Secret Sauce of Speed School: Holistic Training Approach

October 26, 2021

Most observers attribute the Speed School learners’ successful outcomes to a combination of the pedagogy used and the increased support by mothers due to the Self-Help Groups. Geneva Global, though, is convinced that it is less the methods used than the conditions created to use the methods consistently and well. In particular, there is nothing “secret” about the instructional methods, since these are well-known and widely promoted by most education systems. The truly “secret” ingredients of the Speed School sauce are (i) the instructional liberty that comes from using a condensed curriculum and (ii) the program’s holistic approach to training. Still, all four “ingredients” warrant mention. This article will highlight Speed School’s holistic training methodology.

Geneva Global’s approach to teacher training rests on a belief that skill and practice accumulate as an iterative process of practice, reflection, and adjustment.  These dimensions cut across three tightly connected aspects of a holistic training approach.

Hands-on workshop training.  The first is more conventional workshop-based training, which is highly “hands-on.”  Facilitators learn pedagogy as concepts and by application.  Training features the same basic instructional practices the program expects facilitators to use with their pupils.  They work in small groups and create learning materials and integrated lesson plans.  They peer assess; and so on.  Second, and maybe most importantly, training includes activities that place facilitators in the role of pupils.  In training, they learn a sample set of lessons from the curriculum using the same integrated, activity-based, learner-centered methods they will eventually use to deliver the same lessons in class.  “These are the learning experiences and emotions,” the trainers tell them, “that you must be creating for your own pupils.”

Dialogue-based inspection.  The second element is a dialogic approach to monitoring, supervision, and support.  This stands in contrast to the more conventional inspection strategy of observing a ‘snapshot’ of a teacher’s lesson and offering an automatic critique.  The dialogic approach engages the supervisor and facilitator together in a reflective discussion of what is going well and what is not in her/his instruction, classroom management, and other aspects of her/his role.  It allows them to identify actions that both will take to help the facilitator improve over time.  It looks beyond the 15-minute ‘snapshot’ of the typical classroom observation, asking the facilitator to explain also what s/he has been doing over previous weeks, particularly concerning issues raised during previous classroom visits.  This permits her/him both to brag about successes and to raise challenges or gaps in understanding with which s/he has been struggling.  The aim is to equip and motivate the facilitator to be deliberate and diligent in reflecting and working on ways to improve.

Education Community of Reflective Practice.  The third element builds from the dialogic approach to supervision, fostering facilitators’ commitment to be reflective practitioners.  All facilitators should continuously be asking her/himself, “How can I improve my teaching and my pupils’ learning?”  They should be doing this alone as they prepare their lessons, as they deliver them, and after each lesson ends in order to improve during a lesson, to prepare better for the next lesson, and to strengthen their overall knowledge and practice.  They should also be reflecting as a Community of Practice, coming together to

  1. share their respective teaching experiences, both the challenges they face and the successes and solutions they have found or are considering;
  2. analyse their collective experiences to identify challenges to tackle together and successes and solutions upon which to build moving forward; and
  3. identify new challenges to tackle (or previous ones on which to continue to work) and adopt a strategy for addressing these both in their respective classrooms and jointly.

As an Education Community of Practice, facilitators address issues related to pedagogic practice, specific lessons and content, classroom management, and broader school-related issues.  The Speed School program promotes individual and collective reflective practice through a variety of means, including journaling, joint lesson planning, reflection workshops, and simple consultation with colleagues.