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In the foregoing discussion many areas of agreement have emerged together with identification of factors or characteristics that need to be taken into account in development of curriculum enriching or new materials. The discussions also draw attention to alternative routes to the development the MIL curriculum.
In this concluding section of the report, rather than reiterate areas of agreement, aspects of discussion requiring clarification, elaboration and deliberation are the focus. Many concern the scope of the initiative and the delineation of its parts. It is clarification of these that will allow development of a working plan, while the areas of current agreement provide guidance on implementation.
It is suggested that the next phase of the project should focus on responding to the following points with the aim of further refining agreement on the limits of the project and developing an optimal approach, given the available resources and contexts of testing the materials. The issues drawn from the previous discussion are intertwined and therefore have not been prioritised. They are however numbered for ease of reference.
While the Expert Group came to favour an open, flexible framework, or frameworks, from which teacher training institutions or government authorities might co-develop a locally tailored syllabus, one to raise personal MIL would differ markedly to that for developing specialist MIL teaching expertise. At this point in time, document describing the ideal might be overwhelming to those seeking only to raise awareness and/or improve personal MIL
The alternative notion of targeting those who are already aware of MIL issues was acknowledged, but this might still include many trainee teachers who are not interested in specialising in MIL.
Another suggestion is to start with small steps and to extend the programme gradually, perhaps structuring it for in-service professional development, as well as initial teacher training, to support development of communities of understanding around MIL practice. While this is valid, it does not address the all or intending specialists issue.
One underlying factor in this particular debate is recognition that for any sustainable change, one needs a critical mass of MIL trained teachers working in a supportive environment. For that teachers with awareness and with specialist expertise are required. However, funding and the duration of the project need consideration as well.
Is there provision for ‘training the trainers’ within this initiative and what time span is allowed for that training? Topics for trainers of teachers may need adjustment in terms of addressing identified resistance and gaining support for MIL in their institutions. The differences between professional development workshop learning and implementation where resources and support differ need to be taken into account for teacher trainers as well as for trainee teachers or those engaging in school-based professional development.
There is probably an optimal amount of contact time within which trainee teachers can be expected to develop the required personal and teaching knowledge, and competencies. That time is likely to be at least partially dependent upon the capabilities of trainee teachers on entry. The duration of courses possible within particular training institutions constrains expectations for content and achievable outcomes. While an extremely comprehensive product may be required, addressing minimalist needs serves to focus expert attention on essentials.
The Expert Group set out a range of criteria for consideration (see page 17 ) that would give some degree of comparability across trial sites, however the models for implementation of the MIL curriculum are likely to be very different, particularly if the eight pilot institutions are involved in co-construction of the curriculum from the beginning of the project Those differences have implications for any attempt to compare or evaluate the ‘success’ of the trials, the curriculum enrichment materials and the competency of the teachers. All other things being equal, institutes that are willing to engage in some form of action research centred on trainee teachers’ learning should be favoured for inclusion in the trial.
These challenges need to be elaborated and then addressed in the instructional design aspects of preparation of teacher trainers. The question needs to be considered in light of the suggestions for learning activities for teacher trainees (see page 16 )
The Expert Group did not fully identify the range of materials pertinent to this project. Consequently elaboration and deliberation is required, perhaps with the list on pages 14 and 15 taken as the starting point.
Again the context of implementation needs to be considered, e.g. instructional environment and assessment issues will influence how the materials are used and with what effect, particularly where authentic problem solving, inquiry and acceptance of multiple answers are at odds with a traditionally teacher directed culture.
Materials might be categorised in terms of infrastructure and professional teaching support. To limit the materials to be developed for teachers
one suggestion was to focus on those points in children’s development where learning progress is vulnerable to movement between levels of schooling.
It is difficult to identify essential competencies without reference to the expected MIL behaviours and pedagogical abilities of the trained teachers, particularly in absence of a true integration of the concepts of media literacy on one hand and information literacy on the other. The Expert Group needs therefore to describe in effect what the learning outcomes of the proposed courses are so that the synergies between the concepts are to be optimised. The tentative list on pages 12 and 13 is a starting point for this debate.
Competencies underlying the information literacy aspects of MIL are detailed in this report but those associated with the specifics of receiving and producing media are not as yet. Once the competencies implied by descriptions of teachers’ MIL behaviours are apparent, supporting competencies developed in other aspects of the trainee teachers’ education can be identified to reveal clusters of abilities without which MIL cannot be implemented in schools.
As with competencies, while there are subject areas unique to MIL, there is a supporting cast from other aspects of education. Identification of both sets, and their interactions would enable educational decision makers to see how the media and information literacy syllabus can enrich existing learning objectives for trainee teachers and to identify whether its elements are already supported in programmes. This document includes the Group’s initial thinking on the topic but extension and refinement are needed. The key concepts of media literacy included in Annex IV could be used as a focal point for this discussion.
A further constraint on development of curriculum enrichment materials centres on the nature of learning and teaching activities appropriate to MIL. For example, it may be that it is crucial to include materials on the nature of inquiry teaching and learning. While these are not specific to MIL alone, it cannot be assumed that they are covered in other aspects of teacher training.
The above questions and elaborations emerged by consensus from the meeting but are by no means exhaustive of the issues to be addressed, but they serve to define some of the opportunities and limits of the project.
In seeking clarification of these issues, it is worth reiterating that participants in this initiative are not starting from scratch. During the meeting, the Expert Group had a wide range of printed and digital MIL resources brought to their attention and personal networks are bound to identify even more. It is also suggested that in preparation for further discussion online, the content of currently available materials be subjected to analysis in terms of recommendations for:
However, as indicated, it is necessary to reach prior agreement on criteria for inclusion or exclusion of particular programme materials.
A related literature review task is that of identifying pertinent items from documents supporting implementation (policy statements, examples of good practice, lesson plans etc). These could also be collected as the foundation of a database for the project as a future aid to education decision-makers at all levels. The basis of a set of evaluation criteria for application by the Expert Group members to a wide range of published material is evident in the lists appearing throughout this report and particularly in those referred to in the above questions.
One further area demands consideration at this early stage of the initiative. This concerns the possibility of and mechanisms by which empirical evidence of the effects of MIL education on trainee teachers’ performance can be gathered for later analysis. If evidence of changes in students’ learning outcomes is a powerful tool in persuading authorities to engage with a curriculum area, it is important to model ways in which institutions can refine teaching methods and materials in light of evidence from students. Such data collection and analysis is a crucial element in the development of a strategy that influences adaptation and implementation of the MIL curriculum by decision-makers. To be effective, evaluation research needs to be incorporated in the design and work plans of the initiative from the beginning.
Participants in this meeting made a variety of suggestions for further action, although priorities and responsibilities were not set as a complete overview of the tasks ahead did not emerge during the meeting. Thus some points in this section of the report are tentative and all are open to further consultation.
It was agreed that as a first step the three breakout groups created during the meeting would continue to discuss issues online. Carolyn Wilson, Jésus Lau and Ramon Tuazon agreed to chair these discussion groups.
To facilitate these discussions, terms of reference for coordinators should be developed and an appropriate technology needs to be identified that allows the process and conclusions of discussion to be stored and retrieved. Similarly, priorities, discussion topics and timeframes need to be set, together with both short-term and long term objectives. The Expert Group favoured short periods for responding in each discussion to ensure momentum is maintained.
Further, a fourth breakout group was proposed, but not pursued during the meeting. This was to address issues of assessment and evaluation and is closely associated with pedagogy (questions 5 and 9 above) but it may be more appropriately set up at a slightly later stage.
In light of the conceptual developments that have resulted from the meeting and the specific topics to be addressed initially, participants may wish to join groups other than those first formed. They may also wish to move between groups as the project develops. A dynamic approach to participation would allow expertise to be used to best advantage. Thus a mechanism for allocating tasks and recording developments is required that facilitates interaction between experts who may be active in one group but may wish to provide pertinent insights to others as need arises.
For effective online collaboration, some time and effort should be applied to the group process itself and the creation of the Experts’ own community of practice specific to this project.
Drafting the curriculum materials
The Expert Group did not elaborate on the process of drafting the curriculum materials at this meeting, but did recommend that all materials be written very clearly and presented attractively with the needs of the audiences (teachers, teacher trainers, education decision-makers) kept in mind at all times (see page 15). It is also essential that they are trialled in a variety of institutions.
This initial working plan is in its infancy. It will be refined and extended as work proceeds and as the nature of this complex task becomes more evident.