Space for teacher creativity?

Core to Tide's approach is the idea of designing ‘space’ for practitioners to take the lead and be creative in the context of outcomes for learners.

How do we see this? 

At the heart of any project process is the question: what will learners gain?  This question does not lend itself to a tick box approach.  It generates questions about learners' perspectives, their skills and how they apply their learning.  As the Development Education Commission put it ... planning engages work on dispositions as well as ideas, competences and skills.  It also involves work to offer experiences.  See: Essential Learning [link] - [pages 21 - 27]. 

Global learning is about engaging with real world concerns and situations.  It is not, as some seem to assume, about getting particular messages across.  It is, therefore, important to recognise the educational challenges.

Teacher to teacher learning proved to be an effective strategy.  It has been core to Tide's approach.  However, it is essential to recognise that building practitioner networking in this way takes time.  It is also important to engage practitioner priorities that are driven by many factors including every day pressures, personal motivation and interests as well as professional development.

The principle was, from the outset, about a model of enabling teacher to teacher work.  'Learning about Africa' pages 12 -14 [link pdf below] gives you a flavour of how it was seen in the early stages of our work - [circa 1977].  Study visits have been particularly valuable as creative spaces stimulating teacher learning and enabling new resources.  Many who were involved in study visits also went on to become involved in the development of the network itself.  See article about Study Visits with links to several Tide~ publications on the website: 'Development Eduction Ireland' https://developmenteducation.ie/blog/2019/07/study-visits-were-not-driven-by-an-education-aid-mentality/

Those ideas influenced the design of other 'spaces' and development encounters closer to home through a variety of curriculum projects.  A 'project' provides a defined opportunity [for example, focusing on an issue or challenge] linked to a particular group [who, for example, have a common interest eg in a particular curriculum area] with a time-frame and a commitment to share outcomes with other practitioners.  The latter commitment provides both focus and motivation to the process.

The six components of ‘professional learning communities’ described by Alma Harris reflect our experience.  They are: “focus on learning; a collaborative culture stressing learning for all; collective enquiry into best practice; an action orientation [ie learning by doing or trialling]; a commitment to continuous improvement; and a focus on improved learning outcomes.”  Her article 'Creative Leadership - developing future leaders’ offers useful insights.  Link:  http://www.almaharris.com/downloads/creative_leadership.pdf

The work of Etienne Wenger who talks about  “cultivating a community of practice” provided a stimulus to reflecting on Tide~ process and the elements of project design.  He also highlights the importance of the relationship between practitioners with different roles [eg Policy makers, Heads, Teachers].  That inter-relationship became key to some Tide~ strategies.

He suggests, as is reflected in our own debates, that it is important to pay equal attention to what he calls: “the domain, the community, and the practice”.  

Learning from his framework ... the Tide~ approach could be described as seeking:

  • to build an identity profiling shared interest and seeking membership commitment from practitioners to the challenge of improving learner understanding and engagement with development and global issues. - [the domain] 
  • to enable network members to engage in joint activities, help each other, share information and resources, and facilitate sub-networks focusing on particular projects and through that enable them to learn from each other. -[the community]. 
  • to support practitioners to develop shared resources, experiences, stories, tools, and ways of addressing recurring problems ... in short, a shared practice - [the practice]. 

Link: https://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/

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