Read answers to some of the most common questions about this teacher training approach.
What are the main characteristics of the teacher training approach?
We build a group of skilled and confident principal trainers who can train other teachers and make improvements to the training throughout. Together we create contextually relevant training materials and promote a teacher training approach that prioritises practice over theory and encourages collaboration. We also ensure that in-service teacher training is linked closely to and/or influences sustained change in pre-service training.
Why was a different approach needed?
There were many reasons, including: Cascade training has not routinely provided teachers with high-quality learning opportunities. The rapid nature of cascade approaches means trainees often have little chance to observe, discuss, or try out inclusive practices in a real-world situation. ‘Master trainers’ who deliver cascade training struggle to stay one step ahead of their trainees as they don’t have much opportunity to understand the subject from a practical perspective before they teach it. In addition, the manuals and materials aren’t ‘owned’ by the trainers who will use them but belong to the consultant and client.
How does the approach ensure that trainers are competent and confident with rolling out inclusive education training and with adapting the training to match evolving needs?
We carefully select the right principal trainers who are committed and competent and can work independently and innovatively. These trainers will already have some relevant interest, experience, and skills, along with responsibility for training, advising, or managing teachers. We give the trainers lots of support, including but not limited to workshops at which they learn about the subjects they will be training teachers on. Principal trainers also have many opportunities to practise facilitating learner-centred activities, especially during these workshops. When they start training teachers, they are encouraged to work together and document their training so that experience, advice, and ideas can be shared.
How does the approach develop contextually relevant and locally owned training courses?
Changes are made to the training module in various ways. Principal trainers practise the activities so that they can highlight anything that doesn’t make sense, adapt the activities, and make them more relevant to their situation. They record their ideas and adaptions to spread creativity. They should also record teachers’ feedback so they can suggest further improvements to the training modules. Changes made this way include: improving the clarity and relevance of the messages, changing the nature of activities and games, and using locally relevant facts, figures and case studies.
How does the approach enable teachers to develop practical inclusion skills?
We ensure that the teachers and trainers are actively involved in critiquing and improving the training modules, documenting their training sessions so they can share experiences and ideas with other trainers, and carrying out action research activities in between the training-of-trainers workshops. The module content builds the complexity over time, and all modules contain learner-centred activities that require teachers to reflect on their own lives and experiences – encouraging them to involve themselves more in the inclusion process.
How does our approach promote collaboration in inclusive education?
Principal trainers, the external training-of-training facilitator, and the implementing partners work together during the development and adaptation of the modules. Principal trainers work in pairs and teams to train teachers, meaning they benefit from support and each other’s experiences and ideas. The modules then help teachers develop collaborative ways of working in their schools.
How does our approach ensure that in-service teacher training is closely linked to and/or influences sustained change in pre-service training?
The selected principal trainers always include at least some trainers/tutors from teacher training colleges or universities. They have experience to share with the group and a good understanding of the local and national training and teacher context. These experienced trainers usually also take inclusive education messages back to their institutions. In some contexts they are now actively changing their college curricula to embed the inclusive education modules.
Does it take longer than other teacher training approaches?
Yes, but this is because our approach prioritises development of high-quality trainers; creation of training materials that are co-developed and owned by local trainers; treatment of teachers as adult learners rather than programmable machines; and respect for the teachers’ need to learn new ideas and practices in a gradual, cumulative, and sensitive way. Many inclusive education programmes aim to work quickly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be good quality; so we take longer to ensure the training is the best that it can be.
How long does it take?
In an ideal situation, for in-service training we might hope to roll out all the modules in 2-3 years. We started with 11 modules in Zambia and Zanzibar. In the recent ‘Together for Inclusion’ projects in Uganda, Somalia, and Mozambique the training has been condensed into 7 modules. Principal trainers need to learn about, help to adapt, and deliver 3 or 4 modules per year. However, this depends on many local variables, such as government rules on the timing and frequency of in-service training courses, and the availability of principal trainers. When delivering the modules in pre-service institutions to trainee teachers, the modules could be delivered intensively in around 5 weeks.
Does it cost more than other teacher training approaches?
Not necessarily. The main difference is likely to be in the reach and sustainability. The approach reaches fewer schools than many other training programmes but leaves teachers with a more solid understanding of all the content they have been taught – making the potential for longer-term and sustained change in schools greater.
Do we have to pay the trainers?
We do not pay a wage or consultancy fee to the principal trainers because they are already working in jobs that support, train, and/or manage teachers. They already have salaries and a mandate to spend time working with teachers. However, you may need to pay an external facilitator to oversee the whole process, and cover operational costs such as travel, subsistence costs for trainers/teachers, and the cost of venues and workshop materials.
Do we have to adapt the modules to our own country’s context?
The core content and pedagogy of the modules have been developed through many years of experience in multiple countries, so they should ‘work’ in most contexts. However, the more relevant the training messages, case studies and activities are, the greater the chance that teachers will accept and internalise them. This means adapting the training materials isn’t just about the end product, it’s also about the process. Playing a role in designing the training helps principal trainers to take on board the messages and methods better.
How many trainers and teachers are reached?
Because the approach focuses more on quality than quantity, we ensure we find trainers that are suitable for the job rather than choosing unsuitable people just to increase the numbers quickly. In the initial pilot stage, 232 teachers were trained in service in Zambia, and 170 in Zanzibar. But the principal trainers then had the skills to support further in-service training and to begin the process of revising their pre-service training curricula.
What topics are covered by the modules?
The recently condensed set of 7 modules cover the following:
Module 1: Introduction to inclusive education
Module 2: School inclusion teams and the role of the school inclusive education coordinator
Module 3: Identifying out-of-school learners and supporting education transitions
Module 4: Screening and identification of learning needs
Module 5: Creating individual education plans and making teaching and learning aids from locally available resources
Module 6: Promoting active learning in the classroom
Module 7: Developing learner participation
You will find the same content (just a bit more of it) in the original set of 11 modules from Zambia.
What training is received by other actors, beyond principal trainers and teachers?
Integral to the teacher training process is the role of ‘observers’ – relevant stakeholders in the education system (e.g., school inspectors). They help improve teacher training by offering a critically constructive perspective to add to the trainers’/teachers’ own reflections. They do not act as inspectors or assess the teachers. They visit schools to observe what is happening and document and feed back to the external facilitator about possible improvements to the training materials (which may have been spoken about in meetings).
Screening, identification, and assessment are often seen as high priority topics in teacher training on inclusive education. How does our approach address this?
These topics are specifically covered in Module 4, although they may be touched on in other modules. This is because although it is a priority topic, it doesn’t automatically have to come first. In contrast to popular belief, we feel that if a topic is high priority then it’s vital we support teachers to understand it properly – meaning it may take longer.
How do our modules build accumulative layers of learning for teachers?
When starting out, many teachers have no experience of inclusion, so the introductory module helps them to get a basic understanding. If Module 1 is facilitated well, it can inspire interest and enthusiasm from the teachers to get stuck into further modules. Module 2 is about school inclusion teams and inclusive education co-ordinators, helping teachers to understand early on the importance of collaboration and not dealing with new challenges on their own. In Module 3 teachers earn in an active way about out-of-school children and educational transitions, so they can dig more deeply into the idea of barriers to inclusion. Module 4 helps teachers understand and know how to respond to learners’ functional strengths and weaknesses, and where to go for more specialist advice and help. Modules 5, 6 and 7 then offer more specific advice that will be easier for them to learn after having built solid foundations from the first 4 modules.
Is it risky to relinquish control and let trainers make changes to the training modules?
We believe it’s very important for trainers and teachers to play an active role in developing and adapting the training modules because problem-solving and experimentation are key characteristics of good quality education and internalising information. We argue that it is risky NOT to let principal trainers have some control over the training as they have contextual knowledge and know the teachers, so can make small but consistent updates and improvements to their work. Our approach does not just train teachers, it also supports them and their trainers to co-develop the training.