Teacher Capacity Building Part 1: The Control Panel

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In the context of non-formal education (NFE) for displaced students, teachers both volunteer and hired, are usually expected to design their own differentiated lesson plans, assess the varying needs of their students and build a curriculum as they go. This is a lot of work in normal circumstances for trained teachers. So, imagine this scope for inexperienced or undertrained teachers starting from scratch with minimal direction, no official curriculum to follow or overall support to ensure they are doing it correctly.

One teacher described his teaching experience in a refugee camp outside of Athens as:

“It’s like trying to fly a plane in zero visibility without a control panel. You don’t know where you’re going and what you need to do to get there.”

Teaching is hard. But teaching without any support feels almost impossible. Supporting teachers so they can provide the best possible learning opportunities for their students, who have experienced unimaginable loss and a disruption in their learning journey as a result, is at the core of Team Up 2 Teach. Over the last year, we completed extensive field research and identified the major challenges non-formal educators face while trying to support their students who have been forcibly displaced and are now living on the Balkan Peninsula in a constant state of uncertainty. Two of those challenges we chose to address directly with our proposed solution are:

  1. A lack of suitable teaching material for this unique context
  2. A lack of on-going, in-service support for inexperienced teaching staff.

To address these challenges, we built an online collaboration platform designed to crowdsource lesson plans and original teaching materials being created in the field by NGOs and share it with the larger community to co-create content and curricula together. It has a community map, a community events page, and a community forum all intended to help create supportive learning circles across NGOs for their teachers.

The expected value creation for teachers is highly contextualized content that has been informally tested in the field by the community and through this process of collective knowledge share, a supportive peer-to-peer community will emerge and thrive.

However…after 3 months of testing out the platform with teachers in the field to validate our assumptions, we found that although most teachers genuinely liked the idea, very few actually used it. Why?

We realized that our solution hadn’t properly addressed the ‘pain points’ along the journey of the teacher and that of the organization they worked for. By the time the teachers were exposed to our platform, they were too deep into the daily struggles and stresses of teaching in this unique context that they no longer had time to explore what the platform had to offer and remained in isolation trying to do it all alone. It was obvious to us that we needed to take a step back and journey map the experience of the teacher working in this context in order to reveal capacity gaps within the organizations they worked for and identify opportunities for improvement in the process of managing, supporting, and maximizing the most important resource for any NGO providing education support — their teaching staff. In our next post (Part 2), we will share insights on how this process of journey mapping was carried out and what it revealed.

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