In some parts of the Turkish Cypriot community in Cyprus, scholars may be easier to come by than air conditioning repairmen.
“Many people have graduate degrees, but in areas for which there is no labor market,” says EDC’s Gustavo Payan of the Turkish Cypriot community. “So there are a lot of highly educated people who are unemployed. That was certainly the case when we were implementing our project a few years back.”
With only 27 percent of students attending vocational and technical schools—well below the average of other nations—and outdated education programs, many employers are left with a tough choice: hire people without skills or don’t hire at all.
EDC is part of a new, expanded effort to improve teacher training in vocational and technical schools in Cyprus. This new program builds on EDC’s successful Workforce Initiative for Skills and Education (WISE) program, which was implemented from 2006–2007.
WISE developed supplemental materials and curricula, trained educators, linked employers and schools, and increased the visibility of technical careers. Well-received by the community, WISE resulted in vocational and technical schools improving their course offerings and an increased interest in these types of careers.
Now, a few years after WISE, other projects seeking to build local capacity have started up. One of these initiatives is Capacity Development Program or CDP, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by World Learning. “EDC was approached by World Learning to be in charge of their teacher training on active learning activities,” says Payan. “This project component is built off of WISE and brings active teaching methods into technical and vocational schools.”
Incorporating elements from WISE, EDC conducted a series of three workshops for 150 teachers from the 11 vocational and technical schools in the Turkish Cypriot community. All of the workshops were co-facilitated by a trainer from the United States and a trainer from Turkey. Each workshop lasted three days, with approximately six hours per day of instructional time. Additional training was provided to a team of teacher trainers.
During the workshops, teachers experienced firsthand the strategies they would be implementing in their own classrooms, such as role-playing, small group work, and brainstorming. By incorporating active learning into the classroom, teachers can engage students and help them develop critical thinking skills, Payan explains.
To measure changes in teachers’ attitudes towards and actual use of active learning strategies in the classroom, an EDC-developed self- assessment tool was administrated to training participants. Called the Teaching Skills Inventory (TSI), this was translated into Turkish to assess the impact of WISE.
Students and teachers alike responded positively to the inclusion of active learning methods in the classroom.
“I changed my style of teaching, which was heavily dependent on lecturing,” one workshop participant wrote. “Each week I used a different teaching strategy. These strategies allowed [my students] to use their experiences and at the same time keep their attention focused on the learning process. I discovered different ways of teaching and creating an environment where students could share their thoughts and enjoy the lesson.”
Originally published on July 16, 2010