We calculate the age of trees by counting their rings, and similarly you can often see a teacher’s length of service through the number of ring-binders from training sessions on the shelf behind them. Monuments to often temporary learning during balmy INSET days and snatched free afternoons.
Of the over 3.5 million learners who have studied with FutureLearn, we know that teachers are among the largest groups who do so for continuing personal/professional development. We love this because we love teachers. Every day thousands of teachers and educators are accessing free high-quality courses to improve their subject knowledge and their knowledge of teaching and learning. They are having conversations with other teachers around the world as well as students, parents and subject experts.
Online courses can help teachers help others
A few years ago, Professor Diana Laurillard asked the question ‘what is the problem for which MOOCs are the solution?’ She sadly, but entirely correctly, noted that learning platforms were largely not suitable for providing the millions of school education places needed in the developing world, and often didn’t meet the needs of even undergraduate students. But, they could be impactful through providing high-quality development to teachers.
This is where FutureLearn can help. Maybe you’re a teacher interested in exploring how film can help promote literacy. Or finding out how to do animation. Or maybe you need to brush up on Othello, World War I or power generation. While we strive to provide courses specially focusing on teaching, every single course we add from our partners around the world can provide value to educators.
But making lots of courses available isn’t enough; there are already hundreds of free learning opportunities out there, and teachers’ shelves are already filled with ring-binders, yet often they still lack effective development opportunities. What can we do better? There is plenty of research into what makes effective CPD for teachers – all we have to do is listen to it.
Online courses must fit into teacher’s timetables
One key finding from this research is that CPD should be longitudinal. It should last longer than an afternoon, should have a “rhythm”, and it should acknowledge that teachers need time to experiment with what they’ve learnt and then to reflect on their discoveries. We can help with this at FutureLearn by working with our partners to schedule courses at sensible times through the year so that teachers can design their own programme of development. Some courses go further in adopting this, such as Blended Learning Essentials from University of Leeds which is split into two parts to allow time for experimentation (“Getting Started” and “Embedding Practice”).
All of our courses are accessible from the moment they start, to the moment learners choose to stop – many courses see communities of practice forming, with participants continuing conversations and reporting back months after the course “ended”.
This collaboration is key. Encouraging conversation – whether it be in the margins of a course with another teacher 9000 miles away, or with teachers from across subjects in the staff room – can be tremendously powerful when that conversation is focused on the shared goal of improving learning.
Most of all however, development is not for vanity. It is not for dictating best practice, or airdropping in resources and lessons, it is for improving access and outcomes in education of our children. It should focus on techniques that research has shown to be effective, like Assessment for Learning; should enable outstanding learning; meet the needs of all learners; and help everyone access learning.
So, in short – FutureLearn loves teachers because we love learning. Teachers are some of our greatest advocates for sharing learning and so we endeavour to pay that back everyday.
If you’re a teacher and you’re looking for a course to help you, have a look at our teaching and studying category.