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The Missing Voice in Teacher Tool Design… is Teachers.
Author: Learn More | Published: 1 April 2019
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This article was originally published here

Part One

Teachers may be the masters of their classroom domain, but they are rarely involved in the design of it. Innovations, especially edtech, are often placed in their hands without their say so. And if they have not been integral to the development of such material, the results can fall flat.

This was the case when interactive whiteboards were rolled out across the UK. As part of a £15bn school refurbishment plan, they were introduced without teacher involvement, and were then found to have no subsequent rise in pupils’ attainment linked directly to the technology.

Learn More surveyed teachers to get a sense of how involved they felt in the creation of educational content. We found that teaching unions are not perceived to be sitting at the table during the design of policy and products, and teachers at an individual level feel shut out from the development of the very tools they use every day.

Our respondents tended to be relatively experienced in the profession, having clocked up well over a decade in the classroom on average.

Two main messages emerged. Firstly, quality teacher training is not as frequent nor thorough as desired. Secondly, teachers are willing to be much more involved in the design of educational programs and products — the majority currently feel like outsiders during the development process.

Continuous professional development is important. 87% considered it relevant to their needs, citing the importance of keeping on top of changes in curriculum, policies, initiatives, research, technology and safeguarding. Yet two-thirds had not had the opportunity to attend a teacher training program in the last 12 months. Well-trained teachers, versed in the latest policy and trends, would be better placed to connect their experience to the wider education environment.

Teachers want to be developed, and they also want to be involved in the creation of educational content. Technology experts and government officials have more than their fair share of involvement, according to our respondents. Too often, the missing input is that of the teacher and the student. Three-quarters of respondents had never participated in educational prototyping or design sessions. And only 15% of teachers had ever been involved in the design or testing of the educational products that all of them use.

The teacher is not being represented at a union level either. Almost all the respondents claimed their teacher union is doing little to nothing to represent their expertise and opinions when it comes to the creation of educational content.

So, what change do teachers want? The survey results suggest that, when it comes to development, teachers want to be invited to the party. 67% wanted to be involved in product prototyping projects at school with fellow teachers. The majority would particularly like this to be with other teachers from their subject or their school. Respondents were most interested in being hands-on in product design sessions: preferring design workshops and in-class prototyping to phone interviews and Skype calls. 70% of those surveyed were willing to travel for such events.

Furthermore, 81% would be interested in participating in paid, half-day, product design sessions for education companies. The most popular suggested frequency of such involvement was once every three months. Most are willing to travel for such events, if time and funds allow it.

Organised platforms and teacher networks could also have room for potential. Almost all our surveyed teachers attest to regularly engaging in constructive dialogue about improving their teaching, but were much less likely to be involved in an organised professional network or research group.

These results were even more conclusive than we could have expected. As such, Learn More is responding to the problems. Our responses will include a platform for teachers to position themselves critically concerning relevant topics in the education policy space and to work alongside education companies to co-design educational products and technologies in innovative ways.

More on this to follow in Part Two!

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