The Future of Unconventional Learning: Qudwa 2019 Presentation

Avid visitors to our website might have caught our recent participation in the exciting Qudwa 2019 Forum and be aware that our own Senior Vice President Dr Linda Rush was invited to give a presentation during the event. It was a real honour to join the ranks of educational enthusiasts from around the UAE in an effort to address and resolve issues related to global teaching competencies. The collaboration of experts and decision-makers was a unique opportunity to achieve real results and foster productive future-ready change. As part of our on-going contribution to that effort, we wanted to share with you some of the insights Dr Rush shared with attendees so that it can enhance further conversations about the options and innovations that lay ahead of us.

Conventional Limitations

The knowledge piece presented surrounding the topic of ‘partnership learning’ and how making the unconventional conventional can have far reaching impacts on global teacher development.   It began by sharing how the TELLAL Institute has begun to narrow in on the re-imagination of traditional partnership practices, especially when they are found to restrict flexibility in terms of learning methodologies and teacher development. Many historically acceptable methods, structures and processes have remained unchanged in a society that has evolved in leaps and bounds. Traditional concepts of teaching practices and educational leadership are becoming harder and harder to apply appropriately to the realities of student needs in our modern society. It is vital that we allow for the possibility that new horizons in educational norms could provide innovative developments that will benefit our schools, our teachers and our students in a myriad of ways.   Dr Rush laid out the framework for how the organization has embraced the lessons of international institutions, both within and outside the educational sphere, that demonstrate the exponential benefits of more open, inclusive and collaborative ways of working.

Crucial Collaboration

Sadly, far too many blocks continue to challenge the facilitation of successful collaboration, much to the detriment of everyone involved, but there are key ways in which organisations can incorporate the necessary steps to improve their overall environments and productivity. The first element is to understand what successful collaboration should look like. Research shows us that for collaboration to be effective it needs the following elements:

  • Ownership – Clear leadership at all levels
  • Contextualisation – Explicit understanding by all those involved of its rationale, role and purpose
  • Contestation – Debate and opposition are encouraged
  • Conversation as enquiry – Structured time and space and processes for sustained ‘conversations’ need to be created
  • Professional Development – Roles and capacity or disposition(s) in collaborative inquiry need to be systematically developed

To further ensure the right ingredients for effective collaboration, you also need ‘enlightened individuals’ more than ‘pragmatic individuals’; the type of people who prioritise dialogue, engagement and openness.   Through them you are more likely to foster an atmosphere in which relationships between team members are more conducive to integration, communication and co-ownership of responsibilities, even they supersede job descriptions.   Rush and Diamond (2012) lauded this as one of the most efficient states, one in which “individuals are not limited by rules or accepted ways of doing things, assume a shared responsibility, listen attentively”.

Partnership Learning

A way to increase our collaborative efforts is through adopting more inclusive teacher education partnership practices that focus on the process of learning while keeping the role of reflection and reciprocity a central tenet. That is what partnership learning is.

Partnership Learning, is informed by a distinct pedagogy, involving intra-professional learning (e.g. academics, teachers, experts and students) across boundaries in the field of teacher education. This pedagogy “is fundamentally opposed to any view that involves a simple, nicely portioned transfer of knowledge: it foregrounds the human learner as the active and autonomous maker of knowledge.” (Pokerson, 2005, p. 472).

Partnership learning allows us to develop our understanding of more relational and transformative models of learning, as well as the concept of how we learn. It further offers the chance to integrate traditional academic skills with the learning dispositions, values and attitudes necessary to meet the demands of a global, networked society. As such there is a compromise of learning strategies in the following ways:

  • Profound reflection – producing personal meaning i.e. reflection that generates new ideas, strategies and personal theories; ‘analysing’ talk; ‘evaluative’ talk; ‘creative’ talk related to producing new ideas and solutions
  • Intentional learning – involving agency and choice
  • Collaboration – intra-professional
  • Temporal connectivity – where a person will change and learn over time and in different contexts
  • Lateral connectivity – where a person will learn more from the cultures and people around them and the interactions of their learning relationships

A Future Thinking Framework

At TELLAL this type of conceptual thinking has led to our Global Quality Assurance and Enhancement Framework which includes the following:

Four Key Principles

  1. Sense of place – The TELLAL approach is to value and be responsive to local needs and local provision both to ensure genuine collaboration and to promote the concept of sustainability of the workforce so that local schools are not reliant on external, mobile professionals who jet in, jet out (JIJO)
  2. State of readiness – The TELLAL approach is to value and be responsive to local needs and local provision which is sensitive to, respectful and supportive of the experiences, networks and key individuals who are actively engaged in developing their vision, their aspirations of how they can best meet the needs of children and learners. And, therefore, the scale and pace of innovation will need to reflect the prevailing organizational, professional and logistical capacities
  3. Willingness to collaborate – In the context of consultative and collaborative partnerships, informed by negotiation and reflection, strong relationships between all key stakeholders are promoted. This approach offers a greater sense of the purpose of school based practice and the possible consequences in developing and refining it. In this context, ‘joint practice development’ (JPD), as opposed to ‘sharing good practice’ (SGP), is foregrounded. This willingness to collaborate will demand a particular quality of communication in which individuals are encouraged to be reflective; dialogic; engaged; confident; reciprocal; conceptually driven; progressive; and professional. A willingness to collaborate will also demand particular attention to the use of technology and the way in which its use is modelled.
  4. Learning with understanding – The TELLAL approach to teacher training promotes key learning to learn (L2L) dispositions in which key behaviors are promoted: self-reflective; self-resourcing; self-organizing; self-managing and having the ability to give and receive feedback.

These four principles are underpinned by three dimensions, which connect quality assurance and governance:

  1. Accountability – Strategic Lead and team are responsible and accountable for managing the efficient and effective implementation of QA and Governance Framework in their local context
  2. Professional Autonomy – Within their local context, strategic lead and team are encouraged to: self-organise; self-manage; and self-determine, their own strategic, tactical and operational approach to QA and Governance Framework
  3. Trust – The bridge that connects accountability and autonomy is trust. Through open and honest dialogue, the development of receptivity and a shared understanding, trust-based relationships are foregrounded and grown, which, in turn, allow experimentation, innovation and shared learning (joint-practice development) to emerge

If you would like to get share your insights on how to develop teaching methodologies for our students and the future they will face, we would love to hear from you. We remain totally committed to sharing, communicating and researching all avenues by which we can make positive impacts on our educational system. Feel free to get in touch via email info@tellalinstitute.com or call us on 04 403 5146, or via one of our social media channels, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin.

Katie Hart
Manager – Teacher Leadership
The Future of Unconventional Learning: Qudwa 2019 Presentation
Katie joined TELLAL from her position as Vice Principal at GEMS Wellington Academy, Silicon Oasis, and in 2013, was awarded the prestigious GEMS Core Values Award.
The Future of Unconventional Learning: Qudwa 2019 Presentation
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