Although COVID-19 has delayed the opening of schools in Thailand until July, Kenan’s education team is working hard to build teachers’ skills so they can hit the ground running when the time comes. With social distancing orders in place, Kenan has moved its teacher professional development program online with our new “virtual teacher training program,” which is proving to be a huge success.
We understand that limited opportunities for active participation hinder the effectiveness of most online learning programs. As such, we designed our program to resemble our highly interactive, in-person workshops, taking our hands-on, group-based activities into the online world. To do so, we followed a simple yet powerful sequence:
- Brief module introduction and activity modeling from a Kenan expert
- Small group (5-6 participants per group) breakout sessions guided by a Kenan expert in a separate breakout room on the module introduced in step one
- Discussion and presentation from each group in the overall workshop room
To keep the experience hands-on, we mailed every teacher the training materials they would use in the training room, so no one would miss out. Then, in our usual small groups, each teacher worked through the learning activities in the virtual breakout rooms while collaborating with peers and with the guidance of a skilled trainer or facilitator, thus solving the passive learning approach that plagues most online courses.
Trying out our new program, from May 4th-6th, thirty-one teachers from Nakhon Nayok province logged onto Zoom each morning to join Kenan’s virtual professional development program. The training, made possible by funding from Boeing, trained teachers in Kenan’s Enhanced Project-based Learning (E-PBL) model. E-PBL enables teachers to create inquiry-based activities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects that align with the Thai curriculum for the 4th-6th grades. When teachers use E-PBL, they transition from being a lecturer, who tells students what they need to know, to a guide who supports students’ exploration of the subject matter. The innovative approach not only grows students’ knowledge but also enhances their 21st-century skills, which are critical building blocks for emerging careers on the horizon.
“When I think about online training, I imagine just sitting and watching a presenter talk,” said Ms. Natthaya Issarangkoon Na Ayuttaya, a participant in Kenan’s first virtual training. “But this training allowed us to actually practice the activities. By doing the activities [in small groups], we came away with a clear picture and understanding of the content.”
Ms. Natthaya was not alone in her enthusiasm for the program. In the post-training satisfaction survey, the average score of the participants for the overall program was 8.48/10, with high marks for the facilitation by Kenan staff (9.09/10). The early returns on knowledge gains were promising as well, with the participants demonstrating statistically significant improvements on the post-training test compared to the pre-training test.
Kenan’s first virtual training is now in the books, but this is only the beginning. In the coming weeks, we will deliver two more virtual workshops on E-PBL to 60 teachers. COVID-19 is disrupting our lives in many ways, but we are doing everything we can to ensure that educators and students in Thailand receive the support they need and deserve.
To find out more about our teacher professional development program, visit https://www.kenan-asia.org/teacher-professional-development/
John DaSilva is the Director of Partnerships and Communications at Kenan Foundation Asia, a Thai non-profit organization working in the region to inspire students, develop skilled people, and grow strong leaders by empowering them with the knowledge, technology, and skills necessary for a better future.