Athlone IT ‘TALENT’ project sends teachers back to school

Pictured, l-r, Nuala Harding, Dara O’Driscoll and Brendan Waldron, Principal, Colaiste Chiarain

Pictured, l-r, Nuala Harding, Dara O’Driscoll and Brendan Waldron, Principal, Colaiste Chiarain

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

Project TALENT, which is funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ programme, will see secondary school teachers from four Athlone secondary schools, Athlone Community College, Coláiste Chiarán, Our Lady’s Bower and the Marist Secondary School 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.

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.

The four Athlone based schools will avail of this innovative upskilling opportunity, which will facilitate the training of teachers in their respective schools.

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

“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 Athlone the Midlands region 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,” Professor Ó Catháin remarked.

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.

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.


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