AIT TALENT Project is Sending Teachers Back to School

An international education project intended to promote collaborative decision-making and problem-solving among students is sending educators back to school.

Project TALENT, which is funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ programme, will see secondary school teachers from across Ireland, UK, Spain and the Netherlands learn and adopt a new, innovative learning approach called team-based learning (TBL).

TBL encourages students to take greater responsibility for their own learning and engage with learning materials outside the classroom in preparation for dynamic classroom interactions.

This contemporary approach has been shown to motivate and engage learners, while developing their confidence and transferable skills.

“With TBL, students undertake a variety of learning activities prior to class using specially prepared resources to essentially ‘flip the class’”, explained Nuala Harding, who leads Athlone Institute of Technology’s Learning and Teaching Unit.

“Valuable in-class time is then spent working collaboratively in teams to apply knowledge and to solve various real-world issues, problems or challenges.”

David O’Hanlon, who lecturers in the institute’s Faculty of Business and Hospitality, was an early adopter of this methodology and finds it extremely beneficial in developing students’ critical thinking and collaborative capabilities.

“Students have the experience of working in a team for an extended period of time - usually one semester - which helps to develop the types of interpersonal and team-working skills that are highly sought after by employers and institutes of higher education alike,” he said.

The approach has also been introduced in the institute’s Faculty of Science and Health with educators believing the approach to offer a distinct advantage to both students and educators.

“Students come to class prepared for their session and can work on applying their knowledge in a way which actually brings further depth to their learning,” Dr Anne Marie O’Brien, a lecturer in the faculty, explained.

Four Athlone-based secondary schools - Athlone Community College, Coláiste Chiarán, Our Lady’s Bower and the Marist Secondary School – will avail of this innovative upskilling opportunity, which will facilitate the training of teachers in their respective schools.

“We are looking forward to bringing all the teachers together for the training events. We envisage that TALENT will build a community of TBL secondary school teachers across Europe who can support each other as they put this training into practice,” Ms Harding added.

Acknowledging the role the Learning and Teaching Unit has played in securing €400,000 funding for the TALENT project, Athlone Institute of Technology President, Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin said:

“TBL is a teaching approach that helps us achieve our mission of providing a high quality, student-centred educational experience. We look forward to engaging with schools and teachers across the Midlands and are delighted to deliver this exciting opportunity for them.

“The TALENT project will further enhance the excellent relationships we have fostered with secondary schools across the Midlands region and will help us in our TU ambition of continuing to be an international research partner of choice.”

Ideally situated to facilitate this training, Athlone Institute of Technology has consistently been recognised in the Irish Survey of Student Engagement for its efforts in developing effective learning strategies that cater for a diverse range of students’ needs.

The Midlands-based institute has been ranked number one nationally of all universities and institutes of technologies for six consecutive years, taking the top spot across seven of the survey’s nine performance indicators - Collaborative Learning, Effective Teaching Practices, Student-Faculty Interaction and Learning Strategies.

“Athlone Institute of Technology is now leading the way in terms of adoption of TBL in Ireland – our staff have a proven track record in engagement with professional development and adopting innovative teaching and assessment strategies including TBL, Ms Harding finished.

Dr Simon Tweddell, who will be heading up the project on the University of Bradford’s end, has said that introducing TBL has improved learning outcomes for students on many of their programmes and that he hopes to see the same impact in participating schools.

The first TBL teacher training event will be held in Athlone Institute of Technology in May 2020 with a further event planned at the International Baccalaureate Organisation in the Netherlands in May 2021.

Athlone Institute of Technology is a contemporary third level institute distinguished by academic excellence in teaching, learning and research. The institute was awarded The Sunday Times ‘Institute of Technology of the Year 2020, 2018 and Runner-Up in 2017. The institute also tops Ireland’s official league table for research and was listed in U-Multirank’s ‘Top 25 Performing Universities in the World for Interdisciplinary Research’ in 2018 and 2019. Athlone Institute of Technology is currently ranked number one nationally for student satisfaction - a position it has maintained for six consecutive years. For more information relating to the institute’s CAO programmes, visit #ChooseAIT

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