Brock helps to enhance skills of Caribbean educators

Brock faculty and staff recently ran online professional development initiatives for educators, teaching assistants and officials from the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ministry of Education.

The project builds on the Canada-Caribbean Institute’s mission to contribute to the quality of life of people in Canada and the Caribbean by facilitating capacity-building and mentorship opportunities.

The two initiatives were pilots for a larger training project that will take place with 100 educators in St. Vincent next spring.

“Supporting teacher capacity building is at the core of the Faculty of Education mission, whether those teachers are in Ontario or in the Caribbean,” said Camille Rutherford, Vice-Provost, Strategic Partnerships and International and Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education.

Twenty-five teachers and seven officials worked with a team led by Rutherford from Sept. 20 to 24. These sessions focused on student assessment, differentiated instruction, 21st century skills and online or blended classrooms.

“The program was designed to improve the skill and ability of participating teachers to create engaging, student-centred learning experiences that foster the development of 21st century skills while differentiating instruction and utilizing formative assessment,” said Rutherford.

She hopes that improved student-centred learning experiences will result in enhanced student achievement.

Sheila Bennett, Professor in Brock’s Faculty of Education, also led a team, this time conducting sessions for 27 special needs teachers and teaching assistants from Sept. 20 to 22. These sessions aimed to develop the educators’ capacity to develop Individual Education Plans (IEPs) that address both behaviour management and learning.

“We hope to work collaboratively to build practices related to special education,” said Bennett. “Our goal is to get to know our partners and work with them on establishing what their needs are and supporting them to improve practice.” Her team also hopes to find ways to provide support materials to parents through school communities.

Each group participated in synchronous workshops using Microsoft Teams and had access to Brightspace, a learning management system (LMS) offered by software company D2L. Using both tools was critical to the success of the project as teams were able to use a flipped learning approach, meaning participants could review the material at their own pace before participating in synchronous sessions.

Gaining more experience with an LMS also helps to support the ongoing professional development of the educators as they adapt to online and blended learning environments.

“We greatly appreciated the support we received from D2L. They understood the significant challenges educators in St. Vincent have faced in the past 20 months with COVID-19 lockdowns and the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano,” said Rutherford. “D2L wanted to help by generously donating the use of their Brightspace LMS to facilitate the ongoing professional growth of teachers in St. Vincent.”

The educators from St. Vincent will have access to resources created for the project through the LMS for a year and will continue to participate in online sessions and mentoring until June 2022.

“Many of the resources developed for this program can be modified to support teacher professional development elsewhere,” said Rutherford. Canadian and Caribbean educators have faced many similar challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, for example.

Being a part of these professional development programs gave the facilitators an opportunity to expand their own knowledge and skills and to build their learning communities.

“All of the team members were excited to participate.  It allowed us to learn about other perspectives and experiences in teaching,” said Bennett.

Faculty of Education faculty and staff also involved in the project include Professor Tiffany Gallagher; Assistant Professor Monique Somma; Sessional Instructor Margo Shuttleworth; and Graduate Student Support Co-ordinator and project co-ordinator Cecilia Garcia Vega.

The project team also included Sheliza Ibrahim, former LTA with the Faculty; Keri Ewart, a former sessional instructor with the Faculty; Rhonda Blackman-Smith, an educator and curriculum specialist from Barbados; and John Freer, Professor at St. Clair College and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education and Department of Psychology at the University of Windsor.

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