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Training Curriculum

The MUSE project (Multigrade School Education) aims at the development of an in service training programme designed to meet the specialized educational needs of multigrade schoolteachers. The main goal is to provide continuous support to multigrade teachers in order to improve their educational performance in multigrade school environment.

The training is based on the implementation of methodological approach of teaching specifically targeted for multigrade classroom and on the use of ICT applications so as to provide:
•  An in-service training programme for teachers of multigrade schools.
• The use of the Internet in order to develop a platform for training, collaboration, networking and exchanging of ideas between teachers, students and trainers.

The development of the proposed training program is based on the adoption of a teacher centred approach. The implementation of the training program includes two cycles of school centred work. Teachers will continuously give feedback to the academic team about their experiences gained in the classroom. This will not only increase the motivation of the teachers, and give weight to their practical experiences, but also provide the necessary cross-links between theory and practice. Upon suggestions of the teachers, the academic team will perform the necessary adjustments to the proposed didactical approach.

The training curriculum includes three main parts:

a) Methodological approaches for multigrade teaching
Usually, educational training institutions and pedagogical university departments train teachers to be professionally prepared to handle single grade classrooms with students that have more or less similar educational needs. Attention to multigrade teaching in the majority of the cases is not paid at all despite the fact that a significant percentage of teachers , mostly in the beginning of their career have to deal with multigrade classrooms. This is the main subject of the MUSE project, to assist teacher professionals to be able to work effectively in the multigrade school environment and be trained on teaching in the different ways referring to the multigrade classroom. For children to learn effectively in multigrade environments, teachers need to be well-trained, well-resourced and hold positive attitudes to multigrade teaching. Multigrade teaching in many views represents a more demanding teaching situation and special attention should be given to it. However, many teachers in multigrade environments are untrained have few, teaching and learning resources; and regard the multigrade classroom as a poor cousin of the better-resourced monograde classroom found in large, urban schools that are staffed by trained teachers. In addition, at the majority of the cases, the multigrade teachers are very young without significant experience, "chosen" by the state to teach at the specific rural areas. These teachers are left alone without resources and support to handle the demanding multigrade classes. The former has serious negative impact on teachers' psychology and attitude towards the multigrade class, and affects in a negative way their teaching performance. The project aims at providing assistance to teachers in multigrade schools by training them on how to organise their teaching in the complex multigrade classrooms, on how to organise their classroom, utilise school resources and spend teaching time productively by combining educational curricula or implementing specialised teaching strategies.

b) Introduction to the use of ICT
The MUSE Project is based heavily on ICT, acknowledging that the introduction of ICT promises revolutionary changes in any field of life, but is of specific importance for remote and geographically isolated areas. In this sense, ICT in multigrade schools is expected to offer to teachers and pupils, as well as to other groups or individuals who will be involved in the project accessibility to information, no matter the area's size, geographic characteristics and the distance from the centre.
In the MUSE project, the introduction of ICT in multigrade schools is based on the following principles:
The use of advanced communication channels focusing on providing a high quality continuous training programme to the multigrade schoolteachers. This is based on an innovative methodological approach that includes the use of the Internet in order to develop a platform for training, collaboration, networking and exchanging of ideas between teachers, students and trainers.
The use of ICT also focusing on (a) upgrading quality of multigrade teaching, (b) supporting students learning and (c) fostering social development of the local community.
Specific emphasis is also given in the development, through ICT, of "technological culture" that is believed to upgrade the educational system in general, also providing valuable knowledge on using modern technologies in real life situations.

The implementation of the proposed project will be done using distant learning techniques and taking full advantage of all capabilities the web offers.
A web platform will be developed in order to support the teachers training programme. Teachers will be able to attend on-line asynchronous and synchronous seminars concerning the implementation of the programme. Training material, contributions of the trainees, questions and answers will be constantly uploaded at the project's web platform. In relation to the use of ICT, the MUSE project represents a paradigm of distance education scheme that aims at utilising the advantages of open and distance learning (ODL) instruments and techniques in order to provide:
o Quality in service training to multigrade schoolteachers.
o Professional support to multigrade educators.
o Support of pupils learning activities
o Lifelong learning opportunities to the local community
The training scheme has the objective to familiarize teachers with the use of ICT assisting their work in the multigrade classroom. ODL cannot be seen as a substitute of the conventional teaching but rather as a distributed learning environment, an add-on that has to justify its implementation in the school curriculum through the qualitative upgrade it offers to everyday school practice.

c) Cross-curricula applications and projects.
In this part of the training programme the teachers are going to be familiarized with the use of educational software for designing, implementing and evaluating its use in real teaching conditions. In this phase the teachers will try to combine the knowledge gained in the two former training phases and will try to utilise new technologies in order to be more flexible as they try to use multigrade teaching methodologies and practices. Educational software and other relevant material can provide solutions as it is applied as multi curricula, multidisciplinary paradigms of good practice. The important issue that arises now is that the teacher must be able to choose material, design activities and evaluate the usefulness of these paradigms. Teachers in this stage are going to be trained to be able to act as facilitators of the pre mentioned concepts and utilise the potential of ICT for good multigrade classroom practice Adoptions of existing educational material as well as the design of first case studies for the classroom implementation are predicted in this stage.

The major innovation that MUSE project introduces is that it develops a specialized training program for multigrade primary school teachers using ICT and ODL techniques. The use of these technologically advanced software and communication tools allows both, educator's in-service training and implementation in school to evolve in parallel. In-service training participants will influence the planning of the implementation in school and vice-versa, results from the implementation in school will affect the planning of the in-service training. In this way trainees will have the opportunity of an on-field experience and on the other hand the development of the pedagogical framework for ICT implementation in school practice will be the outcome of the collective work of a much wider group.
The training programme is developed by educational and academic institutions specialized in teachers' professional training and the same institutions are going to supervise and guide the implementation of the programme in each of the participating multigrade schools. Under such circumstances, the implementation of a project like MUSE may be considered as a multidimensional case for studying the contribution of ODL in professional training and educational schemes. In this sense, the evaluation of the project's results with respect to the effectiveness of ODL could be used in support of implementing open and distance teachers' training programmes not only in remote places but in urban areas as well.

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