Unions unite to fight for empowering professional learning and development

published 4 April 2024 updated 30 May 2024

The Teacher-led Learning Circles for Formative Assessment (T3LFA) project brought union leaders, project participants, and wider EI membership together to reflect on how to promote and strengthen their position on professional leadership, develop pedagogical activism, and resist the discourse around assessment standardisation.

The “Teacher-led learning circles for formative assessment: Controlling the narrative around assessment and high-quality professional learning and development (PLD)” webinar held on April 3rd, was moderated by Nadine Molloy, EI Executive Board Member, and consisted of contributions from Andjou Andjou, Secretary General of the Syndicat National des Enseignants du Primaire Public de Côte d'Ivoire (SNEPPCI)/ Cote d’Ivoire, Heleno Araújo, President of Confederação Nacional dos Trabalhadores em Educação (CNTE)/ Brazil and Elbia Pereira, Secretary General of Federación Uruguaya de Magisterio - Trabajadores de la Educación Primaria (FUMTEP)/Uruguay.

While each country faced a mix of challenges in supporting system-wide access to the transformative PLD opportunity, one thing was clear: Teacher-led Learning Circles for Formative Assessment are an empowering form of PLD that supports teacher autonomy and provides unions across the world with a compelling evidence base to fight for high-quality PLD.

In Brazil, Araújo noted that 53% of teachers are employed on temporary contracts. The casualisation of the teaching profession has stopped teachers from thinking about their futures and accessing PLD opportunities. Where PLD is provided, it is online and does not recognise teacher agency, focusing on how to best teach-to-test. This one-size-fits all approach needs to change. Brazil is a diverse country where each teacher faces unique challenges in their classroom. PLD opportunities must support teacher leadership by recognising that they are best placed to use formative assessment to teach to the profile of their students.

Just across from Brazil, in Uruguay, the feeling was mutual. Pereira stressed that good PLD needs to be grounded in classroom experience. The T3LFA project gave teachers the opportunity to counter neoliberal education approaches that fail to recognise teachers' positions as professionals. By giving teachers dedicated reflective time to develop promising formative assessment practices, the project trusts that teachers know how to best support their students. The Secretary General of FUMTEP stressed that the challenge in Uruguay is to ensure that the teachers' PLD experience is acknowledged by present and future educational authorities.

Molloy, both as a moderator and a school principal from Jamaica, emphasised the need for and importance of unions being at the table when education Ministries are making decisions on teaching and education. Too much happens without consulting practitioners. She went on to stress this, stating that “too much has happened to teachers because unions have been excluded from dialogue. The T3LFA project provides evidence that can be used by EI member organisations to prove that high-quality PLD supports inclusive quality public education systems, improving the status of the profession and learning for all.”

Andjou, on the other hand, stated that in Côte d'Ivoire, strong dialogue with government officials is already taking place. The Ministry of National Education closely followed the implementation of the T3LFA project and recognised its importance in building an inclusive quality public education system. Formative assessment is a necessity and the PLD opportunity gives teachers the space to share, plan and build the capacity to address learning variability through regular meetings and exchanges. Now, the struggle is to develop policy and secure proper funding to enable coverage and access for all teachers.

The strength of the methodology developed as a part of the T3LFA project was made visible by all attendees. Kenyan Teachers Union (KTU) and Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Education (SNTE) showed a strong interest in uptake.

The project has been picked up by the Jamaican Teachers Association (JTA). The JTA is currently preparing to consolidate the T3LFA methodology and the existing formative assessment tools in the teacher development that is available in Jamaica. The unique character of this context lies in the school leaders taking it forward together with the union.

Interested in keeping up to date and finding out more about the progress of the T3LFA project in our seven project countries? Watch our webinars, listen to our podcasts and follow our project page.