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KAA Online at the British International School, Cairo

CPD – A new set of challenges

Aside from their devastating impact on human life, pandemics have historically tended to have other long-term knock-on affects on societies, whether culturally or technologically. The Black Death was a factor that hastened the end of feudal society across Europe, pushing the move towards industrialisation. Widespread cholera outbreaks have led to changes to urban planning around the world and brought innovation to how city infrastructure is built. The Spanish flu of 1918 helped to drive the wide-spread adoption of telephones in North America, a better alternative in the circumstances to face-to-face dialogue, as well as prompted changes to how public transport is organised.

Covid-19 has, unsurprisingly, had a dramatic effect by accelerating a number of trends towards digitalisation that were already in train, such as the move away from linear broadcasting to streaming; an increase in digital, rather than bricks-and-mortar, retail; and a greater reliance on online platforms for communication and content-sharing. As teachers, we have all been aware that good online learning platforms have been the key tool in ensuring consistency of learning for students. We have each trodden our own path through frustrating disconnections, font incompatibilities and the new-found bane of teaching life that is “Zoom-bombing”. And at the end of it all, we will have found tools and approaches that will serve us even once the pandemic is over.

Much the same can be said of professional learning development (PLD) for staff. In these difficult times, being able to give staff access to quality training that is flexible and can be accessed at times convenient for them has been crucial. And Karen Ardley Associates Online has been a godsend for these reasons. The modules are as good as they can be in replicating the experience of working with Karen or one of her associates in person. They combine reflective questioning, educational theory and practical implications with stimulating video links and always encourage participants to apply what they’re learning to their everyday practice.

The staff at my school have really responded to the range of courses we have been able to offer through KAA Online. Some of the most experienced teachers have commented that they have found the online modules really interesting and thought-provoking and have signed up for more as a result. We have been able to engage all staff at the school with certain courses and recently had school receptionists, exam officers and school counsellors joining teachers to complete the coaching module together. Using the platform has helped to bring our school community together during this period where staff are often working in isolated bubbles.

However, what has excited me most has been the opportunities that KAA Online can provide for the future. And now that I have seen what it can do, my plan is to use KAA Online as the major part of our school’s professional learning and development provision long after we have binned our masks, put away the industrial-sized bottles of hand sanitiser and resumed more normal teaching practices.

My approach in introducing the online platform to staff has been to release courses in blocks rather than just signing up staff for the whole lot in one go. This allows us to form communities of people who are completing the courses at the same time and to plan to allow them to apply their learning strategically in the school afterwards. It also means that word-of-mouth has generated excitement and motivated others to sign up. In the future, I plan to do the same; we can offer new staff the courses from prior years and arrange networks between new staff and old to support one another.

Most of all though, we will be using the online resources as part of a blended learning approach to PLD. We’re going to make good use of the facilitated courses to run in-house training which we can personalise specifically for the staff we are working with. At the same time, this will allow us to professionally develop staff who are interested in delivering courses and improve their communication and facilitation skills.

And we will still be making use of Karen and her team in person. During the recent coaching course, we gave participants four weeks to complete the online modules and then followed this up with a one-day online workshop with Karen. As you would expect from Karen, the one-day course was a masterclass in staff training but it was also a fantastic example of how to use distance learning effectively with expert-led learning and then regular intervals of practice for staff to apply their learning in small groups.

This is the way forward for us: flexible online modules that staff can engage with at times that are best for them combined with school-led facilitated sessions and expert-led sessions from Karen and her associates.

For once the pandemic has ended (with a whimper rather than a bang, I suspect) and scientists and epidemiologists are taking stock of lessons learned, we teachers should look to see what tools and approaches we have developed can equip us well going forward. Necessity may be the mother of invention, and for this reason Covid-19 has brought substantial change to the classroom and our pedagogy practice. But it’s our responsibility to think about how we can incorporate these new inventions usefully and creatively once the necessity is no longer bearing down on us.

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About the author

Kathryn Nutbeem

Kathryn Nutbeem

Deputy Head -Teaching and Professional Development, the British International School, Cairo (BISC)
The British International School, Cairo was established in 1976 to serve the educational needs of expatriate children in Cairo. Over time it has built its reputation on the basis of its academic record and the breadth of its educational programmes.
BISC is an IB World School having been accredited to teach the IB Diploma since 1989. It is registered with the Department for Education (DFE) in the United Kingdom, licensed to run its own GCSE examinations, and accredited as a BTEC Centre. It is inspected by The Independent Schools’ Inspectorate (ISI), the organisation that inspects most UK independent schools. BISC is one of the few schools in the world and the only school in Egypt, inspected under the British Schools Overseas scheme, to have been judged as excellent in all aspects.

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