Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Refresher Training in Assam!

Come January and it is the start of the school year in one of our program states. Assam is quite unique in this regard with a January to January school year.

We saw this as an apt time to conduct a refresher training for the teachers. It was a new experience for us - to conduct training for teachers that we were already familiar with and who, in turn, were familiar with both us, and the WebBox. They already knew how to navigate the WebBox, and so, we wanted to help them use the device more effectively.

In designing the curriculum for the teacher training, we initially thought about conducting sessions on pedagogical skills and lesson planning know-how – but in the end decided to focus on something much simpler – teaching for understanding

From our discussions with teachers, and classroom observations by our regional team – we were aware that most teachers primarily use the videos on the WebBox. The WebBox is equipped with a whole range of other teaching-learning material such as in-class activities, group discussion ideas, role-play ideas and practice questions. Our goal in this training was for teachers to understand the importance of diversifying students’ classroom experiences - and equipping them with the tools they would need to do so. We spent the 3 days of training as follows:

 Day 1: On the first day we focused on a series of activities that allowed teachers to experience different teaching-learning methods. Our aim was to highlight teaching-learning methods that focus on student engagement and understanding. The activities included solving math word problems using role-play, measuring each others' smiles to practice measuring curved lines (with a ruler and thread), using visualization activities to explain the concept of density, and learning algebra through storytelling. As always – our teachers were our ‘students’ and they participated actively in our ‘class room’. 

Day 2: On the second day our aim was to replicate some of the methods of teaching-learning covered on the first, except now, using the Webbox as a tool. Here, the goal was to demonstrate that the Webbox can provide teachers with ample tools and resources to create a fun, engaging, and varied learning environment. Some of the activities included explaining basic algebra through the use of tiles, incorporating gaming by using the practice questions on the WebBox, conducting a hopping race between the students to understand the concept of speed and its relation to time.
Day 3: Through our experiences in training and lesson planning with teachers, we have found that one-to-one time with the trainers really helps the teacher gain clarity and a deeper understanding of the WebBox. So, on day 3, we asked the teachers to prepare an activity for their class room and conduct or discuss it with us. Post the activity we sat with each teacher individually, giving them feedback and answering their questions.
We conducted two sets of the 3-day trainings – one in Mirza, in the Kamrup district, and one in at our homely training centre in Chabua, in the Dibrugarh district. We trained a total of 36 teachers across the 2 locations – of which approximately 28 were returning teachers.
In our first training we asked teachers to reflect on the processes through which they, themselves, learn. The responses to this included experiential learning, discovery-based learning, observation, visualization, learning by doing, practicing and many more. This refresher training was therefore aimed at supporting teachers in bringing these methods of learning to their classrooms. 

We believe that main reason the program has been successful in Assam is the enthusiasm of the teachers and the hospitality and thoroughness of the field staff. They lived up to all our expectations during these trainings as well. We look forward to the upcoming expansion of the program into an additional 100 schools across a total of 10 districts.