Quality in Lower Secondary Teaching in Iceland
A professional development programme for teachers in Iceland enables teachers to reflect on their own practice.
A two-day workshop was held online. Photo: Birna Svanbjörnsdóttir.
Developing teaching practice
Linking Instruction and Student Achievement in Nordic Schools (LISA Nordic) is the largest data collection of its kind in Northern Europe, drawing on videotaped lessons from more than 150 different classrooms in all five Nordic countries
Since its launch in August, the Icelandic Professional Development Programme, Quality in Lower Secondary Teaching, has arranged regular meetings for participating teachers together with researcher as well as in smaller groups. As a tool for reflecting on own practice, the teachers have watched video recordings from the LISA Nordic project, a large-scale video study investigating teaching quality.
Quality in Adolescent Teaching builds on the VIST project design, a Norwegian professional development project for teachers that grew out of the LISA Nordic project.
Video to support excellence in teaching (VIST) is an innovative, practice-based professional development effort, where secondary school teachers’ classroom practices are video recorded, analysed and discussed in close collaboration between practitioners and VIST-mentors.
VIST project records authentic classroom episodes and then uses a systematic way of analysing these clips, such as using the PLATO observation manual in order to provide a common language to discuss and evaluate teaching practice.
During the autumn the participating teacher in the Quality in Adolescent Teaching programme have spent time learning more about the PLATO manual and devising own action plans for professional development, where the main question is: what do we have to do to develop our teaching practice?
Almost all of the participating teachers are teaching in the lower secondary school, with one teaching the seventh grade. Some are teaching across different subjects. A recently held a two-day workshop provided 15 teachers a chance to meet in an online setting.
Discussing PLATO in the Icelandic context
The workshop was a possibility for the participants from all over Iceland- some of whom are teaching in small and isolated areas - to come together and discuss the different aspects of the PLATO manual, such as feedback and purpose and intellectual challenge, in the Icelandic context.
The groups also presented what they want to focus on next, such as intellectual challenge in mathematics lessons. Due to the ongoing restrictions around travel and visiting, it has not been possible for the researchers to film in the classrooms yet. Although there are plans in place for the teachers to start filming their own lessons, to be used as a basis for reflection and discussions.
The next joint meeting will be in April 2021, where the participants will present results from action research into own teaching practice.
Reflecting on own practice
The project leaders Assistant prof. Birna María B. Svanbjörnsdóttir (University of Akureyri), Prof. Anna Kristín Sigurðardóttir (University of Iceland) and Rúnar Sigþórsson (University of Akureyri) all have worked as teachers themselves before. In their research activities today, they often work with teachers and school leaders directly and therefore recognise the relevance and benefits of starting this kind of professional development programme for teachers in Iceland.
– Seeing videos gets the teachers to reflect on their own practice. As a result, they are more aware of what they are doing, Anna Kristín Sigurðardóttir reports.
Besides for watching video recordings, the project leaders wanted the participants to learn more about PLATO in order to have analytical tools to use.
– Watching and analysing videos offers teachers a possibility to look at own practice and use that for developing their practice. We wanted to give them the tools for that, Birna Svanbjörnsdóttir says.
Teachers find the project useful
The workshop was well-received and provided an opportunity for the participants to deepen their understanding of the project. Prof. Marte Blikstad-Balas who has been leading the VIST project in Oslo gave talks on the first day, and people were keen to hear how a similar project has worked elsewhere. The feedback from the participating teachers so far has been promising, the project leaders report.
– This is directly linked to our practice, which is unusual coming from University professors, some even said.
This is encouraging, since one of QUINT’s large ambitions is to work closely with teachers in order to utilise research results and make them useful and applicable for improving teaching practice and the teachers’ everyday life.