How online teacher training can advance your skills in 2021

The importance of effective online training for teachers needs little explaining. In the words of Dylan Wiliam (an internationally renowned education researcher and practitioner), ‘every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.’ So, why should teachers engage in online teacher training, and how can online teacher training be used to develop skills and expertise; or, to quote Steven Covey - in his book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ - “sharpen the saw”?

In this blog, Stephen Burnage – an international education consultant, trainer, inspector, and author – explores the benefits of effective online teacher training.

What is good teacher training? Good teacher training is a process of recording and reflecting on learning and development; the action of tracking and documenting the skills, knowledge and experience that teachers gain both formally and informally as they teach, beyond any initial training. It's a record of what they experience, learn, and then apply.

Online teacher training enables teachers to:
  • put together a personal ‘menu’ of training that is designed specifically for them,
  • access high quality material wherever they are in the world.
  • creates opportunities to interact with subject experts in a virtual face to face environment.
Why is effective teacher training important?

The training process helps teachers to manage their own development on an ongoing basis. It's not a tick-box document recording the training they have completed. Online teacher training is broader than that.
Here’s what good online teacher training helps teachers to do:
  • Ensures they keep pace with the current standards of others working in education.
  • Keeps their knowledge and skills current so they can deliver high-quality teaching and impact positively on pupil outcomes.
  • Makes sure that they become more effective in the workplace. This helps them to advance in their career and move into new positions where they can lead, manage, influence, coach, and mentor others.
  • Opens them up to new possibilities, new knowledge, and new skills.
  • Leads to increased confidence in themselves, others, and the profession as a whole.
Good online teacher training is also useful at:
  • Reminding them of their achievements and how far they’ve progressed.
  • Directs their career and helps them keep an eye on their goals.
  • Uncovers gaps in their skills and capabilities.
  • Opens up further development needs.
I often hear that teachers don't have time for their own training. Or they believe that it's the school leaders’ responsibility to guide their professional development.

More often than not training is thought of as ‘providing training to develop a skill’, but effective online professional development is so much more than something that is delivered to teachers.

Good online teacher training is a course of action whereby teachers actively and collaboratively construct their own understanding and skills.

When we think of traditional teachers’ training it’s often the one-off training courses that first spring to mind. But, as well as single training sessions, the term ‘training’ also covers teaching and learning activities designed to help teachers develop their practice, from research, self-reflection and lesson observations to Lesson Study, feedback, and coaching. All of these can be delivered very effectively in an online training environment.

When you’re thinking about online teacher training, asking the following questions will help you to gauge whether what you are choosing is likely to give good results:
  • Clear outcomes: Is the information about the outcomes clearly stated for the online course?
  • Relevant and targeted: Is the online course carefully pitched to meet your needs? Does each session clearly indicate who would benefit from the training?
  • Expertly informed: Has the online course been created by expert practitioners in the education field?
  • Highly engaging: Does it sound engaging and interesting for you? Does it include interactive elements, case studies, practical strategies and actively promote collaboration with peers?
  • High impact: Is there evidence that the online training has an impact on the skill levels of teachers and the learning of pupils?
  • Independently assured: Has the provider been independently assured for quality and evidence?
Why Online teacher training?

The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed our educational landscape in a way that most of us deemed impossible up until recently. Schools have had to adapt quickly and deliver teaching and learning in unprecedented circumstances.

With staff and pupils remaining only partially in classrooms and partially in their own homes, blended approaches have quickly become the new normal.

Along with that, traditional teacher training has become exceptionally difficult to deliver and highly effective online training has been established to meet the training needs of teachers.

In August 2020, the Education Endowment Foundation undertook a rapid evidence assessment aimed at summarising the efficacy of remote teacher training and reviewed evidence into fully online and blended approaches to teacher training. Their key finding was that online teacher training is not only effective, but also enjoyable and motivating too. You can read the full summary of the report here

What does good online teacher TRAINING look like?
Good online teacher training is not just passively watching training videos. For online teacher training to be effective, it needs to offer a blend of learning opportunities in much the same way that good teaching does with our students. Online training that blends, video, discussion groups, information, links to further learning, live coaching from expert practitioners and opportunities to study remotely and then come back and share learning collaboratively are all aspects of effective online teacher training.

In engaging with online teacher training, you are taking the first steps to develop yourselves professionally, improve the learning opportunities of your students; and make a real difference to the quality of teaching in your schools.
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Stephen Burnage
Education Training Consultant

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