University of Latvia (LATVIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2016 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 3892-3902
ISBN: 978-84-617-5895-1
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2016.1916
Conference name: 9th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2016
Location: Seville, Spain
In the context of current international tendencies, curriculum reforms in Latvia introduces competency (21st century skills) based learning. Course towards teaching competencies was set in 2006 by implementing major changes in national compulsory education standards.

Acquisition of competencies is related to a deepened learning process during which students develop their skills to generalize or transfer new knowledge and skills to unknown situations. This is accomplished by primary emphasis on processes that help to acquire knowledge (how we know), rather than a focus only on accumulated subject matter content (what we know).

In order to determine the continuity for several aspects of curriculum reforms carried out in the last 10 years, specified categories of competencies for research were chosen:
1) analytical and critical thinking (knowledge construction),
2) self-directed learning and
3) collaboration.

Our previous research based on lesson observations as a teacher learning tool revealed a gap between Latvian education policy documents and current school practice. In this paper we present an initial study to seek answers on how to help teachers to cross this gap in implementing teaching of 21st century skills in the classroom. The main goal of the study is to describe gradual development of teachers’ understanding and skills for teaching 21st century skills to students. To reach this goal we looked at how primary teachers are designing lesson plans that include different teaching approaches and how these approaches can be observed in lessons.

13 schools from National network for schools with previous innovative experience hosted by National Centre of Education were selected for the study. From each school a team of three teachers (two primary teachers and school leading team member included) was involved. A group of eight experienced experts-coaches was formed to develop lesson plans according to competency categories and provide training for all involved teachers. Lesson based collaborative continuous teachers’ professional learning model was implemented during two learning cycles from 2014 till 2016 carrying out ten workshops. Between workshops every school team carried out a “learning study” requiring them to pilot lesson plans designed by coaches-experts in the 1st year and designing and piloting their own lesson plans in the 2nd year.

Data collection was carried out with various research tools: lesson plans developed by teachers and lesson transcripts (evaluated according to three categories of competency rubrics), teacher questionnaires, expert focus group discussions after every workshop, final teacher focus group, structured interviews with school leaders. These data were used to assess teachers’ progress and factors influencing it.

The research is still ongoing. Teachers were getting more skilled at giving feedback to students, communicate learning goals and even developing students’ meta-cognitive skills. 19% of cases regarding collaboration among students and 38% cases of students’ depth of cognitive activities reached highest levels 3 to 4 (on a scale 0-4).
21st century skills, research based design, learning study.