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Moving teacher training online overnight

Collaborative online learning with a constructed balance of interactive activities that engage trainee teachers and stimulate questions, reflection and discussion on the latest research and effective teaching pedagogies.

In response to school closures and the announcement of trainee teachers losing their placements and therefore links with their placement schools, CTSN SCITT were faced with some challenges. We quickly came to the realisation that we needed not only to move centre- based training online overnight, but also find a meaningful online CPD offer for trainee teachers to cover the hours and experience of the training they would have previously had in school.

This challenge was one we took head on, starting with emergency online Core Training using Microsoft TEAMS. (The announcement that schools were closed came on the Wednesday and by the Friday all Core training had been moved online!) It was surprisingly straight forward and trainees both coped and responded well to this.

After the initial emergency phase, we needed to consider how to support trainees to continue to work on identified gaps in their practice and provide opportunities for them to evidence the Teachers’ Standards in an online environment. At the same time, we were mindful of the challenges many trainees were facing at home and the need for some flexibility with any provision.

After reading a blog written by Olly Lewis, I reflected on his point about using familiar resources already at your disposal and initially not trying something too complex. Olly states:

“Making the best use of the resources you have, carefully strategise how and what learning will look like for your students and become excellent at what you do with the familiar tools at your disposal.”

Trying not to change too much too soon was the initial emergency plan as it was key, we kept in touch with our trainee teachers and continued with our sense of community.

Our trainee cohort already worked online for some of the time to capture their evidence online though OneNote and communicate with us via Microsoft Teams messaging, so sticking with this familiar platform for any online ‘live’ Core Training sessions seemed the most sensible, equitable and less stressful approach for everyone involved. In our emergency teaching phase, we aimed to keep systems familiar and simple, yet gradually teaching trainees the rules, expectations and use of the technology through online ‘live’ CPD sessions. We tried carefully to get each strategy used right before trying something new and more challenging. We wanted to build confidence of our trainees in using online platforms and help them feel positive about the power of online learning.

On looking more deeply into the research around the ‘TPack’ model, referenced in Olly’s blog, I was interested in the dynamic between content, pedagogy, and the chosen technology. I was struck by the need to put the learning first and technology second. Our aim was for all other online learning experiences to be meaningful and offer personalised, quality teaching and learning opportunities for all our trainees, with technology as a supplementary aid to learning.

The core principles which guided us were that any online learning should:

  • Cater for all abilities

  • Cater for different areas of targeted need- identified in the trainee teachers’ Term 2 Report

  • Be realistic and manageable for all, given the challenging circumstances

  • Be well planned, controlled, and professional

  • Allow for ways to monitor learning, engagement, and attendance

  • Focus on learning as the ‘end game’ and technology to aid the learning

Olly’s quote reflects our initial thinking:

“We are leading learning in a new direction that is both a best fit for our context and one that is equitable for all individuals.”

Offering a weekly programme of guided online activities, with personalised options which had the same focus for each day of the week, offered trainees a comforting and familiar structure to work through in these unstable times. Using pre-existing online packages such as NASBTT Learn and Future Learn alongside our own bespoke guidance allowed trainees to feel supported through modules that met their personalised needs. Having one day to focus purely on developing subject knowledge gave trainees a unique opportunity to engage more deeply with their professional bodies, read and work on an identified subject knowledge weakness ahead of their NQT year. Many trainees were incredibly grateful of this precious time and it will prepare them well for their NQT year.

“Every cloud has a silver lining”

As we all became more comfortable with online learning, it was interesting to see the shift from anxiety and excitement when using these platforms to disconnection and in some cases apathy within the trainee cohort. Beckie Supiano from The Chronicle of Higher Ed, referred to an article written by Professor Adriano Udani who described this process as ‘ZOOMED OUT.’ This resonated with my experience. Trainees had got too comfortable in receiving remote instruction and switched off, missing the deep reflection we aimed for. I realised I needed to work harder on making the online ‘live’ CPD experiences more creative, interactive, and engaging. Which meant upskilling my knowledge of using the technology and learning what strategies I could use that would facilitate discussion and deeper learning.

Taking part in some online Zoom training which not only focussed on the logistics of online learning, but also on more creative ways of using this online platform to improve teaching and learning really enriched my own learning. Research from Laurillard (2018) on Effective E- Learning made us think about the range of synchronous and asynchronous techniques that could be used depending on the learning. This break learning down into eight parts - instruction, note taking, discussion, thinking, collaboration, investigation, presentation, and practical use

Taking core principles from the research of Ruben Puentedura which asks us to consider if the online platform is being used as substitution, augmentation, modification, or redefinition for the learning. Thinking about online provision as