What an amazing experience. Not only have I established links and friendships with teachers throughout the province I have also had the opportunity to experience an alternative education system.
Donna Davidson, International Study Visit participant
British Council funded
Forming part of the International Education Portfolio, the International Study Visits programme provides a range of quality opportunities, which support the professional development of practitioners from Northern Ireland and encourage collaborative working and sharing of best practice.
Collaboration between teachers has the potential to be a powerful tool for professional development and a driver for school improvement, particularly when focussed on a common area of concern. Exposure to best practice and differing teaching methodologies and approaches provides opportunities for individual teacher professional development, which can be shared amongst the wider school community through lesson plans and school development plans. We aim to assist practitioner development and school improvement through the observation of best practice overseas in countries which lead the way in identified areas of education.
Participants are chosen through an open application process, whereby clusters of around eight teachers take part in a week‑long visit to observe lessons, gain insight into other methodologies and reflect on their own teaching practice. The visits contribute to the development of new teaching ideas, provide a forum with an international element for school leaders and contribute to the development of school management and administration through developing new approaches. This, in turn, creates a stimulating learning experience for students. Participants are required to document and disseminate their findings upon return, to share with other educators in Northern Ireland and the Department of Education.
Since 2013, 22 study visits have taken place to Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Spain and the USA (Washington, New York & New Orleans), involving a total of 157 participants from Northern Ireland. Visits have focussed on topics including early childhood development, career pathway planning, mental health and resiliency, literacy, numeracy, teacher leadership, community and family involvement in schools, digital literacy, anti-bullying strategies and supporting refugee newcomers.
The programme has been running successfully, recruiting clusters of six to eight Northern Ireland teachers and linking them with international partner schools with whom they are able to work collaboratively on a shared area of concern. To date, these have been linked to Northern Ireland Government’s educational priorities. Practitioners have been able to discuss best practice with international peers, share and benchmark their own practice and reflect and improve on it.
In 2019-20, we propose to run three international study visits targeted specifically at teaching professionals.
These visits directly support the Department of Education’s strategy for Teacher Professional Learning and take place in countries where our other schools partnerships programmes such as Connecting Classrooms do not operate.
Participant feedback reported that these visits not only have the potential to create longer‑term partnerships, but also give the opportunity to experience good practice, identify the principles underpinning success and design and implement new strategies within the local Northern Ireland education context based on their findings.