How TELLAL is working to remove the roadblocks to essential change
The uniting of like minds, passionate individuals and influential decision-makers in a collaborative effort to raise education standards is always a step in the right direction. Excitedly, that is exactly the confluence of pivotal elements that occurred recently at this year’s Qudwa Forum, an event that TELLAL was honoured to attend.
For teachers, by teachers
Now in its third year, Qudwa sees teachers ‘as the change agents of our educational system’. They have aimed to create an event and an environment in which actual expertise can be shared with those who have the power to enact the type of future-ready change we need in the multi-cultural educational practices of the UAE. This year’s Forum was devoted to the theme of Teaching for Global Competence and the ways in which we might aid students in how to thrive in a rapidly changing world. As they face future careers and lifestyles that we can only guess at, it is vital that we work together to imagine every possibility and garner enough knowledge to prepare them best to encounter whatever might lie ahead.
Open and receptive
TELLAL’s Senior Vice President Dr Linda Rush was invited to give a presentation and she opted to share her visionary perspective on the topic of ‘Global Teacher Development Through the Lens of Partnership Learning: Making the Unconventional Conventional’.
In this, she examined the ways in which traditional structures can be a roadblock to essential change and that by being more open and receptive to innovative concepts, our educational institutions can significantly enhance their potential for success.
Sadly, far too many blocks continue to challenge the facilitation of successful collaboration, much to the detriment of everyone involved, but there are key ways in which organisations can incorporate the necessary steps to improve their overall environments and productivity. The first element is to understand what successful collaboration should look like. Research shows us that for collaboration to be effective it needs the following elements:
- Ownership – clear leadership at all levels
- Contextualisation – explicit understanding by all involved of its role and purpose
- Contestation – debate and opposition are encouraged
- Conversation as enquiry – structured time and space and processes for sustained ‘conversations’ need to be created
- Professional development – roles and capacity or disposition(s) in collaborative inquiry need to be systematically developed
To further ensure the right ingredients for effective collaboration, you also need ‘enlightened individuals’ more than ‘pragmatic individuals’; people who prioritise dialogue, engagement and openness. Through them you are more likely to foster an atmosphere in which relationships between team members are more conducive to integration, communication and co-ownership of responsibilities. Dr Rush had previously noted this as a highly efficient state, one in which “individuals are not limited by rules or accepted ways of doing things, assume a shared responsibility and listen attentively”.
A way to increase our collaborative efforts is through adopting more inclusive teacher education partnership practices that focus on the process of learning while keeping the role of reflection and reciprocity a central tenet. That is what partnership learning is.
Partnership Learning is informed by a pedagogy, involving intra-professional learning (e.g. academics, teachers, experts and students) across boundaries in the field of teacher education. This pedagogy ‘is fundamentally opposed to any view that involves a simple, nicely portioned transfer of knowledge: it foregrounds the human learner as the active and autonomous maker of knowledge.’
Partnership learning allows us to develop our understanding of more relational and transformative models of learning, as well as the concept of how we learn. It further offers the chance to integrate traditional academic skills with the learning dispositions, values and attitudes necessary to meet the demands of a global, networked society. As such there is a compromise of learning strategies in the following ways:
- Profound reflection – producing personal meaning i.e. reflection that generates new ideas, strategies and theories; analysing talk; evaluative talk; creative talk
- Intentional learning – involving agency
- Collaboration – intra-professional
- Temporal connectivity – where a person will change and learn over time in different contexts
- Lateral connectivity – where a person will learn from the cultures and people around them and the interactions of their learning relationships.
When we embrace new innovations and concepts surrounding learning and share our own experiences, we can forge new pathways to improve the environment for students and prepare them better for the future.