Continuous Quality Professional Development, Support and Mentoring for Refugee Teachers
Refugee teachers need and deserve quality teacher training and support to strengthen teacher identity and improve the quality of education.
EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA
We must do a better job supporting teachers working in refugee contexts, especially refugee teachers who may be new to the profession. They need quality, relevant and sustained professional development and mentoring to foster positive change in their classrooms and for their students. This multi-pronged approach proposes: quality training materials contextualized for the local setting that include significant time for practice by the teachers, supporting audio-visual materials including short video clips of teachers working in the same setting demonstrating effective teaching practices and overcoming the obstacles inherent to refugee camp schools, in-service teaching support and teacher learning circles, mobile mentoring that can be sustained from a distance while bolstering teacher motivation and strengthening content knowledge and pedagogical skills for refugee teachers, and participatory action research that takes into account teachers' perspectives and voices every step of the way. A committed group of faculty and students at Teachers College, Columbia University is ready to carry out this initiative and welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with others in the future.
Refugee teachers and learners will benefit most directly from quality teacher professional development efforts. Refugee teachers will have a stronger professional identity, higher motivation levels and the knowledge and skills to meet the needs of refugee learners. Students will also benefit greatly from a quality education provided by a knowledgeable, trained and caring adult in a safe classroom.
Refugee teachers participating in pilot training of new training pack for teachers working in refugee and crisis contexts (June 2015, Kakuma refugee camp)
We added a User Experience Map above (low tech/low res for now -- sorry!)
First, we are about to pilot the teacher training materials in Kakuma refugee camp (Kenya) in June so the training materials will have already been improved and ready to go for wider field-testing and implementation in the coming months. Second, we would capture refugee teachers' good teaching practices on film (via low-tech cameras, iPhones) once they have gone through the training to show what is possible despite the immense challenges in their classrooms (e.g. overcrowding, lack of resources, etc.). Third, we would want to pilot the mobile mentoring idea, draft a stock list of SMS messages and engage the teachers in the process asking the following questions: What types of information would be most helpful (e.g. content-related, pedagogical tips, classroom management)? What types of messages would they find motivational as this type of support may be as important as messages related to content and pedagogy? How frequently would teachers like to receive messages?
Yes, we have been engaged in ongoing conversations with refugee teachers, staff from international organizations supporting education in refugee contexts, fellow academics and students with experience on the ground about these ideas, but we welcome the opportunity to expand and strengthen these ideas further.
HOW IS THIS IDEA DIFFERENT FROM WHAT YOUR ORGANIZATION (OR OTHER ORGANIZATIONS) IS ALREADY DOING?
This approach embraces many of the good practices undertaken by others, but it also strives to go about it in a comprehensive, inclusive, participatory and continuous way so that the efforts aren't one off endeavors that don't lead to lasting change. It also places the refugee teacher at the heart of the work, creating opportunities for their regular engagement, feedback and participation.
HOW WOULD YOU USE AMPLIFY FUNDING AND DESIGN SUPPORT?
The funding would most likely be used to support travel costs for the team members to carry out the participatory work in Kakuma, support teachers' involvement (we have to recognize and respect their time and the resources they bring to the project), filming and continued materials development.
HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF THE CHALLENGE?
Given the urgent need to support teachers and improve teacher training practices, this project responds to the immediacy element. The importance of supporting male and female teachers is critical and they will be included in equal and/or representative numbers. The various activities included in this initiative are all low-cost, with the exception of the filming, which can hopefully also be done for a modest amount. The fact that teachers are meant to participate in every aspect of this work speaks to our aims of inclusivity and cultural sensitivity as they will help to make sure that the content and approach are relevant and appropriate to the needs on the ground.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS FROM THE AMPLIFY TEAM
In response to some of your questions: I have done work in Kakuma over the past 3 years, primarily focused on research with refugee teachers and students about their needs, hopes and aspirations for education in the camp. We have always carried out this work in collaboration with UNHCR and LWF and would always involve these lead organizations and other partners in any future work. They are there day in and day out and provide critical feedback and support for all education-related projects. We will be in Kakuma this Monday to pilot the teacher training pack that has been developed under the auspices of the Refugee Teacher Working Group (UNHCR, IRC, Save the Children, NRC, UNICEF and Teachers College/Columbia University) by a group of my graduate students over the past year. In addition to piloting the materials, we'll continue to engage with the refugee teachers about their needs, how the training can meet some of those needs and what other types of support can and should be provided through classroom-based support, peer-to-peer learning and mobile mentoring. We'll have more to report in the coming weeks as we get this new phase underway.
SKILL SHARE (optional)
We would welcome help on developing the mobile mentoring approach in a more robust way. We have colleagues at Teachers College, Columbia University who can help us to do this, but it would be great to benefit from diverse perspectives and to engage others interested in supporting the teachers in the camp. We'd be happy to offer advice on teacher training, materials development and project management to others as needed.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF
I am a scholar-practitioner and a faculty member at Teachers College, Columbia University. I have been working in the field of Education in Emergencies since 2005. Since 2009 I have been directly involved in several projects with refugees in Kenya, both in urban and camp settings.
IS THIS AN IDEA THAT YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION WOULD LIKE TO TAKE FORWARD?
Yes, I have implementation capacity and am interested in and able to make this idea real in my community.