The following blog post was written by Emily Albertsen, Dan Merryfield, Don Morris, and Andrea Scholes - faculty members at the Centre for Excellence in Immigrant and Intercultural Advancement at Bow Valley College.
In Creating a Peer Teaching Community: Part 1, we discussed creating a peer teaching community in the Bridge Program. In this program, we work with young immigrant learners with interrupted formal education. Our learners have literacy and numeracy needs and are struggling to overcome a wide range of barriers to their learning. Collaboration is very important to us, so we decided to formalize our work together and document the process.
In our previous blog post, we talked about the goals of the project and our proces. In this blog post, we will look at what we learned.
Defining the levels
Throughout this project, we gained a better understanding of the different levels of the program. As we better understood the literacy needs and the specific outcomes of each level, we were better able to place new learners in the program and determine when our current learners were ready to move up to the next step. We also have a better understanding now of what we can do to get learners ready for the next level.
This increased definition of our levels has spilled over into the development of our materials. One of the results of this project was a greater degree of collaboration in our core readings. We took turns writing the readings and then adapted each reading to the four different levels. We also created separate activities and scaffolding for each article at each level. This has informed all of the materials we use in our program, including consistent editing symbols and practice, vocabulary development, and approaches to fiction. We have benefitted from seeing each other in in the classroom. We have learned and have been inspired.
Effective teaching practices: strengths of the individual teachers
One of the best parts of this project has been the opportunity to work closely with other instructors and learn from them, not just about how they implement the Bridge Program, but how they personally teach. We have benefitted from seeing each other in the classroom. We have learned and have been inspired by the others.
Understanding the learners
An unexpected result from this project has been an increased understanding of the learners themselves; we set out to observe each other but of course also observed the learners at the different levels of the program. We have a better idea of the literacy levels of the learners and this has translated into a deeper understanding of the whole learner. This is important to us because we also rearrange our learners for their math classes, so we got to see them in different contexts of their learning.
Ideas for direction of the program
Over the course of this project we’ve focused on the development and implementation of our program. We have been asking the question of “what works” (and necessarily the opposite – what doesn’t?) and from there have discussed the direction that we are going, particularly with the development of our themes and our course materials. Greater collaboration also allows us to set our sights a little higher.
Increased collaboration and community
Throughout the project we have seen an increased level of collaboration. This collaboration has been intentional and has allowed us to make choices about what we want to see in our classrooms and in the program. The program is working together smoothly; the teachers work together, the levels fit together, and this has translated into a better understanding in the learners. Bridge students seem to have a better idea of their pathway through the program and what to expect at each level.
Greater collaboration also allows us to set our sights a little higher. Working together we are able to create more materials and come up with more ideas than any one teacher could ever accomplish alone. We also approach our collaboration from a place of mutual respect, humour, and shared goals for the program. This doesn’t mean that we always agree completely with each other, but we have been able to work together very well.
We are interested to hear if anyone else is creating this kind of teaching community. Please share your experiences, questions, or ideas with us.