What We Do
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF EDUCATORS
Teachers are UNRWA’s single most important educational resource, central to the provision of quality education and at the heart of the UNRWA Education Reform. To this effect, UNRWA has strengthened its investment in its teachers through career progression and continuous professional development opportunities. In this regard, the UNRWA Teacher Policy, endorsed in 2013, has been introduced to further professionalise the teacher workforce. In line with international research the Policy seeks to invest in its teachers through strengthening and motivating the teacher force and the systems they are supported by. Through this Policy, the career progression opportunities for teachers have been extended, and the prior anomalies of the grading of senior school-level education staff, i.e. school principals (or head teachers) and their deputies was also addressed.
STRATEGIC SUPPORT UNITS
The Teacher Policy, as a key strand of the UNRWA Education Reform Strategy (2010-2015), seeks to improve the quality of teaching and learning in schools. A new layer of the field-based teacher professional support structure was added through the Strategic Support Units (SSU) whose work helps ensure that policies and strategic decisions affecting the Field Education Programmes are evidence-based and effectively operationalized. The three new Strategic Support Units are:
- the Quality Assurance (QA) Unit.
- the Assessment Unit (AU).
- the Professional Development and Curriculum (PDC) Unit.
These Units support the schools in creating a strategic vision that is underpinned by shared values in order to create a culture of improvement that ensures the delivery of quality, equitable and inclusive education to all Palestine refugees.
The SSU programme is built around the concepts of leading and managing change, elevating the level of thought and practice, and developing practical leadership skills and professional competencies. The components of the programme are delivered through self-learning materials, the Competency Framework, the Core Module, and various online resources. The programme draws on international evidence and is designed around five leadership domains:
- Strategic leadership.
- Personal leadership qualities.
- Organisational leadership.
- People and resources leadership.
- Leadership for school improvement.
UNRWA APPROACH TO TEACHER DEVELOPMENT
The approach to teacher development is in itself holistic and coherent, moving beyond the usual focus of professional development and teacher training – albeit a key feature of the reform - to address issues of policy, including organisational structures and career progression. This broader focus reflects global evidence on the relatively low impact of a sole emphasis on teacher training, particularly delivered through the cascade approach and what is known about how teachers ‘learn’ best.
Within this overall approach to teacher development, specific training and professional development programmes are more likely to have an impact, even more so if the modality of the training reflects what is known about effective learning the classroom, and crucially how teachers themselves learn. To this effect, two large scale, professional development programmes were introduced:
- School-Based Teacher Development Programme: Transforming Classroom Practices (SBTD 1 and 2) targeting teachers.
- Leading for the Future (LftF), targeting school principals and their deputies.
Both draw on international but contextualised best practices of blended learning (print, audio-visual, web based). Both programmes are designed to strengthen the existing UNRWA school support system by empowering Field-based education cadres to take on an active role and responsibility in the implementation of these programmes and equipping them with the tools to do so.
NEWLY-appointed teacher programme
The Newly Appointed Teacher (NAT) programme is a qualifying programme for newly appointed teachers in UNRWA schools and has been developed to address the professional needs of teachers in the twenty-first century. As such, it is designed to give qualified teacher status to newly appointed UNRWA teachers who successfully complete the programme. Developed as one of the last strands in UNRWA’s Educational Reform Strategy, the NAT programme aims to ensure that all UNRWA teachers have the knowledge, skills and understanding that will enable them to provide the best possible educational experience for every student.
The NAT programme consists of four modules. Its main aim is to have fully qualified and professionally trained newly appointed teachers in place by enabling them to:
- study and teach at the same time.
- use current teaching and learning practices and research findings to inform teaching.
- get to know the students as learners to maximise the support.
- understand a teacher’s role as a facilitator of learning.
- support students in their learning whatever their educational, emotional, and social needs are.
- plan and assess for learning.
Through the NAT programme, teachers learn to integrate student-centred, active, and innovative approaches into daily teaching practice, reflect on their own experiences, and engage with new ideas to develop their expertise. The programme focuses on how teachers can enhance the learning of all students. The programme includes Module Activities that teachers carry out focusing on day-to-day tasks, such as lesson planning and assessments, to help teachers reflect on and improve daily practice in order to better meet the students’ needs.
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