Interview: TELLAL Institute, DubaiApril 14, 2017, 3:50 pm GMT
When the Teacher Learning and Leadership (TELLAL) Institute launched operations in July 2016, it was notable, in part, for introducing the UAE's Apprenticeship Teacher Training (ATT) programme for aspiring and existing teachers. TELLAL offers a schools-led, school-situated model, which is important, Rush says, because "it's about offering up something different from the fly-in fly-out mentality that often prevails in terms of training and development".
"It's about capacity building within the system itself the system being not just a school or group of schools, but the network of schools across all the emirates, both public and private. It's about pioneering and leading a different model of learning in which the teachers and school leaders are the change agents they are at the centre of the change and they have a voice in how their learning is shaped, and the climate and the environment in which their learning fits is shaped," she elaborates.
To drive this practice, TELLAL employs a core team of trainers "with a range of knowledge and expertise to do with teaching and learning and school leadership development", the focus is on using the expertise within the system itself and leading a more collaborative, practitioner-led model.
"As opposed to a traditional workshop or lecture which often takes place in an abstract space from that of the site of learning or site of work, this is about foregrounding, coaching, mentoring, engagement with action-research type projects, which allows people in-situ, collaboratively and with strategic support, to explore and develop their practice. Reflection is also very important here, and to critically reflect is not straightforward. So we are supporting people to become reflective practitioners, such that they can draw on multiple voices whether through literature and reading, or workshops and lectures, or projects that focus on problem areas," Rush states.
TELLAL offers several training options some for aspiring teachers, and others for those looking to improve their practice. The principle awards, which include an International Professional Certificate in Teaching Practice, and an Applied Bachelor in teaching Practice (with options for early years or Arabic) are 10-month programmes.
Composite awards, which usually run for five months, include professional diplomas in Educational Leadership as well as Teaching of Arabic, and Early Years Education. Additionally, TELLAL also offers a Certificate in Foundations of Teaching, as well as an upcoming Arabic teaching certification, which is aimed at upskilling local Emirati graduates in the UAE.
There has to be a measurement of rigour associated with any sort of learning, and the same applies at TELLAL. To facilitate the network model of teacher training and leadership development, the institute relies on high quality online resources that allow for flexibility, and digital tools that are easily accessible, affordable, and fit for purpose "to allow people to reflect on their practice, to share their practice, and to continuously improve that practice".
In building a curriculum for its courses, TELLAL has drawn on the 19 fundamentals associated with good and outstanding teaching that were recently highlighted by the University of Michigan.
Having then come to an understanding of the theory and knowledge that informs the training at TELLAL, the institute is also working closely with regulators to ensure that teachers meet the criteria introduced as part of the teacher certification framework (which is also in its pilot phase). All of the qualifications offered by TELLAL are aligned with UAE teacher certification criteria to secure a license to teach in the UAE.
"We are making it our business to look outside of our provision and make sure that as part of our reframing and repositioning of what has essentially been non-certificated teacher training and leadership development, moving towards certificated and qualifying both at national and international level (via recognition of prior learning), vocational teacher training leadership development. We are seeking to do that taking into account the qualification frameworks and regulatory thinking both in the UAE and benchmarked it against more global thinking too. This is really important it's about portability," Rush says.
TELLAL is also mindful about the way it uses technology in its training modules. "We think very carefully about how we deploy our use of online learning environments as well as digital tools such as Swivls or bug-in-ear technology which facilitate, at a distance, people being able to coach one another during in-class teaching. Or as an individual, if you feel you'd like to capture yourself testing out a practice you find problematic, you can do so very simply with Swivl tools. You can then upload that video online and share it with your coach."
"The other thing we're really expanding on is our use of simulation training and the role of student avatars. We've been developing that further by creating up to 12-14 scenarios in and around behaviour management, use of questioning, parental engagement, student-centred learning, and also specific modules for English language teaching. These scenarios have been developed and a wrap-around set of activities for each scenario, including simulation training is being structured, which has proved to be absolutely transformational for some of our Indian and Arabic teachers," Rush enthuses.
"We've been testing out these new models of delivery for the last eight months, and we're ready to scale up in a manner which is affordable, allows portability, and in a way that can allow an individual to choose to exit just facing the upcoming standards, or to exit facing the standards but also it is the intention to provide a national qualification, or to exit facing the standards but also allow to exit with an internationally recognised qualification," she adds.
In its first year, TELLAL has been piloting its programmes within GEMS Education's network of schools. Explaining the partnership, Rush says: "Because GEMS have up to 50 schools across various curriculum, and a whole raft of nationalities in terms of both students and teachers, it was a wonderful opportunity to test out an alternative model of teacher learning and leadership development one that is relatively new here, but not so new elsewhere."
Given the success of the pilot programme, Rush says TELLAL is now ready to scale up its operations, and could be looking at training up to 1000 new teachers next year from across the UAE both within and outside of the GEMS network. While the institute is ready to cater to a larger number of teachers, candidates will undergo extensive screening.
She notes: "We will have a series of open evenings that will take place within our UAE schools, and after recruitment people are invited to send an electronic application, and we will review those applications against certain criteria. From the outset, the idea of one's beliefs and values and what it means to educate is a key piece of evidence that we examine in terms of their readiness, alongside their qualifications. Everybody who would be seeking to come and either qualify or to enhance qualifications, will already have a first degree. We've got an extremely rigorous process because we know we stand or fall by the quality of our recruitment. "So as part of our recruitment process, there is a written submission about one's beliefs and values about what it means to educate. They would also need to be engaged with some core assessment tests around Maths and English and language proficiency. There's also a group task and a one-to-one interview. And because it's a schools-led model of training, we involve principals and senior leaders within the whole recruitment process, and in many instances this year we've had principals and senior leaders who, from the outset, have identified one or two individuals who are on our training this year who will, or have already been offered jobs within their schools. Hence the concept of apprenticeship teacher training."
However, Rush is quick to note that while the screening process is rigorous, the institute is also mindful of the teacher shortage prevalent around the world.
"We do screen in; we don't want to screen out. We know that as it stands now, there's a shortage of quality teachers, and globally we will never be able to train up sufficiently enough teachers for schools. So we do have to think about how we take into account prior experiential learning, we need to take into account attitudes and motivations, and if, for example, somebody hasn't got the language proficiency in terms of IELTS, then we will make it our business to bring them up to scratch as part of their 10 months of training," Rush states.
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