements, their views must be taken into consideration “rather than imposing reforms which may go completely against what they think is important.”

The report focused in large part on professional development, according to Stanley. He outlined a few of the most important findings:

  • two-thirds of teachers had some professional development in the 12 months prior to the survey
  • about half was outside of school
  • there was a wide variance among the countries: in Albania, Moldova, Montenegro and Serbia, participation was near the average for member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
  • some countries showed significant progress as compared to a similar study in 2016, notably Albania and Montenegro
  • only 40% of teachers reported participation in professional development focused on their subject fields
  • around 50% participated in professional development linked to a workplace, with Turkey taking the lead
  • fewer than one-third of teachers had at least 30 hours of professional development per year, a threshold that serves as an international benchmark

Arjen Deij, Senior Specialist in Qualifications Systems, ETF, outlined an earlier ETF literature review that looked into scholarly research about the changing roles of teachers. It analysed the effects of developments such as the digital transformation, new teaching and learning approaches, the rise of competency-based education (focused more on outcomes than on content, thereby in principle giving teachers more flexibility), increased diversity among students (partly due to migration and greater numbers of older learners), entrepreneurship, more emphasis on learner-centric education, and internationalisation. “For teachers, it becomes more and more important to keep up to date to follow these changes” and become lifelong learners, he said.  “It also becomes very important that they work together with other colleagues, for instance, in a modular approach, and mix theory and practice.”

Tina Saric, Director, Education Reform Initiative of South Eastern Europe (ERI SEE) described the work of her organization, an intergovernmental body established by the ministers of education from seven countries in south-eastern European “to enhance national reforms through regional activities, training, webinars seminars, conferences” and various projects, she said. “We are also tackling the issue how to increase teacher competency, but maybe more from a policy level.”

ERI SEE has been working to boost “the understanding of the importance of teachers in our region,” she added. This effort focuses in part on the role that teachers play, along with the family and the media, in helping students develop a sense of their abilities and potential. They impact the worldviews of students, helping to shape fundamental attitudes such as whether society is safe and nurturing vs. dangerous and threatening. Positive outlooks lead to better integration into the labour market, among other things.

Saric advocated an emphasis on personal development training for teachers. They need help in areas such as how to handle large class sizes, conflict communication, and stress management. “There is a huge burden on teachers to be super teachers,” she said.

Stanley encouraged interested practitioners to step forward “to support innovation and to support further development.” Information about opportunities to get involved can be found on the ETF`s Open Space online networking platform.


To watch the full discussion here:

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