Tawasol Digital Community of Practice in Egypt
Development of the competencies of Syrian refugees serving in educational spaces in Egypt.
- Julie Kasper, Refugee Educator Academy Program Manager
- Aya Sa’eed, ECHO Project Manager
Introduction to the project
Tawasol Digital Community of Practice started in 2018 and was implemented in 2019.
Plan International Egypt is currently developing the next phase for the larger Tawasol project to be implemented in 2020.
This project focuses on developing the competencies of Syrian refugees serving in educational spaces in Egypt. A particular focus is put on the development of their psychosocial and pedagogical skills. Through this initiative, Tawasol supports the Egyptian Ministry’s efforts to develop and support high-quality instruction across learning spaces in Egypt. Educators with Syrian refugee backgrounds are prepared to participate in the formal learning curriculum and in Egyptian public schools across the nation. Additionally, although this project is inclusive of Egyptian nationals (both students and teachers), it has a particular and intentional focus on Syrian refugees living in Egypt. As such, it aims to enhance professional knowledge and skills among adults and support learning for children in this community.
Among the knowledge and skills developed in the course are: the use of technology for learning and the development and sustainability of a professional learning community. The majority female participant group in this initial pilot cohort had limited technology skills and were empowered to use digital technologies.
Furthermore, leadership skills were cultivated in a core group of female teachers. This enabled them to support their colleagues and take the lead in their learning centres and in the larger project network. These gendered dimensions of learning and empowerment are an important aspect of how this project has positively impacted this Syrian refugee community. Through this initiative, Syrian refugees—educators, their families, their students and their students’ families—become more self-reliant, integrated, and secure in their host country of Egypt.
One participant shared in a feedback survey: “I learned communication and active listening, and how to develop these skills to improve interaction and minimize chances of misunderstanding. The training was also a wonderful opportunity for us [participants] to get to know each other and share experiences, ideas, educational resources and mutual support.”
This, along with an expressed desire by some participants to bring back the information and skills leaned back to their colleagues, as well as the teachers’ own wishes to lead another cohort, are indicators of progress toward the project’s goal of a community of practice. It also works towards the Global Compact on Refugees objectives of enhancing self-reliance and easing the burden on host countries.
Developing a community of practice between, and within learning centres, to:
- foster collaboration and sharing of resources.
- cultivate teacher leadership.
- build sustainable professional learning models.
Enhancing educators’ knowledge and skills to:
- develop positive classroom cultures.
- build safe and productive learning environments.
- increase student academic achievement and well-being.
- The “Tawasol blended learning pilot for refugee educators” was conceived and implemented by Plan International and the Carey Institute for Global Good (CIGG), Center for Learning in Practice.
- A six-week facilitated course and community of practice was designed for Syrian educators in Egypt. This was done by using the Teachers in Crisis Contexts (TiCC) introductory training pack by the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), and CIGG’s Sustainable Learning Framework created by Dr. Diana Woolis, Director of the Center for Learning in Practice.
- All content and facilitation was delivered in Arabic on a mobile learning platform (https://learning.careyinstute.org) to support participation across regions in Egypt.
- ECHO funds the Tawasol initiative. The Carey Institute for Global Good underwrote additional costs related to instructional design, platform fees, and course translation.
- One Plan staff member served on the course facilitation team, as regional liaison in Egypt. Other facilitators were volunteers who were recruited, trained, and supported by Carey staff and who were working virtually with the Plan staff and the Tawasol participants.
- Additional technology resources included Zoom and WhatsApp. Participants utilized personal mobile phones to access the course and the weekly Zoom meetings.
- Collaborative endeavour between the Carey Institute for Global Good and the Plan International Egypt office.
- Plan International Ireland office was also involved.
How challenges were overcome
Key challenges revolved around technology: lack of access or lack of know-how, and confidence, to use it effectively to participate in the online course and virtual meetings. Suggestions made by participants and facilitators to address this issue for future cohorts include:
- introducing and practicing with technology prior to joining the course.
- providing more local and regional support for technology concerns as they arise.
Another challenge was building trust and rapport among participants. It took two weeks to establish open dialog and foster sharing within this online community of practice. Participants and facilitators have suggested a face-to-face kick-off event to launch the project for future cohorts.
The Carey project lead worked closely with facilitators to provide resources for use in weekly meetings. Facilitators remained flexible and responsive to participants’ needs. A guest speaker was invited, for example, in response to teachers’ requests to learn more about psychosocial well-being. The in-country facilitator was able to provide tech support which was very helpful.
Results of the Good Practice
Plan Egypt is now working with participants and the Egyptian Ministry of Education to design the next phase of the Tawasol project. During this next phase, teachers in both learning centres and public schools will be engaged in learning together. A blended learning approach is being considered in light of the pilot project described above and both Plan and Carey team members will meet soon to discuss how best to optimize collaboration and learning for participants through face-to-face and online learning communities.
- Syrian educators (of refugee backgrounds) working in the Egyptian context have improved their pedagogical knowledge and skills related to concerns of inclusion, child-wellbeing, social-emotional learning, curriculum and lesson planning, and assessment.
- A community of practice has formed among refugee teachers across different regions of Egypt. They have tools to dialog with each other, share resources and promising practices, to support each other and their refugee students.
Both refugee educators and families are working toward integration in their new community. This project assists teachers and students in preparing for greater participation in Egyptian schools and society.