Donegal ETB’s Teacher Collaboration Initiative Supports Remote Teaching During COVID-19 Containment helped by DES Digital School Excellence Fund

A number of teachers in schools across Donegal Education and Training Board (ETB) have been working on an innovative teaching and learning initiative titled ‘Teacher Collaboration – Junior Cycle Curriculum Planning, Content Creation and Resource Sharing’.

The initiative has developed over the past five years and a short video has been developed that illustrates the work to date.

This initiative is part of the Department of Education and Skills (DES) Digital School Excellence Fund which highlights the opportunities that present themselves when teachers collaborate.

It involves working groups of teachers from across ten of Donegal ETB’s fifteen post-primary schools, who have come together to collaborate on creative and student-centred teaching content and is now expanding to include teaching and instruction staff from the ETB’s Further Education and Training (FET) Service.

This recent development has been widely welcomed and has resulted in further enrichment of the expertise within the organisation. The project has availed of the support and advanced ICT infrastructure in use within Donegal ETB, namely G Suite for Education which uses Google Classroom, Sites, Docs and Drive.

The recent closure of schools and FET centres due to the COVID-19 containment measures, has led to an increased emphasis on innovative online approaches to ensure the continuity of teaching and learning across the county. The work of the project has ensured many of Donegal ETB’s teachers were best placed to lead out on various approaches in reaching out to students at this difficult time. This has meant that Donegal ETB schools are leading the way in the county in the delivery of innovative teaching to ETB students in its fifteen post-primary schools. This forward-thinking was originally enabled by the introduction of recent educational reforms namely the Framework for Junior Cycle (2015) and the publication of the quality framework for post-primary schools – ‘Looking at Our Schools 2016’.

Within Donegal ETB it was recognised that the integration of technology, aligned with modern instructional practices, could significantly enhance the teaching and learning in its classrooms and subsequently improve learner outcomes for students in the classroom. This created the potential to devise learning opportunities for students across and beyond the curriculum.

As the subject specifications were introduced in the new Junior Cycle, a group of interested teachers, initially from seven ETB schools, were arranged in subject teams to create a series of student learning units within a platform for educational content creation. These student learning units were developed and delivered in the classroom, where the student’s feedback was collated, ensuring their voice was central to the process of informing future best practice.

The new units created on the G Suite platform for education demonstrates the integration of Google Sites as the instructional platform and Google Classroom as the assessment platform. Google Classroom also allows for parent/guardian supervision of assignment deadlines and encourages a conversation around accountability. It is also the primary driver of assessment for these new units of work.

These resources are available on Donegal ETB’s website through the staff intranet and samples of these new units include:

  • Irish (Folláine unit of learning) developed by Ciaran Mc Elwaine, Mulroy College, Milford
  • Science (Earth and Science unit of learning) developed by Evin Devenney, Deele College, Raphoe
  • English (Kill a Mocking Bird unit of learning) developed by David Mc Hale, Errigal College, Letterkenny

Séan McFadden, Acting Deputy Principal at Donegal ETB’s Mulroy College in Milford who coordinates this initiative, noted, “Our clear focus is on student learning; the group’s vision is ‘excellence in developing a culture of professional teacher collaboration within Donegal ETB to enhance Teaching and Learning in our classrooms.’ The student is at the heart of every conversation we have in ensuring that we provide an engaging learner experience to enhance the learning outcomes for all our students.”

Dr Martin Gormley, Donegal ETB Director of Schools, stated, “I have great confidence that as a result of the work of this project, Donegal ETB is well placed to respond to the challenge of maintaining the continuity of teaching and learning in the current period of school closures arising from measures introduced to curb the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“Donegal ETB is delighted to be able to showcase the innovative and creative teaching that is taking place in our schools. While this project started out with Science and English, it continues as further subject specifications are published as part of the new Junior Cycle. The needs of the student continually guide the staff along their path with their professional conversations and practices.”

It is hoped the work done to date and the video which explains the work, will not only highlight the benefits of teacher collaboration for content creation, but will also inspire more of our teachers to come on board, as well as teachers around the country.

For Donegal ETB post-primary or FET teaching and instruction staff who are interested in getting involved in this initiative or wish to find out more about it, please click here

Mulroy College students using some of the innovative teaching materials developed by Donegal ETB teachers.
Crana College students working together.
Abbey Vocational School students working in teams.