Pedagogical competencies in the spotlight at ICOLLE 2021

20. 9. 2021

Skills such as the correct setting of an educational goal, an appropriately chosen educational method, the clear transfer of professional knowledge, fair assessment, or communication with a diverse group of students are not always a matter of course among educators. The expertise of teachers, whether in higher or secondary education, is an important prerequisite for quality teaching. However, well-developed pedagogical competencies are equally important. The development of teachers’ competencies was the focus of experts at the ICOLLE 2021 international scientific conference organised by the Institute of Lifelong Learning at MENDELU. The conference was held under the auspices of the Rector of Mendel University in Brno, Danuše Nerudová, and the Governor of the South Moravian Region, Jan Grolich.

Nowadays, the need for continuous development of pedagogical competencies at all levels of schools is being emphasised in all cases, and the recent lockdown and forced online teaching has even exaggerated it. The approach of schools to the development of pedagogical competencies of their teachers and the motivation strategies for aspiring teachers were the main topics discussed in the morning plenary session of the conference. The conference was officially opened by the Vice-Rector for Pedagogical Activities, Radim Farana and by the Director of the Institute of Lifelong Learning, Petr Adamec.

Lucia Hrebeňárová, the Director of the Institute of Lifelong Learning at the University of Žilina, presented her five-year experience in building a system of further education for university teachers at the University of Žilina. Initially, the teachers did not perceive the complementation and the development of their pedagogical competencies as necessary. However, a survey among students pointed out some deficiencies in teaching, e.g., in teaching methods, teaching management or in students´ evaluation. Thanks to the results of this survey, with the help of examples of good practice from other European universities, but especially after the introduction of standards for the internal quality assurance system of higher education in Slovak schools, the perception of the need for further teacher education has changed at the University of Žilina. The support of the university management and the inclusion of teacher education in the university budget played a very important role in this perception change. In the future, Žilina University plans to transfer isolated courses of engineering pedagogy into the system of further education of university teachers and to stimulate the emergence of a learning professional community of teachers.

Petr Sucháček from the Faculty of Arts of Masaryk University in Brno presented the development of pedagogical competencies at Masaryk University in Brno. His speech focused on the establishment and functioning of the Pedagogical Competence Development Centre, CERPEK. He summarized the procedures and tools that proved to be successful in building the Centre and mentioned the mistakes and missteps that he and his colleagues did not avoid in the beginning, but thanks to which the Centre was able to move forward. He considers the support from the university administration to be a key moment in the functioning of CERPEK, and the networking of academics across faculties and intergenerational networking of academics have also proved to be successful. He considers that the best way to promote further education for educators is through ‘whispering’, i.e., through good references from satisfied training participants. CERPEK prides itself on a welcoming atmosphere, quality lecturers and meaningful course content and would like to build a community among teacher education participants in the future.

Leslie Blanchard, the Director of the Leadership Development Institute (LDI) at Louisiana State University, spoke about the LADDER competency model that is used to create a development plan for the aspiring teachers. The U.S. faces a problem of teacher turnover and frequent teacher drop-outs. Moreover, this is compounded by burnout syndrome and by the COVID-19 pandemic. Blanchard mentioned that nearly 1,000 teachers leave the U.S. school system every school day, never to return, and another 1,000 teachers transfer to other schools in search of better working conditions. All this puts a burden of approximately USD 4.9 trillion on the U.S. budget. These realities were the impetus for LDI to develop the LADDER competency model. It identifies teachers’ strengths, natural (standard) dispositions and stressors in the evaluation process using a special set of cards. Stressors are dispositions that cause frustration and require further development. Based on the evaluation process and the teacher’s self-reflection, the coach prepares a so-called StepLADDER, i.e., a development plan tailored to the teacher.  It aims to improve teachers’ mental health and prevent them from leaving the school system. The LADDER competency model is currently used for teachers, but in the future, LDI plans to adapt it, for example, for the legal, medical or student sectors.

The ICOLLE conference was held this year on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Institute of Lifelong Learning (ILL) as an independent higher education institute. Pavel Máchal, the first director of the Institute of Lifelong Learning, recalled the time of the ILL establishment and development. At its beginning, the ILL focused on the organisation of about 20 educational courses and on the University of the Third Age educational activities. In these days, the ILL offers more than 60 professional, language or interest courses, implements education at the University of the Third Age, the Intergenerational University and provides a wide range of counselling services for the whole MENDELU. Since its beginnings, the ILL has also been involved in the education of future teachers at secondary vocational schools in the form of undergraduate studies and courses. Currently, the ILL also organises a number of activities aimed at developing pedagogical competencies for MENDELU academics, such as how to select and apply appropriate online teaching methods or how to evaluate students in distance and online teaching.

After the plenary session, the ICOLLE conference continued with meetings in expert sections, where the conference participants had a space for mutual discussion, sharing experience and examples of good practice. The individual conference papers focused on topics related to the comprehensive development of pedagogical and academic staff, current challenges in education and the labour market, flexible forms of education and the phenomenon of internationalization.

ICOLLE 2021 in numbers: more than 60 experts from 5 countries, including the United States of America, attended the 13th year of the conference, which was held on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of ILL MENDELU establishment. Four plenary papers were presented in the opening conference session and speakers in eight expert sessions presented 50 conference papers. All the papers from this year’s ICOLLE conference are available to interested parties in a peer-reviewed proceedings which is published on the conference website

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