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European Innovative Teaching Award
Project

The Promotion of the Competency Approach in the Learning Process

School: Kandavas Kārļa Mīlenbaha vidusskolas

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Topic(s) addressed

Kandava Karlis Milenbaha Secondary School implemented the Erasmus+ KA1 project “The Promotion of the Competency Approach in the Learning Process” in accordance with the school’s main development goal for the 2017–2020 period, which was closely intertwined with the goals set by the European growth strategy "Europe 2020." In order to successfully achieve the predetermined goal, the school administration paid great attention to teachers’ regular professional development, which enabled the provision of competence-based education to students through the use of modern and innovative digital technologies and teaching materials that increase students' acquisition of basic skills and understanding of meaningful action, and which provides students with the ability to navigate new circumstances while improving their ability to define value systems. In view of the above, it was decided that schoolteachers also needed to improve their professional qualifications in international courses. During their time in an international environment, teachers had the opportunity to not only learn about modern and innovative teaching methods that are relevant to students, but also improve their foreign language skills, develop an understanding of other countries’ education systems, and learn about other countries' traditions and cultures. A combination of all the aforementioned skills was needed in order to ensure a successful educational process within a rapidly changing world. Furthermore, in the curricula of the attended courses, teachers learnt a variety of teaching methods that help develop students' critical thinking and analytical thinking skills. In addition, knowledge about the integration of drama techniques into the teaching-learning process was further deepened, and methods for self-expression methods improved through a combination of cognitive and emotional elements aimed at ensuring knowledge sustainability. The “Flipped Classroom” course enabled the gaining of knowledge of elements within teaching subjects that were outside of the traditional pedagogical methods, which allowed for the integration of various digital tools into our classroom curriculum, thus ensuring an effective teaching-learning process. Several pedagogical digital tools were also mastered in the course "Intelligence Games and Brain Teasers in the Classroom," where knowledge on the usage of such tools allowed schoolteachers to create a more effective, student-friendly, and comprehensible distance learning process during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are pleased to say that course attendance made the greatest long-term impact on our school's teaching-learning process. Furthermore, not only were teachers who attended these courses able to practice new and innovative pedagogical methods in their daily teaching life, they also actively shared their experiences and involved many of our schoolteachers – especially from the primary school – in the usage of digital tools.

Target groups

Kandava Karlis Milenbahs Secondary School implements several curricula types (primary education programme; general secondary education programme; and primary education programme for students with learning difficulties), for a student body of approximately 380 across the aforementioned 3 different educational stages. The school is mainly attended by Latvian students, but there are also integrated minority students such as Roma, Belarusians, and Ukrainians. Pupils come from different social backgrounds, with an increase in recent years of the number of students who were placed in foster families due to a decision by the Orphan's Court. Although all 38 teachers were introduced to the project’s new digital tools and applications, the primary target group for the use of said tools were primary school teachers. Of the school’s 24 primary school teachers, about 12 of them actively used these tools to design lessons remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Video presentations were made not only in foreign language lessons, but also in other subjects, such as mathematics, social science, Latvian language class, visual arts, and music; also, voting tools were used in other subjects, as well as during all school-based virtual events. Many teachers from our school used the Kahoot and Quizizz platforms to create their own tasks and used them within the teaching-learning process as distance or blended learning tools. In sum, we can say that the greatest use of these digital tools was seen among primary school students aged 12-15, with teachers having actively used their acquired pedagogically digital competence tools during lessons. However, it cannot be said that students of other age groups were not introduced to these tools, as secondary school students, as well as several teachers working in both age groups, also used these tools in the secondary school group. Lastly, parents who tried voting tools at virtual school events also indirectly benefited from the project.

Methodologies

The main method learnt in the “Flipped Classroom” course was defined as a pedagogical model in which typical lesson elements are reversed. Short video lectures were viewed by students prior to the class, which meant that there was the possibility of using innovative digital tools before and during classroom lessons. The teacher learnt various media methods, which allowed for the creation of high quality video lectures; one such method was ‘screencast-o-matic,’ where schoolteachers used the tool to design lessons during the pandemic. In addition to traditional presentations, the tool provides the possibility for a detailed explanation to be provided by the teacher on the topic to be learnt. If the student does not immediately understand the topic, they would have the opportunity of either listening to it or watching it again. Furthermore, students were able to complete their tasks at a time and pace that suited them; the use of this method not only helped teachers explain new topics to students, but also provided teachers with the opportunity to successfully integrate each student into the learning process – regardless of their ability or level of knowledge. This provides the teacher with an enhanced opportunity to deal with mixed level students, students with difficulties, and differentiated learning styles during the pandemic. We strongly believe that our schoolteachers managed to successfully use this video method together with other teaching methods and techniques, which allowed for the development and improvement of students' basic competencies such as the persistence of knowledge on the subject and self-directed learning skills. Mentimeter.com is the second digital tool that was successfully mastered and used in the school’s distance learning processes. Teachers used this tool to carry out various activities, such as activating students to begin a learning process, encouraging them to express their views on an issue, as well as creating surveys. Teacher also learnt how to effectively use digital platforms such as Kahoot and Quizizz during the "Intelligent Games and Brain Activators in the Learning Process" course. The aforementioned tools help make the learning process more exciting for students by using elements of gamification. We all know that using game-based elements in teaching-learning process can engage and motivate learners, especially at primary schools, and so we began to increasingly use such elements in our classrooms to promote learning and to motivate students during the pandemic. In conclusion, we can say that all of the abovementioned digital tools were great in their ability to actively involve students during the learning process, as well as to increase their interest on a given topic, or to develop their thinking process.

Environments

Latvian schools began using the long distance learning process when we were faced with conditions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, with teachers who found themselves in this new, unusual circumstance, being forced to quickly adapt. Against this background, our school also began looking for the most effective teaching methods through which to provide students with the best quality education, and of how to support them during this process. Thanks to the recently attended Erasmus+ courses and the innovative digital tools learnt therein, participating teachers were able to introduce us to the methodology of making and using video lessons. This method was chosen as one of the main teaching methods for the primary school group, where, in addition to the online lessons on the Zoom platform, teachers created their own video lessons to diversify the learning process, and to transfer quality knowledge to each student according to their abilities, level of development, and learning styles. During a virtual meeting of teachers, we discussed the wide range of uses offered by the Kahoot and Quizizz platforms, with several teachers already familiar with said platforms, and several others who had begun using them during the pandemic. These innovative methods have already been implemented among the teachers of our school, and we believe that they will continue to be sustainable.

Teachers

Following her return from the Erasmus+ course “Flipped Classroom” that was held in Germany in November 2018, a teacher from the school introduced the other teachers of Kandava Karlis Milenbahs Secondary School to the methods she had learnt. In the spring of 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic period, teachers were once again introduced to this method during a teachers` meeting, where it was decided that the method introduced by the trained teacher could be used to explain new topics to students during distance learning sessions. Many teachers were interested in the flipped classroom method, with the trained teacher having prepared a video on how to get started with screencast-o-matic.com and the ways in which outputs could be better created and saved (which she shared in the school's WhatsApp group). Teacher Danuta then met with colleagues who wished to learn how to use the Kahoot and Quizizz platforms, and they were taught how to initiate and create tasks for students, and how results may be analysed. During the initial spring period, several teachers tried out the new pedagogically digital tools and created their first video lessons on screencast-o-matic.com, as well as assignments on the Kahoot and Quizizz platforms. In the autumn of 2019, when the distance-learning period resumed, the trained teacher (together with school computer teachers), organised training sessions for older teachers who had not been able to learn these tools on their own, which helped increase the number of teachers who now used innovative pedagogically digital tools in their work. Mentimeter.com, which is currently used by our teachers, was also presented during this training session, and teachers who did not attend the session were instead sent information via the school’s WhatsApp group on this digital tool. At the moment, it could be said that almost all our teachers currently use at least one of these pedagogically digital tools in their everyday teaching life.

Impact

Through our evaluation of the teaching methods learnt in the “Flipped Classroom” and "Intelligent Games and Brain Activators in the Learning Process" courses, as well as the innovative pedagogically digital teaching tools, we can say that the project’s results have had a greater impact on our school teachers and students than we originally anticipated. The successful acquisition of said pedagogically digital tools have allowed teachers to effectively implement the learning process during the COVID-19 pandemic, and these tools have also helped students to not only to diversify their learning process in this difficult and unusual time, but also enabled them to learn new topics and test themselves in a manner that best-suits their abilities and skills, while developing their competence-based skills such as self-directed and meaningful learning. The transfer of knowledge gained from the Erasmus+ courses into everyday work, and its sharing with colleagues, has significantly contributed to the pedagogical digital literacy of teachers at Kandava Karlis Milenbahs Secondary School, and further enabled the successful and sustainable implementation of innovative pedagogically digital teaching methods.