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European Innovative Teaching Award
Project

Better Teachers for Better Students' Language Skills

School: Istituto Comprensivo G. Barone

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Topic(s) addressed

This Erasmus+ project substantially contributed to the "G. Barone" School’s implementation of a training process that supports and pursues the school’s main objectives of modernisation, and the updating and training of its teachers. Through this project, both school and teachers were transported into a vortex of change that went beyond expected results: the training was specifically concerned with the need for comparison and 'European openness,’ with said ‘openness’ also taking place at the local level through the creation of school networks and the activation of various eTwinning and CLIL projects during the mobility experience and its consequent dissemination activities. Teachers involved in the project attended a course at Gloucester pre-primary, titled “CLIL Methodologies and European projects through eTwinning platform for Distance Learning,” which provided a broad overview of teaching strategies to be used in both kindergarten and primary school. In its early days, the course saw the participation of teachers of different nationalities (Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Japan) from both school levels. Mobility experiences had a significant impact on improving the professional quality of teaching, while opening up new innovative teaching methods through its contribution to the institute quality improvement processes. Our institute, which is part of a network with two other educational institutions, obtained funding for this initiative and was selected to initiate this project. Thanks to the mobility experience, teachers were able to establish a series of personal and professional relationships with teachers of different European nationalities, which led to the creation of new activities such as collaboration for the European Day of Languages ​​and other initiatives linked to innovative teaching methods. Our nursery and primary schools have been involved in the region’s experimental undertaking thanks to both the CLIL and eTwinning projects.

Target groups

Target groups consisted of a number of stakeholder profiles. Profile 1 included the project coordinator; multiplier Erasmus Plus teachers; and the school’s first grade English-language teachers – all of whom were strong advocates of innovative teaching through the use of new technologies and who coordinated the training of eTwinning projects towards achieving specific digital skills. Profile 2 consisted of professors of scientific and mathematical subjects; the collaborator and founder of eTwinning projects in the development of mathematical and scientific skills; and, "beginner" teachers of CLIL modules, who were interested in improving their skills in foreign languages. Profile 3 was made up of middle school English teachers who were being trained in the teaching of English, while Profile 4 consisted of teachers who needed support for the teaching of students with special needs. Profile 5 saw the inclusion of art teachers and project collaborators for both the eTwinning and CLIL modules; Profile 6 and Profile 7 consisted of PE teachers and kindergarten teachers respectively, while Profile 7 was made up of English Language teachers from primary schools.

Methodologies

Important reference figures were formed for each school segment (with all school levels involved in the project) who, in addition to developing their skills and personal European dimension, also facilitated the dissemination of knowledge to all school staff. Furthermore, teachers who were previously unmotivated and hesitant to participate, are now figures of reference for the school’s headmaster. The Erasmus+ project functioned as a launch pad to stimulate and motivate teachers, who often found their profession to be exhausting and not very rewarding; thus, the activities entrusted to them via the project, such as dissemination and the sharing of results with colleagues, have served to promote their self-esteem and confidence, and motivated them to take on more active roles within the educational institution. Teachers who participated in the aforementioned courses chose accommodation with families in order to experience the added value of ‘immersion’ in the daily linguistic realities. This allowed for a comparison to be carried out with the culture of Anglo-Saxon countries, which drove discussions during dissemination meetings at school. They were also active participants of the entire Erasmus+ project, and linked both their formal and informal learning through the experience granted by the project. Teachers who were involved in the mobility (pre-primary and primary schools) attended the courses in order to provide new ideas and innovative teaching methods to our schools. Furthermore, they acquired the necessary knowledge and skills needed to organise and lead new didactics that were linked to ‘project-based learning’ and ‘collaborative strategies,’ for which they broadened their perspectives to global topics in order to create and participate in inclusive projects. Their participation also led to the acquisition of digital skills (and the use of digital tools) that may be used by (and for) younger students. Thanks to the project’s monitoring and evaluation phase, we now see children playing an active role in both the learning process and the evaluation phase. A new approach to teaching was also implemented, and the project introduced a number of fundamental principles to our nursery and primary school, consisting of a student-cantered approach; a multidisciplinary approach and international collaboration; the introduction of digital skills from the earliest years; and, the development of an approach based on competences and experience. To date, our school has initiated and followed a new kind of didactics that is based on the principles of Innovation, Multilingualism, Collaboration, and Digital Integration.

Environments

Significant emphasis was given to the project’s evaluation, which, in addition to having a central role in I.C.G. Barone’s curriculum, sought to establish innovation, excellence, and consistency within the school’s proposed training courses. The initiatives carried out at the end of the school year, which had a strong impact on the territory, also functioned as an important evaluation tool, with the final "Documentation Week" that was aimed at pupils’ families and the general public having been a great success due to broad citizen participation; moreover, mobility candidates were also required to compile a final report of the project, which was another useful tool for in-depth technical evaluation. The project, inserted within a specific innovative path, produced a change across all participating actors (both directly or indirectly), which included teachers, learners, and parents. In addition to having disseminated a new approach to teaching among teachers, the project also resulted in a renewed experience among pupils of their schooling environment, which resulted in the school’s positive assessment by pupils’ families. 

Teachers

Teachers with previous mobility experiences provided advice and information on the country’s intercultural aspects and of its locations; prior to each mobility, the course provider asked participants to fill in a questionnaire indicating their level of linguistic competence and previous teaching experiences towards better calibrating the target for specific contents, the course’s objectives, and the best way to organise groups with other European teachers. Each teacher prepared a presentation of their school and country of origin that was exchanged with materials produced by other European teachers. A 20-hour linguistic refreshment course (held by the project coordinator, teacher of the project) was offered to teachers of non-linguistic subjects who chose specific methodological courses for CLIL mobility pathways (said teachers were nevertheless in possession of the required level of English proficiency to enable them to profit from the course). Other important aspects with regard to participants’ preparations was the reading of specific texts recommended by the training institution, and careful information of the country’s historical-geographic aspects. No problems or difficulties of any kind were encountered during the project’s coordination and development, thanks to its precise and punctual organisation and design. The inability of the headmaster to participate in the mobility due to serious personal and family reasons was handled in a regular and timely manner, thanks to the collaboration of the National Agency, which identified a replacement. Furthermore, it was also necessary to replace a teacher a few weeks prior to the mobility due to their hospitalisation, which was also managed without particular difficulties or problems.

Impact

Our ultimate goal was not only fully achieved, but also led to unexpected, results.

In addition to their acquisition of linguistic and methodological skills, teachers have become a driving force for other teachers within the institute, with their participation in the project also having positive implications on all students from various school levels. Furthermore, specific courses on the use of technologies in the teaching of English now favour the use of an innovative teaching method that is very much in demand today. The project’s tangible results can be seen in a number of ways, including new e-Twinning projects that have been developed thanks to collaborations developed during the mobility; the development of CLIL courses within the classrooms; and, the establishment of a network of schools for the activation of an E-CLIL project funded by MIUR that was to be implemented in both nursery and  primary school classes (participation in the aforementioned project was facilitated by the approval of the Erasmus K1 project, as teachers felt more ready and prepared to face this new design challenge). The Erasmus project was therefore a launch pad for a series of activities that are to be carried out in the school in the coming years, which ensures the sustainability of this large-scale project. Through the Erasmus+ project, participating teachers were able to familiarise themselves with European styles, systems, and methods of teaching; furthermore, the introduction of new practices was positively received, an example of which is a merit bonus for deserving students and innovative activities, with such practices not only facilitating the transferral of knowledge to students, but also increasing their interest in the English language. As a final consideration, the project also resulted in an increased awareness of the importance of lifelong learning, with 2 of the project’s participating teachers also having participated in training sessions aimed at establishing a united Europe that works towards common goals.