One of the key pillars of the ‘Skills for Jobs’ S4J project relates to the ‘New Ways of Inclusive Learning’. This term includes the whole set of teaching methods and techniques that aim to make the lesson more practical, more understandable and entertaining for all, as well as utilize the advantages of using technology to learn anywhere – at school, during the apprenticeship, etc.
Such techniques are based on blended learning, where teachers orchestrate learning modes and methods, face-to-face and on-line learning, to reach key and professional competencies. This coincides with the need to redesign the learning process where the role of teachers is shifted from ‘holders’ of information to ‘facilitators’ through active involvement of students. The combination of different learning methods and modalities and project-based learning or learning through online platforms allow for the individualization of skills development experiences in line with the students’ needs. It is proven that through the application of these methods, interest is boosted, higher scores are achieved by students, drop-out rates are lowered, and young people are better prepared for the labour market as they succeed in developing both professional, digital and soft skills such as creativity and group work.
The ‘New Ways’ applied by vocational schools supported by the ‘Skills for Jobs’ S4J project have been designed by Swiss experts and are tailored to the local context. In January 2017, the strategy for ‘New Ways’ was launched. Following the creation of the necessary infrastructure such as ‘Blended Learning’ classrooms with modular desktops, computer equipment and internet access, in March 2017, the most avant-garde teachers began applying ‘Blended Learning’, assisted by pedagogical experts and virtual platforms. By May 2018, 81 teachers were trained, 40 mentored and 27 of them apply ‘Blended Learning’ on a continuous basis.
The ‘New Ways’ implementation strategy focuses on mentoring teachers to choose the right method and modality and the effective use of technology-based solutions. Between January and May 2018, pedagogical and virtual platforms experts visited the trained teachers’ classes to better understand how they used technology, games, projects, and interaction with students to concretize the learning concepts and achieve competence-based results. Through the 1: 1 counselling sections with each of the teachers, advice was provided on how teachers can further refine their teaching methods using the ‘New Ways’ and of technology. In support of a virtual learning environment, online learning materials have been developed in Albanian for 20 subjects, which are accessed by both teachers and students.
During this period, teachers and instructors were also introduced to the international industry standards of blended learning. In the framework of the CISCO S4J Academy, 15 teachers have been certified as instructors and use NetAcad to support the initial and continuous training of ICT students. Meanwhile, 20 teachers were trained and have access to the Microsoft Imagine Academy platform. The vocational training of these teachers on blended learning and remote work is positively contributing to the coordination of the innovative scheme where 98 ICT students participate in group apprenticeships mentored remotely by leaders of the programming and communications industry, headquartered in Tirana.
The continuous identification and improvement of good cases of blended learning application inspired the ‘Skills for Jobs’ S4J team to hold the ‘Knowledge Fair 2018’. The main purpose of the event was to introduce to a wide audience the “New Ways of Inclusive Learning” and how to apply them in the Vocational Education and Training in Albania, providing opportunities to exchange the best practices and extend the implementation of ‘Blended Learning’ in partner schools and beyond.
The event lasted two days, with the first day marking the opening ceremony, with the presence of Mr. Phillip Keller, Deputy Ambassador of Switzerland in Albania, representatives from the Ministry of Finance and Economy, the National Agency for Vocational Education and Training and Qualifications, private sector representatives, donors, field experts, teachers, etc.
The fair was also attended by the Swiss expert, Mr. Urs Grӧhbiel, head of the Swiss Network for Innovation in Education, who has worked with ‘Skills for Jobs’ S4J to design and follow the implementation of the ‘New Ways of Learning’ plan.
On the second day, during 12 parallel sessions, 22 teachers from the project partner schools showcased to a diverse audience how they apply the ‘new ways’ and what impact they have. In the presence of colleagues, business representatives, experts and students, these teachers introduced diverse cases of learning through interdisciplinary projects (where general education subjects are combined with the vocational ones), learning through problem solving, using online platforms to support certain activities (such as portfolio assessment, testing, group discussion, independent reading, etc.), documenting and coordinating apprenticeships, using online platforms of industry standards for curriculum delivery and providing opportunities for extra-curricular courses, classroom engagement and gender mainstreaming through interactive learning, gamification to learn more effectively, etc.
Special sessions were devoted to discussions on computerization of the teaching-learning activity and development of digital learning materials. During the sessions other actors such as NAVETQ, the multi- functional centre of Kamza and GIZ, Kultur Kontakt, the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CEI), the American University of Kosovo, Tech 360, etc. were also invited to share experiences.
Presentations were accompanied by constructive discussions among participants. The second day was closed with a panel discussion on the School Development Unit and the ‘coronation’ of the Student Board members, who will be the voice of the school for the ‘Skills for Jobs’ S4J project.
During this event, researchers, teachers, students, and business partners also presented the results achieved due to the application of ‘blended learning’ in partner schools, such as:
- the more positive climate in the classroom and the company,
- the higher quality of teaching and of teachers’ technical training,
- the considerable change and the combination of methodologies,
- the fact that learning has become more entertaining and emotionally involving,
- encouragement of learning through experiences,
- the fact that students can understand more clearly and judge more deeply,
- the easiness in teaching and learning;
- the faster and more transparent assessment,
- the improved digital and foreign languages competences,
- the opportunities for further professional development,
- the culture of equality and learning through the cooperation and support of the others – both for students and for teachers.
‘Skills for Jobs’ S4J is committed to continue providing support for the partner schools to consolidate the New Ways and to establish the processes for their transference to teachers and other providers based on a culture of collaboration, peer learning and continuous improvement aiming to produce students who will be successful in the labour market.
Click here for a full collection of the event photos.