Despite the new challenges, the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) is determined to continue working as a team to pursue quality, equity, and flexibility in education. Teachers are challenged not only to protect their health but also to adapt new teaching methods in the pursuit of quality learning. We know it’s not going to be easy for teachers, but we need to find a reason to be optimistic and to keep moving forward.
A community of learning has been organized to support teachers in adapting to the “new normal” of teaching and learning. After one semester of the Innovative Flexible Learning (InFleX) modality, teachers are sharing experiences and seeking to improve their teaching practice for another implementation cycle. A peer facilitators training program has been designed to facilitate the discussion of learning experiences and the adoption of essential skills for teaching in the new normal. Facilitators use coaching methods to assist their peers in the implementation of the InFLeX modality. In planning training topics and activities, the REACH (Relevant, Engaged, Active, Connected, and Holistic) design is used.
Relevant topics and skills to be learned
InFLeX promotes a balance between synchronous and asynchronous sessions in online/remote classrooms. However, implementing this in real online/remote environments is challenging. It is important to model online/remote classrooms with well-planned asynchronous learning activities. Thus, the training program for peer facilitators has a good mix of synchronous and asynchronous sessions. Asynchronous activities include sharing good practices regarding students’ engagement and assessing learners in a remote teaching environment. In the synchronous sessions, the participants discuss with experts important pedagogical issues such as Keeping Students Engaged and Motivated, Maintaining Integrity of Assessment, and Student Support & Community of Learning.
Engaged teachers in a community of practice
One semester of InFleX implementation has shown that student engagement is crucial but difficult to address in a remote learning environment. In the asynchronous discussion, teachers shared their experiences and reflected on how to improve their remote teaching practices. But while the discussion was very rich, we found that some teachers were not contributing to the discussion board. To address this problem, peer facilitators were assigned to each group of teachers to open a conversation about the challenges they encountered in accomplishing the training task. The positive relationship between the peer facilitators and teachers improved teachers’ involvement in the training activities.
Authentic e-learning is used in designing the activities to encourage active participation. For example, teachers review and reflect on the course syllabus using a checklist. They also talk with their colleagues about how to improve it before the second semester implementation. During this process, peer mentoring plays a vital role in the improvement of the course materials, with the mentor supporting the teacher in pedagogy and technology use instead of advising a specific action. We believe that teachers should own their innovation.
Since teachers are working from home, technology tools (i.e. Facebook chats and MSU-IIT’s online learning tools) are maximized to support communication and collaboration in order to keep teachers connected. It is evident that peer mentoring promotes a mutual relationship where the focus is on developing the mentee’s growth. Moreover, peer facilitation with small groups of teachers engenders success in accomplishing the assigned tasks.
Holistic and continuous professional development
As a community, we need to make some necessary transformations in our teaching methods to build a healthier and more resilient environment. We are one in exploring new pedagogical approaches for remote teaching and learning. There are no right or wrong approaches at this time, and it is essential to listen to each other’s experience and collectively identify what is best for our students.
Holistic planning, implementation, and evaluation of the BUKA peer facilitators training program is an ongoing process. Teachers will continue to learn and develop their teaching skills as we strive to maintain excellence in teaching and learning using the new modes of delivery.