SAIIER 2016:Supportive Learning Teacher Training

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Teachers' Center
SAIIER Annual Report 2015-16 icon.jpg




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The Learning Community
Supportive Learning Teacher Training
A project of the Teachers' Center


Introduction

In 2015, the Teachers' Center coordinated a series of sessions on supportive learning and special needs over the year. A Consortium For Special Needs with facilitators, parents and educators was subsequently formed. A suggestion emerged to create a teacher training programme for Auroville teachers.

In 2016, the course on foundations for supportive learning began with facilitators Stacy, Marion and Maya; and guest facilitators Angelika from Deepam, Heidi Watts and Marie Francoise.

Description of project

The Supportive Learning teacher training course aimed at developing teachers’ and parents’ skills and terminology related to 'developmental delays' in early childhood and later 'learning disabilities'. The course also aimed at developing participants' observation skills and report writing for improved transdisciplinary communication. Tools such and descriptive review, case studies, developmental screenings and the Individualized Education Program (IEP) were introduced to participants.

16 participants applied for the course; 13 participants from schools in Auroville were accepted to participate in the training course. 11 were teachers from Auroville schools (Kindergarten, Nandanam, Deepanam, Transition and TLC). 1 was a student from Last School, and 1 a parent with an interest in the subject.

The participants were given training materials:

  1. Enhancing your Child’s Development by Sonja Witthous
  2. How the Special Needs Brain Learns by David A. Sousa

These manuals were the foundation for the first half of the course. Self-study groups and school supervision enhanced the framework.

For the second half of the the course, participants applied their observation skills in their respective schools. To the training group they each presented individual case studies of children with special needs, with realistic recommendations for family, child and school.

Book resources, Montessori tools for activity analysis, and therapeutic tools were also introduced during the course, which enriched the course process.

Outcomes

Feedback from a parent who received the Supportive Learning service at TLC this year:

“We have been working through the IEP with our son for the past year and a half.
I find it a very thorough and clear tool to engage facilitators and parents in a concise and focussed manner. By periodically revising the content of the IEP we are able to reevaluate goals, check progress and reassess future objectives.
I find the tool particularly useful as it incorporates goals and process in both the home and school contexts and creates a platform for assessment which enables both parents and teachers to input and share experiences.”

Feedback from a student from Last School who attended the theory section of the course:

“Thank you for this wonderful learning opportunity I was offered during this course. I am grateful for the way the information was organised and easy to understand. I will certainly use the books again to look back at specific topics, especially when they will be relevant to individuals around me. I feel disappointed in myself for not having invested myself in the course as much as I had decided I would, however I am certain I will get other chances to develop my capacity to help people in need. During this workshop I was rather caught up with school and other concerns, but I felt as though it opened a door towards the direction of being of service. This is indeed a direction I am aiming for in my future, and I sincerely thank Stacy, Maya and Marion for helping me through a step that made this clearer to me. This course also provided me with tools to help me do so. Thank you for offering something I believe in.”

Reflections

Recommendations on improving the course, from participants and facilitators:

  • Revise the 'Foundations 1' course materials – deepen the information and move forward with more practical sessions in context.
  • Relate the process-related and topic-specific work more to personal experience (within the school).
  • Learn with case studies which follow the actual progress of a child, how he was handled, etc.
  • Have more practical materials like the Montessori materials presented by Maya.
  • Have more specific materials which have proved to work, such a Fantastic Phonics.
  • The pace of the course was too fast… this was felt by both students and facilitators. Next year should have fewer sessions and more depth.
  • More practical involvement would be appreciated by the facilitators who do not work directly in supportive learning in their respective schools.
  • Have more visuals and videos plus school visits (Deepam).
  • Give an opportunity to work with other participants who have other skills.
  • Offer more information and exploration on materials for older children with difficulties.
  • Focus more on how to involve parents and work with them generally.
  • Address how to work with children when there is no parental support.
  • Include child handling skill in context.
  • Expand on the role of supportive learning teachers as bridges between home, school and other agencies.
  • There was a discussion of the need for information on children who are passed from school to school and class to class; and how the case study and IEP are essential in this process.
  • All felt that the course opened up awareness and gave participants more confidence in dealing with children with learning difficulties or families in need of support.

Recommendations from Jyoti, Stacy and Marion:

  • Create a Support Space, a room dedicated to childhood therapeutics in one of the Auroville kindergartens for children with “needs” - be it developmental delays, learning disabilities, or families in difficulty, where the necessary support can be provided and compliment the schooling services.

Future direction

We will be offering a follow-up course, “Foundations in Supportive Learning Part 2”, with 11 participants from July 2016 - May 2017 in monthly sessions. Marion and Stacy will also be offering support to teachers, parents and students. We also see the need for a parent support group to be formed.

Nandanam and Aikiyam School had the most participants interested in this course and committed to the course and the process; they with TLC are actively implementing support strategies in their schools. Representation from Udavi School and Aha Kindergarten, and participation of ATB facilitators, would be beneficial for a unified approach in Early Supportive Learning. The goal is for the schools to create a more collaborative network of handover and support for the child and for the teachers who receive the child.