Teachers engage for change
ETF Learning Connects live discussion, 28 September
How can educational policy incorporate the collective experience and perspective of teachers? The ETF’s Learning Connects event, Boosting teachers’ engagement in education policymaking, held on 28 September 2022, examined this question from all possible angles and shed light on the importance of engaging teachers as educational policy shapers and transformers.
Hosted by ETF Communication Officer, Denise Loughran, the session drew on the expertise of:
- Marika Zakareishvili, a technical vocational education and training and inclusive education expert from Georgia;
- Roman Shyyan, Co-ordinator of the National Core Curriculum Development and Implementation Process in Ukraine; and
- Olena Bekh, Coordinator for Innovative Teaching and Learning from the ETF.
Their discussion identified the parameters of teachers’ engagement in crafting policy and underscored the fundamental role teachers play in modern society – a role that was brought into sharp focus during the pandemic.
Given the importance of their contribution to democratic societies, teachers should be involved in making policies directly impacting on the way they perform their roles.
"Teachers ought to see their concerns reflected in educational policy. When this is not the case, teachers can take the lead from students or learners who are active policy influencers and are leading the in the climate change movement," said Zakareishvili.
Zakareishvili believes that teachers can make thoughtful contributions to educational policy, if they have a strong entrepreneurial mindset and the requisite skills; these include:
- curiosity and the ability to analyse policy impact;
- the motivation to understand multiple perspectives;
- a willingness to dig deeper into how educational processes can be improved for learners;
- empathy to understand how learners feel and adapt their methods accordingly;
- a desire for change; and, finally,
- highly developed technical skills as well as an awareness of social media platforms so that they can build relevant and relatable programmes for students.
Moreover, as noted by Shyyan, "if teachers aspire to be agents of change, they must be open to it, which entails letting go of traditions that have served their purpose. Indeed, one cannot remain stuck in the past if one wants to move forward," he said, adding "when teachers are involved in policy making, learners are also involved because teachers will naturally take their point of view into account". In this way, teachers become mediators between educational policies and their end-users: learners.
In many ways, the pandemic forced the world to make the jump to the 21st century. Regardless of age or geographical location, people were obliged to adapt to and adopt new ways of learning and being in the world. Bekh noted that teachers and students were at the forefront of this paradigm shift, which left them exposed and vulnerable. Gaps in skills and a lack of coping mechanisms also became evident in both teachers and learners which had to be quickly addressed, for which Open Educational Resources have become a critical component.
The ETF’s Teacher Booster series of videos is one such example, developed in collaboration with the Creating New Learning initiative and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre or JRC. Using strong storytelling techniques, the videos unlock the secrets of the teaching profession with tips and tricks of the trade from practitioners.
"Taken as a whole, the videos show that when teachers support each other, when institutions support teachers and when teachers are encouraged to engage with the policy ecosystem, learners benefit through enhanced education quality," highlighted Bekh.
While the initial purpose of the Teacher Booster series was to support teachers during lockdown, its long-term objective is to promote Lifelong Learning and the key competencies necessary for it to take place. The videos are also grounded in solid methodology inspired by the EU's Entrecomp Playbook. The videos’ target audience are educators who are also adult learners; learning-by-doing is the approach privileged.
“It’s a benefit for learners when teachers know what they are doing because they developed the solutions they are implementing in the classroom,” Shyyan observed.
Actively seeking teachers’ engagement in educational policy development is, thus, a way to bridge the gap between the expectations of both policymakers and learners. Essentially, this approach ensures stakeholders are all on the same page and aligned in terms of learning outcomes.
Finally, it is important to acknowledge that teaching does not take place in a vacuum. In times of crisis like the pandemic and, now, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the classroom is the bedrock of community. That the classroom can exist virtually and that it can be accessed remotely helps to secure equal access to education for all learners. Ukrainian teachers have managed the transition to wartime education taking advantage of skills acquired during the height of the pandemic.
To end on a positive note, the words of Marika Zakareishvili ring true:
“the education field is the place to be if you really want to change something in this world”.
Teachers are agents of that change.