Over an 18-month period and within collaborative clusters in regional hubs and target countries, the Center for Learning in Practice will develop a competency-based framework for teacher professional development (PD) in refugee/displacement contexts that incorporates online teaching/learning, social and emotional learning (SEL), and other key proficiencies critical to holistic learning, responsive to the COVID-19 pandemic (and other crisis contexts), and aligned with UNESCO’s Global Framework of Professional Teaching Standards. We will build on existing SEL measurement tools, developments in the field of teaching and learning analytics, and evidence-based practices related to student-centered, holistic learning in crisis, emergency, displacement, and refugee contexts with the knowledge that SEL is not just a function of what is taught but how the material is taught. Teachers, themselves, require social and emotional support, thus our teacher professional development approach will address the needs of teachers as self-directed learners and as leaders.
UNESCO estimates that 69 million teachers are needed to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030 in line with Sustainable Development Goal 4.1. Recruiting, preparing, sustaining, and, thus, retaining quality teachers necessitates continuous investment over the full lifespan of a teaching career through meaningful, connected, sustained, and responsive professional learning opportunities.
Prior to COVID-19, “skilling up” educators in displacement, emergency, and refugee contexts was already challenging. These educators, now, whether novice or master teachers, must be adept at teaching via online and remote methods, and they must be prepared to differentiate instruction and support the learning of students with significant gaps in learning due not only to conflict and migration, but also to the closure of schools during the pandemic. Furthermore, within some displacement contexts, face-to-face teacher training and support networks led by INGOs have crumbled as these organizations have had to evacuate spaces or temporarily suspend programming due to COVID-19, leaving many teachers without adequate professional learning opportunities. The pandemic has exacerbated disparities in access to quality teacher professional development at a time when educators in displacement contexts need that support more than ever.
The overarching goal for this initiative is to increase quality holistic learning outcomes, encompassing both academic and social and emotional learning (SEL), for children in displacement contexts.
Specific project objectives include:
Between January 2021 and June 2022, the Center for Learning in Practice will co-develop-with local refugee educators, NGOs, government ministry, and other partners-Open Education Resource (OER) teacher professional learning courses, toolkits, and assessments in 3 languages: English, Arabic, and French. These materials will support the continuous professional development of primary and secondary school educators in refugee and displacement contexts, including national schools, camp settings, and informal learning centers with a focus on educators working with students between the ages of 9-15.
Quality holistic learning, for both children and their teachers, is at the heart of the project and we are looking to develop teacher learning resources in four interrelated pedagogical areas:
Together, these four domains contribute to student-centered learning that is culturally relevant, responsive, and sustaining and that attends to the needs (and talents!) of the whole child. Woven throughout the design and delivery of the professional learning materials developed through this initiative will be an emphasis on digital literacies and ICT, SEL/PSS, peacebuilding and peace education, formative and summative assessment, learning analytics, and reflective teaching practice. We will work within communities of practice to model a process of collaboration and holistic learning as we build, pilot, and revise PD materials.
What this means, specifically, is that we will identify a small cohort of teacher fellows (classroom practitioners interested in developing leadership capacities) across the project’s target countries to engage with and help guide each step of the process, including co-development and testing of materials. Additionally, we aim to partner with INGO, NGO, and CBO colleagues in clusters or hubs to build capacity within organizations and to ensure in-country/regional expertise is shared, materials relevant to teaching in displacement contexts are surfaced, participation opportunities are widely circulated, and alignment with current and future initiatives, including with teacher training institutions/programs and ministries of education, is ensured.
We will work within three regional hubs and with 4 target countries. The regional hubs include the Middle East, East Africa, and Central and West Africa. Target countries will likely be Lebanon, Kenya, Chad, and Niger. These focal points were identified through existing partnerships, interest from new and potential partners, analysis of gaps and assets in various regions, and identification of essential capacity to execute on the project overall. They are subject to change given shifts in context, interest, or capacity.
While the aim is that the professional learning materials for educators created through this initiative will be applicable across global displacement and crisis contexts, we believe that building from the grassroots in a few specific locations will best model processes of empowerment and professional engagement for educators that can be translated to other contexts which center iterative design processes, dialog, and reflection within communities of practice.