Sharing knowledge and challenging the status quo

Member insights from J-WEL Week 2024

MIT Open Learning
MIT Open Learning
4 min readJun 14, 2024

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A group of people sitting at tables in a room.
J-WEL Week attendees listen to presentations from members sharing key insights from either their work with J-WEL, or work related to generative AI in education. Photo: Veera Panova

By Carolyn Tiernan

The MIT Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL) at Open Learning has a member network of universities and foundations committed to education innovation, transformation of learning, and sharing knowledge. Members benefit from the connections to the MIT community at large, but they are also eager to learn and share actionable insights from each other.

At J-WEL Week 2024, the lab’s flagship in-person event, four members opened the week by sharing insights from work or projects where J-WEL has been a collaborator. Themes of knowledge sharing, expanding educational access, and challenging the status quo emerged throughout all six presentations.

Breaking down communication barriers at UCV is foundational to achieving broader organizational goals

Joel Acuña Zavaleta, director of the Center for Scientific and Cultural Dissemination at César Vallejo University (UCV) in Peru, shared takeaways from a workshop J-WEL delivered on their campus in March 2024. UCV, a relatively young university, experienced extensive growth in the 1990s and now serves nearly 200,000 students. Their central challenge was how to organize such a large institution and design the curriculum to support entrepreneurial education, which the university believes is crucial for their graduates to succeed.

J-WEL collaborated with UCV to host a workshop focused on fostering an entrepreneurial mindset among faculty that connected problem formulation, futuring, vision, and action. The goal was to equip UCV’s leaders with the tools needed to develop an entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem for their students. Leaders and faculty of all levels across the university were included to encourage teamwork and break down barriers. Acuña shared that the university’s two biggest takeaways from the workshop were the importance of improving communications between the different departments in order to be more nimble and respond to opportunities faster; and learning how to ‘fail with style’ to foster learning and rapid experimentation.

Building support systems helps Wadah Foundation bridge the gap as students journey between education and the workforce

Indonesia-based Wadah Foundation works primarily with marginalized communities isolated from the more developed areas of the country. Supervisory Board member Indra Djojohadikusumo spoke about several pilot programs launched in the last year via the Wadah Universal Education Initiative, a platform of educational programs that teach technical and soft skills and increase exposure to a variety of work experiences. “A lot of these programs from the Universal Education Initiative were inspired by our visit [to J-WEL Week] last year and talking about architectures of learning,” said Djojohadikusumo. “We were thinking about spaces, and how physical spaces can move out into the community. And not only from schools but into families.”

One notable example shared was an internship program Wadah facilitated between the Raffles Hotel in Bali and a tourism vocational high school in the North Maluku islands. Wadah created educational programs to prepare the students mentally and emotionally for this opportunity, when many of them had never left their community. Wadah is now assessing the curriculum and determining whether to replicate this program in other areas.

Evidence-based learning practices benefit all types of educators at UNAM

Maura Pompa Mansilla, TITLE in the Coordination of Assessment, Innovation, and Educational Development (CEIDE) at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), shared the outcomes of attending J-WEL’s 2023 course design workshop series. UNAM is the largest university in Mexico, serving over 370,000 students and 42,000 faculty members. In her role, Pompa works to spread knowledge and professional development among the UNAM faculty.

Since 2016, the CEIDE team has delivered an evidence-based education course that empowers faculty to reflect on how they make their educational decisions, encouraging them to use research-based methods. As a result of the workshop series, the team updated and redesigned the course, expanding it into a longer certificate program for UNAM faculty. They also adapted it into a MOOC that has had over 1,700 enrollments since launching in April 2024. From this experience, the CEIDE team learned that they can help faculty bridge the gap between research and practice, and demonstrate that understanding how to consume research can improve their teaching practices and decision making.

Leveraging ecosystems is key to the success of Ejada

Itaf AlAwawdeh, program director for Ejada, shared the key learnings from the five-year joint initiative between J-WEL and Save the Children Jordan. With the goal of supporting children in conflict-affected situations, including Syrian refugees, Ejada works to create sustainable solutions that support teachers. “We need to invest in the capacity of teachers, and their well-being, to be able to reach those most marginalized: children in schools,” said AlAwawdeah.

Ejada was the first organization in Jordan to study teacher well-being, engaging over 5,000 teachers in a holistic study examining metrics like physical, financial, social, emotional, and environmental health. Ejada worked with the Jordanian Ministry of Education — with input from teachers themselves — to design courses that provided the social and emotional support needed to drive the desired learning outcomes and experiences for teachers.

A randomized control study showed that these courses positively impacted teachers. AlAwawdeh noted that a key learning from this initiative is the importance of engaging an entire ecosystem to address a problem — Ejada engaged higher education, nonprofits, and governments, which contributed to its success. The Jordanian Ministry of Education will carry forward Ejada’s work.

Thanks to members sharing their work in a collaborative way — including the wins and the challenges — the entire J-WEL member network benefits from key insights learned and knowledge shared. Read more about attendees takeaways from J-WEL Week 2024.

Originally published at https://jconnector.mit.edu. Part of MIT Open Learning, the Jameel World Education Lab enables research and outreach with faculty from across MIT, 17 member institutions, and educational innovators worldwide to transform learning at scale.

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