For Release Upon Receipt - November 19, 2009
The University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus is now providing professional development and training for secondary school teachers across the Caribbean. A new series of workshops is being deployed, designed primarily to improve the teaching practice of persons who are already professionals in their field. Workshops focus on the teaching and evaluation of writing, and engage teachers in a critical review of their own practice, while providing them with alternative tools for improvement and professional development.
The initiative took off last month in St Lucia, with a workshop from October 19-21, 2009 at the UWI Open Campus site at Morne Fortune. About 25 teachers from local secondary schools took part in the workshop, which covered a range of topics, including: Theories of Teaching in General and Teaching Writing Specifically; Designing Assignments and Writing Classes to Provide Students with Essential Scaffolding; Response to Student Writing by Fellow Students, the Student Writer Him-/Herself, and the Instructor.
The St Lucia workshop was facilitated by Professor Simone Billings of Stanford University, who is currently attached to the UWI Open Campus as a Fulbright Scholar. During her tenure with the Open Campus, Professor Billings is also expected to design a curriculum for the blended delivery of writing courses and will contribute to the establishment of a writing laboratory within the Open Campus. Additionally, she will run training sessions for faculty and staff of the Open Campus on the design of writing courses for online delivery, a major component of the work of the Open Campus.
Professor Billings expressed great enthusiasm about her experience interacting with the St. Lucian teachers, observing that “The St. Lucian instructors have set a high bar for the participants in other sites I will be going to, for they were engaged, bright, fun-loving professionals whose dedication to their students, especially the weaker ones, was apparent throughout the three days. These experienced instructors were open to learning and discussing new ideas that I or others in the group brought up, and they were comfortable with challenging and pushing discussions further. They were warm and generous human beings who made me feel welcomed and appreciated.”
The St. Lucian teachers were full of praise for this Open Campus initiative, indicating that they now have some new techniques to add to their teaching repertoire. In their formal evaluation of the workshop, they indicated that the useful tips on the teaching of writing and the conscious reflection and practice on assessment design were very valuable to them.
“The workshop served to remind, refresh, and re-inspire me in my work of teaching writing. It was the most enriching and enjoyable workshop I have ever been to,” one teacher commented.
Professor Billings urged the teachers to continue the momentum of their energy and eagerness to apply some of what they learned at the workshop to their work in their classes individually, and to share what they learned with others at their respective schools. About the workshop, Professor Billings said that “the highlights included the ready and willing attitude of participants to discuss with one another, and with me, their responses to the theories and design of assignments.” She advised the teachers to keep in touch with one another to provide a support network that will encourage them to continue applying some of the information learned at the workshop as well as growing as a professional body.
In her closing remarks at end of the Workshop, Head of the UWI, Open Campus Saint Lucia, Mrs. Veronica Simon, said that the Open Campus collaborated with the Ministry of Education to ensure that every secondary school was represented. She expects that those teachers benefiting from the training will go back to share their new knowledge with their colleagues. She said that “The UWI Open Campus, like its sister campuses, pursues the developmental mandate given by the regional governments which own the University and we believe that investing in the continuous development of its teachers is probably the soundest decision that a country can make. We place a lot of emphasis on teacher training and re-training and are prepared to assist wherever the needs are.”
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Over the last six decades, The University of the West Indies (UWI) has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a full-fledged University with over 40,000 students. Today, UWI is the largest and most longstanding higher education provider in the English-speaking Caribbean, with main campuses in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and Centres in Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Christopher (St Kitts) & Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent & the Grenadines. UWI recently launched its Open Campus, a virtual campus with over 50 physical site locations across the region, serving over 20 countries in the English-speaking Caribbean. UWI is an international university with faculty and students from over 40 countries and collaborative links with over 60 universities around the world. Through its seven Faculties, UWI offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Pure & Applied Sciences, Science and Agriculture, and Social Sciences.
Ms. Suzette Wolfe