The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Elizabeth Holmes

Building a CPD community

eTwinning currently involves around 249,000 teachers in some 33,000 projects in over 122,000 schools across Europe. Elizabeth Holmes thinks this just might be an opportunity for collaboration in the true sense of the word.

‘Collaboration, it turns out, is not a gift from the gods but a skill that requires effort and practice.’ Douglas B. Reeves

For me, one of the joys of working as an educator (currently primarily in higher education but previously in schools) is keeping an eye on the latest research, to see what will help to develop my practice. Fortunately, there is always plenty out there to inspire, and it’s great that this is now being acknowledged more widely by the teaching profession.

eTwinning learning events

Recently, the European Journal of Education carried an article by Brian Holmes (European Commission Executive Agency for Education, Audiovisual and Culture) on an eTwinning learning event. eTwinning is part of Erasmus+, the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport. Essentially, an eTwinning learning event offers teachers the chance to learn from peers online in an informal way.

Spice up your CPD provision

The article above discusses the conditions that help teachers to collaborate most effectively. It highlights what has long been identified in research as an issue – that ‘spray-on CPD’ is not sufficient to change practice or competence for the better. The conclusion of this research on online learning communities is that eTwinning learning events ‘are a valuable alternative to the traditional model of teacher training’. In other words, worth trying if you want to spice up your CPD provision.

Collaboration in your school

Some thoughts occurred to me while reading the research, which may be of use when you are approaching eTwinning, or any kind of collaboration, in your school.

Collaborate broadly and genuinely

There is no point in collaborating with clones. Despite claims to the contrary, many people seek affirmation of their practice and opinions rather than genuine debate, and detractors may be derided. It is so common to see this on social media sites, sadly within the educator community too, but it may simply be a sign of professional insecurity rather than certainty. Collaborate broadly and engage genuinely.

Develop international mindedness

eTwinning is the community for schools in Europe. As such, it is a great way to develop international mindedness in staff and, therefore, in students. It’s worth considering what impact this could have on your school’s community.

Know what you want to get out of collaboration

The word ‘community’ is often used simply to denote a group with common interests, but this is inadequate. If you are considering being a part of eTwinning, focus on the full scope of what ‘community’ and ‘collaboration’ may entail for you. Know what you want to get out of it. As a minimum, acknowledge that there may well be unforeseen positive – and possibly negative – outcomes.

Make time for reflection

For a range of reasons, reflection is often missing in practice from professional learning activities, and yet it can be the most fruitful stage. Without it, we are merely reacting impulsively, at the mercy of pre-existing biases.

Think about the role of social networking

Consider how social networking can add to your creation of ‘community’. 

Further reading

  • eTwinning is the ‘free and safe platform for teachers to connect, develop collaborative projects and share ideas in Europe’.
  • You can learn more about eTwinning by emailing the British Council eTwinning team or by looking at the British Council website.
  • The research referenced above is: Holmes, B. (2013), ‘School Teachers’ Continuous Professional Development in an Online Learning Community: Lessons from a case study of an eTwinning learning event’, European Journal of Education, Vol. 48, No. 1.
  • To explore international mindedness, take a look at International Mindedness: Global Perspectives for Learners and Educators, edited by Lesley P. Stagg (Urbane Publications, 2013).

 

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