The quality of teaching in the classroom depends a lot on the work done by the Mauritius Institution of Education (MIE). Those who train teachers are responsible for providing young students with competent and creative people who will always be able to put their skills into question and constantly look for new ways of arousing pupils? interest in what they are learning. These were among the main objectives of the induction workshop on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education held at the end of last month for the new lecturers recruited by the MIE in collaboration with the MOFET Institute.
According to Sheela Thancanamootoo, the acting director of the MIE, the main reason for holding this workshop was to ?equip newly recruited teacher educators with the required professional outlook and skills required to work in a teacher education institution?. The idea behind this practical and interactive workshop was also to ?create an environment, which allows their individuality to unfold and optimise the experience they have accumulated from their different social backgrounds?. Thanks to their experience in the field, the future teachers will be able to build their own skills and methods to go back into their classrooms afterwards.
The minister of Education, Dharam Gokhool, who launched the workshop, declared: ?Teaching adult learners is challenging but educating teachers is twice as difficult. You will have to demonstrate and prove your skills as a teacher yourself, practising the pedagogies that you advocate while, at the same time, surmounting resistance, which is often entrenched in a static perception of teaching and learning. You will need to become models of innovation, good practice and professionalism.?
For the acting director, the recruitment at the MIE appears as a crucial issue for the pedagogical institution, as ?constant institutional regeneration provided by fresh outlook and perspective of new recruits is expected to give a new impulse to our programmes?.
Dharam Gokhool made it clear that the principle of this workshop ?espoused the philosophy for continuous professional development of teachers and administrators?. Today, teachers can?t rely only on their specific degree or diploma; they have to be given specific skills and methods to deal with their students ? whether adult learners or pupils.
This is why the induction programme does not consist merely of a two-day workshop at the MIE but ?spans over a period of a year and will fully involve at a first stage a number of senior academic staff acting as mentors and functioning with a wider structure of learning and support groups. Our newly recruited staff will be required to engage in diverse activities like observation of classroom practices both at the MIE and in schools, diary keeping, constant discussion and familiarisation with different aspects of the institution?s functioning through half-day in house seminars,? Sheela Thancanamootoo pointed out.
As a matter of fact, MIE lecturers will not be able to define the needs and objectives of teaching in schools if they are not in contact with field realities. This is the best way of making them more effective in training teachers. ?The growing concerns about the quality of education have increased attention to the teacher?s effectiveness. Teachers and teacher educators cannot afford to experience long periods of trial and error because the expectations are pitched at a high level. We have to adopt the fast track and always be on the move in quest of new knowledge. And back our teaching with research,? minister Gokhool insisted.
This is one of the main reasons why he announced that he was ?making compulsory a teacher?s licence for all those who aspire to join the teaching profession?. Continuous professional development is crucial in the teaching profession, as it is the only guarantee that pupils will benefit from the best teaching methods at the end of the day and reach quality education.
Drawing from the MOFET Institute
■ The partnership with the MOFET Institute of Tel Aviv added an international dimension to the induction programme and enabled participants to be aware of the common expectations placed upon teachers worldwide. The two expert trainers, Dr Raichel and Dr Kleeman, assisted participants by demonstrating those pedagogical practices which are more effective with adult learners. To do this, they made use of their experience in the induction, training and continuous professional development of teacher educators. But, most importantly, they set the newly recruited teacher educators on the path of reflective practice. The hands-on activities provided them with a toolkit to function as teacher educators. Moreover, participants can now use the online services provided by MOFET which is a portal for teacher educators around the world. The MOFET Institute is the consortium of Israel?s 43 colleges of education, and the only institution in the world providing such services.
Vikash Baichoo, new MIE recruit
Why did you choose to become a teacher educator?
I started lecturing on a part-time basis last semester and really enjoyed the interaction with my students after having been employed as an educational psychologist at the ministry of Education since 2002. But I started lecturing partly because I realised I had an innate desire to teach and partly because I could share my field experiences with my students, who were mostly trainee teachers & University of Mauritius students. So when a post of lecturer opened up at the MIE, I gave it a shot and when I received the offer I was both delighted and surprised. The offer was too tempting to refuse and I decided to go for it. I previously studied for a BA in Psychology at St-Cloud State University in Minnesota, USA and an MA in Psychology of Education from the Institute of Education, University of London.
What have you learned from the recent workshop at the MIE?
The workshop made me see my role as lecturer as a key player in teacher training. The gist of the training was that there are crucial differences between adult leaning and child learning. When you teach adults you have to meet them half-way because as adults they bring their own unique grown-up experiences to class. Therefore our role of teacher educator should be to facilitate the sharing of experiences through structured and unstructured exercises.
To put this in perspective let us consider how each teacher comes to class in a state of mind that will depend on his/her earlier experiences in the morning. One exercise consists in showing them images and asking them to relate their feelings towards those images, which is an indirect way of getting to know their thoughts. The effectiveness of those exercises lies in their capacity to elicit meaningful interchanges between trainers and teachers about their experience, be it a morning experience before class, how they see themselves, what qualities they can improve on and how they see their role as teacher.
I also learned that, because teachers come from different backgrounds, trainers should get to know their backgrounds in depth in order to best accommodate their training needs. Another important thing I learned is that because trainee teachers are generally apprehensive of school at first, training should be geared to make the process of transition to schools as smooth as possible. Dr Raichel and Dr Kleeman trained us in a totally new perspective on teacher training and this could not have occurred at a better time than at the beginning of my career at the MIE.
What are the main challenges awaiting you, as a teacher educator?
The main challenge facing us teacher trainers is to successfully prepare teachers to teach in this information age where technology has a major impact on our youth and consequently their families, schools and the community.
Do you feel ready to face them?
My educational career has been rife with joys and challenges. I had to work, study and adapt in Minnesota, a state which has Siberian winters and a culture totally foreign to ours. Living in London has made me more resilient. I have gained much insight from field duties and I am familiar with school problems in Port-Louis and the North. Teacher training is a new challenge but, with the training we received, my past experience and my love of teaching, I am ready to face it.