One Peruvian Teacher's Experience with Project-Based Learning and Online Communication
Over the past decade, Peru has made significant investments in its education system—through initiatives like Proyecto Huascaran, the Ministry of Education has supported the introduction of ICT into the classroom. The professional development program, CAPTIC, started in order to make sure that these investments in ICT were accompanied by real improvements in education quality. Over a period of 12 months, 51 teachers and 345 pre-service teachers were trained in project-based learning and online communication. The teacher professional development modules emphasized not only how to use technology, but how to promote self-reflection, critical inquiry and collaboration in the classroom through effective communication. One primary school teacher, Lucina, was a part of this process.
"I am Lucina Lola Felix Chacon, I obtained my degree at the Universidad Nacional Daniel Alcides Carrion, at the College of Education, now I have a BA in Primary Education; and I wish to keep growing. I work at a National Technical School, “NUESTRA SENIORA DEL CARMEN” of Cerro de Pasco.
Currently I am in charge of the third grade. There are 24 girls in my class. What I like about teaching is exchanging new experiences in pedagogic innovation and exploring new technology--that is why I am very interested in the CAPTIC Project. I don’t have specific IT skills given that I have never undergone any training, but since we have a computer at home, I make the most of every opportunity to practice and this has given me a lot of satisfaction."
A baseline study of teaching practices in April 2004 helped project partners understand what challenges and opportunities existed within the education system. Like many of the teachers, Lucina relied on traditional teacher-centered methodologies in the classroom, leaving students disengaged from the learning process. View a video clip of Lucina teaching before she received training:
A Hybrid Model for Teacher Professional Development
Photo by Karl Grobl © 2005
The model developed for CAPTIC combined face-to-face training modules with online learning and virtual communities of practice. Communication was a key element in the learning process. Teachers learned how to ask questions that encourage student reflection, and learned how to dialogue in person and online with their peers about their experiences in the classroom. Face-to-face workshops introduced ideas about using technology to strengthen classroom practices and improve the quality of student-centered learning. Workshop topics such as gender equity, project-based learning and communities of practice were then reinforced through online forums.
CECOVI (Construcción Efectiva de COmunidades VIrtuales de aprendices / Effective Creation of Online Communities of Learners) is a six-week online seminar which provides teachers with the tools necessary to construct and participate in a virtual learning community. The course is an intensive professional development experience in which teachers commit eight to ten hours per week to discuss and reflect on readings about fostering constructive dialogue online and in the classroom. Throughout the course, moderators offer constructive feedback on teachers’ reflections and the quality of teacher-to-teacher dialogue within the modules. A total of 23 teachers from 15 rural primary schools completed all CECOVI modules.
The following entries, taken from several weeks throughout the course, illustrate how Lucina developed professionally both as a teacher and as a communicator. Lucina’s entries evolve from those offering individualistic and centralized feedback, to those which not only enrich the dialogue, but foster more profound thought and discussion with fellow practitioners.
Photo by Karl Grobl © 2005
Using the tools learned in face-to-face trainings and online modules about project-based learning, teachers developed their own lesson plans. Lucina conducted her own research about water and the use of local water resources in her area. This research was the basis for a series of field trips she organized for her students. Students investigated the role of water in their community--they visited lagoons and interviewed community members about the history, evolution and importance of water.
Teachers developed project-based learning activities for students that were both local—created in their region—and global—created by participants across the four regions. Lucina and her online colleagues used the CAPTIC portal to discuss their individual classroom activities and share student work and ideas.
Changes in Classroom Practice
Throughout the project, teachers applied in class what they'd learned in workshops and online forums. Changes in the classroom environment, particularly in how students and teachers communicated with each other became evident. Lucina began to put students into smaller groups, and asked more questions to encourage student engagement. In one instance, she used didactic materials such as a map and photographs, and cut out letters to help students demonstrate their knowledge of the topic. View a video clip of Lucina's lesson mid-way through the training program:
At the end of the program, Lucina’s teaching greatly improved. She graduated from merely asking questions to ensuring that all students had a chance to participate, and used the students ideas and responses to encourage reflective reasoning about different topics. During the water quality module, Lucina and a small group of students discussed the links between human behavior and water pollution. View a video clip of this lesson to see how not only the teaching, but the communication between the teacher and students improved:
Teachers, many of whom are parents themselves, understood the importance of community outreach and parental involvement. Community and school forums focused on themes important to rural Peruvian communities, such as water sanitation, gender equity and literacy. Students marched through their town center carrying hand painted signs supporting gender equity. View a video clip (1.9 MB .mov file) of this march and the slogans the students developed.
The enthusiasm of Lucina, her students and her colleagues shows how changes in teaching practice can open up channels for creativity and dialogue. One project participant summed it up best: "...the program opened doors to information and communication resources, which has started a deep, ongoing learning process.”
EDC, in collaboration with USAID Peru, Concord Consortium and the Peruvian Ministry of Education and Project Huascaran implemented CAPTIC. The project began in January 2004 and was completed in April 2005.