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Teacher-led training: does it work?

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A conundrum has emerged from this year’s State of Technology in Education report — teachers want better training, particularly in edtech, but may feel their workloads are already too high to fit additional activities into their schedules. In fact, almost 80% of teachers believe that if workloads don’t improve, they will soon see the loss of valuable teaching staff. 

Despite more interest in using technology in the classroom, edtech support appears to have fallen behind. In 2016/17, 55% of teachers said they got adequate tech training. Now just 16.5% do. What happened?

Firstly, it would appear that training has dropped down the list of school’s strategic priorities — less than half of what it was last year (from 31.3% to 12.8%). But secondly, teachers are battling with higher workloads — almost 50% state their current level is simply unmanageable.

“The technological advances seem to come from the teachers up rather than being imposed on the staff by Senior Management.”

Head of Department, North West, State of Technology in Education 2019/20

With this sentiment, allocating time to long-winded training sessions can be difficult, even for the most digitally-focused teacher. If educators want more targeted, time-efficient edtech support, could teacher-led training be a solution?

Why teacher-led training?

Putting teachers in charge of their own training and encouraging peer-to-peer knowledge sharing may sound like SMTs just passing the buck, but in reality, such an approach could streamline the entire process. 

When you lead your development and training, you can select the skills that are most appropriate and time-efficient for your specific lessons and pupils’ needs. For example, if you and your teaching colleagues commonly use interactive front-of-class displays like a Promethean ActivPanel. These devices have endless potential for student-led learning, not to mention a huge list of tips and tricks to make daily processes more streamlined. 

A maths teacher, however, may have entirely different tech priorities to a geography teacher. They may use different learning apps and focus on contrasting interactive features. By identifying your specific knowledge gaps, it means less time wasted in blanket training sessions that may have little-or-no relevance to your classroom.

What’s more, teacher-led training can be empowering by giving you a platform to share valuable knowledge and leverage your experience, whilst taking ownership of your own personal development. Not to mention the benefits of exploring and unlocking the potential of the technology in your classroom, rather than waiting to be told how to use it.

Tips on leading your own training session

1. Know your colleagues’ goals in advance

To make the best use of your time, and your colleagues’, it is useful to ask in advance what your audience most want to get out of the training session and why.

2. Find common purpose

Although everyone will have different objectives, there will always be common pain points. Don’t forget to include these.

3. Focus on what matters most

Everyone’s time is precious, including yours. Keep your session targeted and on track throughout.

4. Make sure everyone is relaxed

A subtle difference between teaching pupils and teaching peers is the importance of building camaraderie. Trust is key component in willingness to learn, the sharing of ideas and admitting knowledge gaps.

Could teacher-led training limit learning potential?

Whilst it’s important to ensure your time is used most efficiently, teacher-led learning has some drawbacks.

Firstly, not all teachers have the support, inclination or specific soft skills to teach peers or adults; it can be quite different to educating children. Teachers may need extra help, for example, navigating questions that emerge during teacher-led training so that raised issues or conflicts are productive and relevant.

What’s more, even the most self-aware teachers may not perceive gaps in their technological understanding in order to identify the training they need. Not to mention that, unlike generic training sessions, targeted sessions may skip key technical tips and tricks that could benefit all teachers, if he or she is unaware of them.

Does teacher-led training work?

The answer is: yes, to an extent. 

According to our annual report, teacher training has dramatically dropped down SMTs’ priority lists in schools, despite more teachers calling for it. With this in mind, putting training into the hands of teachers and encouraging peer-to-peer knowledge sharing could improve the relevance and efficiency of teachers’ training needs. 

At the same time, there may not be enough teachers with the necessary internal support to fully train their peers on edtech. Not to mention the time needed to prepare and deliver such training sessions.

The bottom line is that as teachers, you don’t always know what you need to learn. External trainers and edtech experts can still play important roles in helping you identify ways to maximise your use of technology. Whether it is to create exciting and interactive learning processes, boost engagement in your lessons or streamline your admin processes, there is always something to learn that will save you valuable time in the long run. 

For more insight into the views of classroom teachers and educational leaders, download the latest The State of Technology in Education 2019/20 report.