Voice of Future Teachers | Making Teaching Aspirational
Senior Manager, State Transformation Project (Delhi)
To ensure that the next generation of teachers is equipped with the tools, mindsets, and skills to lead transformative learning experiences in their classroom from Day 1 of their professional career, SEF is collaborating with the District Institute of Education and Training (DIETs) to restructuring state-run diploma programs for future teachers.
As part of this, we are improving the learning programs in the state-run Diploma in Elementary Education (D.El.Ed) to reform and strengthen future teachers' practical learning through the School Experience Program (SEP). During the SEP, future teachers lead real Government classrooms for 40 days and apply their theoretical knowledge to real-life teaching scenarios.
Evidence from studies notes that pre-service teachers (teachers preparing to become teachers) who engage in a well-designed curriculum with authentic learning experiences are better able to apply their learning and respond to learner needs (Darling-Hammond, 2006c; Koerner, Rust, & Baumgartner, 2002)
Last month, we got the brilliant opportunity to observe 170 classrooms of future teachers in action. We gathered feedback from future teachers and the school teams on the overall structure of the school experience program, the learning needs of future teachers who join the schools as interns, and how we can create stronger learning experiences for them.
A glimpse of the classroom observations during SEP
Our team came together to derive some key insights into the learning experiences of future teachers in the School Experience Program (SEP). I am sharing some of what we have learned with you!
#1 Importance of integrating voices from the ground
The SEF tea, facilitating a focus group discussion with future teachers
We spoke with future teachers during the observations through focus group discussions. This helped us to understand their experiences and learn their motivations and challenges. By prioritizing the voices of those closest to the action, we design relevant and specific teaching learning materials workshops for our future teachers.
For example, future teachers shared that being aware of children and their classroom's context (which includes their experiences, environment, society, family background, and needs) before engaging in the internship will enable them to plan effectively to cater to the differentiated learning needs of the classroom. This led us to understand and strongly recommend stronger orientation structures for them prior to the internship. Insights like this, directly from the ground, have therefore been key to us designing stronger interventions.
#2 The crucial role of a mentor & safe relationships
The presence of strong and encouraging mentors helps future teachers become more confident and have a higher belief in their teaching abilities.
During one of my visits, Ms. Aamna, Assistant Professor at DIET R.K. Puram, co-observed all the future teachers alongside me. After each observation, she greeted students with a warm smile and praised them for their efforts. Her remarkable bond with the future teachers was evident, and future teachers felt comfortable sharing their classroom challenges with her.
We saw that where there was consistent support from mentors, future teachers showed more confidence in trying innovative practices in classrooms and were more excited about teaching as a profession.
Anshu, with future teachers from DIET R.K Puram, teaching in a school located at Central Delhi
This builds our commitment to building an effective and inspiring cadre of mentors for our future teachers.
#3 The skill of reflection is built in supportive spaces.
While independent reflection builds critical thinking, future teachers require supportive spaces to collectively process their teaching experiences and translate them into actional and growth-oriented learnings to build stronger classrooms. This blended process of individual reflection and group debriefing, embedded in classroom discussions, assignments, and mentor sessions, fosters lifelong self-awareness and continuous improvement to deliver the best for their children.
Glimpse of SEF led a workshop where a Reflective Diary Toolkit was shared with future teachers
"Earlier, I used to only observe students who used to jump up/ ask for attention, etc. But with this reflection structure, I now notice all the students. This has shifted for me." - Khushi, after engaging and using the Reflective Diary
Providing effective structures and training on reflection allows future teachers to consolidate and share their learnings from classroom observations. This also equipped them to delve critically into their teaching practices and focus on children's needs along with their own professional journeys.
#4 From ‘me to we’ network: building a practice community
Teaching wasn't meant for solo acts! Future teachers shared the aspiration to stay connected to teachers from other DIETs. However, currently, there is limited space for them to interact with other teachers, share their challenges, and learn from each other’s experiences. Therefore, we will build a community of practice where future educators can connect, share resources, and support each other's growth. We want to ensure this collaborative spirit doesn't fade once they enter the classroom – it becomes a core value, driving innovation and excellence throughout their teaching journey.
Prerna, my fellow crew member, has also written about the importance of collaboration in teaching. Read it here.
To recap, the 4 things we learned that future teachers need to become confident leaders of classrooms where children thrive are:
-Workshops and resources centered around their voice and experiences
-Excellent and consistent mentorship
-Holistic spaces of reflection on their classroom practices
-A space for collaboration with other teachers (current and future)
While we believe that these learnings are not static and will continue to evolve, we are committed to ensuring that we continue to listen to teachers' voices and let them guide our path toward a future where every child is studying in powerful classrooms.
Anshu participating in the SEF's Origami Conference 2023
I'm Anshu, and my three-year journey with SEF has been truly remarkable. I have had enriching experiences working directly with teachers and students at our Centers of Excellence (Government Partner Schools) and collaborating with stakeholders to build high-quality classrooms. In my current role, I'm leveraging insights from these Centers of Excellence to scale up and redesign pre-service education for our future trainees. If you have thoughts or want to chat more about future teachers, feel free to connect with me here