Ismail and Siti Fatimah are teachers in Indonesia. They work hard to be good teachers—but they also want to be better ones.
To that end, Ismail attends a weeklong workshop for technology training in the capital of his province. He goes there to learn about computers so he can teach his colleagues.
When he returns to his school, he is excited but not really sure where some of the software he’s learned about will fit in his lessons. The lab where the training was held had so much high-tech equipment; here his school has a computer lab, of course, but scheduling time is difficult, and some of the computers don’t work. No one at the school can help him practice his technology skills or pushes him to use what he’s learned. Plus he has so many students, so many topics to cover, and so much preparation for student exams.
You can probably guess how Ismail’s story ends.
Over time, without pressure, practice, and support, Ismail’s newly minted skills erode. What he did learn remains unapplied or, at best, under-applied. This is probably the most common outcome of this type of computer-based professional development around the globe.
In North Sumatra, Indonesia, Siti Fatimah also attends a computer-based training. In this workshop, which is held at her school, the use of computers is far more modest. She learns to use one computer to help students analyze a short story. The workshop is run by an instructor who is known as “the coach.” Over the next few months, the coach—whose name is Guskander—returns to her school every week. He helps Siti Fatimah figure out collaborative and learner-centered ways to use one laptop with her students.
Together, Siti Fatimah and Guskander co-teach an “open lesson,” which is conducted in front of other teachers. He helps her prepare to do the lesson alone, providing feedback on how she can improve the lesson and working with her to implement these changes.
Though Siti Fatimah’s coach left the school after a few months, she is able to continue the work she started in that program. Because of the support and skills she received, she says, “I am doing learner-centered activities, integrating ICTs in math, social studies, and science.”
Surprisingly, despite these kinds of results, the kind of professional development Siti Fatimah received is virtually nonexistent in most ICT-based teacher professional development programs in developing countries.
Ismail’s training, which is a “train-the-trainer” or “cascade” approach, though almost ubiquitous in developing countries, is not conducive to real teacher learning because of its focus on quantity not quality, says EDC’s Mary Burns.
Burns along with Petra Bodrogini and Winastwan Gora, her Jakarta-based team, are bringing coaching and technology into Indonesian classrooms. The One-Computer Classroom and Coaching Pilot started out small—12 coaches, 92 teachers—working in the context of the Decentralized Basic Education 2 project. DBE 2, as it is known, is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and aims to improve the quality of teaching and learning in Indonesia’s public and private sector primary schools.
Burns and her team set up online instruction for coaches so they could provide face-to-face, school-based coaching for teachers. Coaches learn the coaching cycle in a four-month, online coaching course. As they learn particular coaching techniques, they work in pairs to apply these techniques to help teachers implement four models of a learner-centered activity that uses one computer.
The results are strong: All 92 teachers implemented learner-centered, one-computer activities with their students. The first group of coaches all reported increased confidence in their abilities as coaches and technology skills. These coaching graduates have now become online instructors and mentors to a new batch of coaches-in-training.
“This was a very small pilot—but results are highly encouraging and consistent with what we know about coaching,” says Burns.
In January, the team started a larger pilot involving 48 coaches and approximately 250 teachers, using three coaching models—one is purely online, one is a hybrid, and one is a Web-facilitated model of school-based coaching. The models vary in their levels of online and in-person coaching and use a variety of technologies for support and learning.
For example, in Medan, North Sumatra, the coach uses a webcam to provide live in-class coaching to a teacher, who is nine hours away in a remote village. The teacher, wearing a Bluetooth earphone, asks her coach questions and receives just in time and just as needed in-class coaching and support. And if coaches have Internet access issues, they can now access the online course and all materials over the cellular network via their mobile phones.
The coaching program is highly popular with principals—many of whom have purchased laptops for their schools—with coaches themselves, and with teachers. Siti Fatimah sums up its impact: “Ordinary training is just training. That’s it. There’s no follow up,” she says. “I never know what I lack and need to develop further for improvements. I need to receive feedback for refinements.”
And this coaching program provides just that.
Originally published on June 4, 2010