How do you develop a network that can enhance teachers’ professional learning by partnering a university with schools?
Romina Madrid and Christopher Chapmans’s paper, Towards a network learning system: reflections on a university initial teacher education and school-based collaborative initiative in Chile explored the concept of Networked Learning Systems (NLS). The paper has just been published in Professional Development in Edducation and can be read in full here.
The Chilean education system is characterised by market-oriented reforms and high levels of competition, and the network learning system was designed to reset the relationships between university initial teacher education (ITE) staff and school teachers to encourage deeper understanding of differing professional contexts, value different types of knowledge, enhance collaboration as well as improve practice.
An ‘on-going’ challenge
For many systems it is an on-going challenge to equip ITE staff with the skills to effectively prepare new teachers for what they will face when they begin their careers, particularly for those entering challenging urban schools. This Programme is the first stage in an attempt to build a NLS between a university and its school partners. An NLS is defined as:
- networks working across different types of boundaries (physical, as classroom, organisational, geographical and/or professional, as phase, sector, curricula)
- driven by design-based research, collaborative enquiry and joint practice development. Its purpose is to innovate, test and refine practice and build leadership capacity through practice-based professional learning.
In an NLS educators are collaborative inquiring professionals that lead improvement in their own and other professional settings. Equally, students are collaborative inquiring learners who are empowered to lead their own and each other’s learning. Put simply, NLS’s are self-improving systems where everyone’s expertise and learning are valued. They also need to be underpinned by a strong network of social relationships that are underpinned by trust and mutlual respect so that open and transparent sharing and exploration of practice is possible.
Levels of mistrust
There are high levels of mistrust within the Chilean education system, including between students and government. Therefore, the development of trust and strong relationships between partners and sectors would seem an important first step in reimagining initial teacher education.
Finally, the Programme provides an important opportunity for preparing ITE staff to work with students and student teachers on collaborative and research-based approaches to teaching, as well as becoming a platform to frame student teachers’ clinical experiences.