The Teachers Network creates a platform for interaction where teachers can lead change and transformation to help improve student success and the quality of education in Turkey. The platform incorporates all stakeholders involved in education, including actors from foundations, NGOs, as well as individuals and organizations from different fields, and moves forward with them throughout their professional journeys and processes of solution-seeking.
Aylin Durmaz, Ayşesu Çelik, Bala Gürcan, Ceylan Uşaki Erali, Emre Erbirer, Engin Ayaz, Kerem Alper, Mert Çetinkaya, Murathan Sırakaya, Nesile Yalçın, Özgür Önurme, Ufuk Barış Mutlu
Mina Yancı (Visual Design)
Ayşe Nur Özcan (Mentorship), Behice Ertenü (Research), Ceki Hazan (Research), Selin Akçakaya (Research)
A 2014 study, Teacher Research, commissioned by the Vehbi Koç Foundation and conducted by ATÖLYE and Education Reform Initiative looked into the socio-economic environment of teachers who live and work in Turkey. The study revealed that teachers feel excluded and insecure in their work environments, and lacking the capacity to cope with political, technological and socio-economic challenges. An overwhelming majority feel desperate in an education system that does not offer opportunities for professional growth or good socio-economic prospects.
They study in poor education faculties that falls short of equipping them with the right set of skills, creativity and innovative approach they can apply as teachers. They lack sufficient career support to improve themselves. Coupled with a worsening political and security environment, teachers feel disenfranchised in a polarized society where they feel their socio-economic wellbeing is not a priority. Further, teaching as a profession has lost its reputation in Turkey: an overwhelming majority of teachers feels that their role as teachers is not valued and appreciated in the society. In such an environment, they lack the confidence to take the initiative, be creative, and teach as problem-solvers and thinkers – both of which are key to quality teaching and positive education outcomes.
A theory of change was written as a result of Teacher Research. The research developed based on this theory was realized through the efforts of the leading seven foundations in Turkey; Mother-Child Education Foundation, Aydın Doğan Foundation, Enka Foundation, Mehmet Zorlu Foundation, Sabancı Foundation, Open Society Foundation and Vehbi Koç Foundation. The pilot program which took eighteen months has been developed with the contributions of teachers.
ATÖLYE, with the support of the Teacher Network’s core team, designed and facilitated a 6-month pilot training for the 45 teachers selected for the initial group. This initial group was came with references from a variety of stakeholder organizations like Istanbul Bilgi University Sociology and Education Center, Teachers Academy Foundation, the Sabancı Foundation, ACEV, and the Vehbi Koç Foundation.
The pilot program was designed to have a “prototyping” approach meant to achieve three overall goals. The program’s first goal was for the teachers to come together and create a community through a multi-stakeholder social innovation project. Secondly, the program aimed to design the future of the Teacher Network including the teachers who participated at the initial stages of the project.Finally, the third aim of the program was to empower teachers by using the various tools of design-oriented thinking in an educational context and use them to tackle the specific problems teachers experience in their professional lives. Throughout the process, teachers worked in teams and developed solutions with
the help of design thinking methods for problems they identified in the education system. While developing their solutions, they performed extensive field-testing with both colleagues and students. They then turned the solutions they came up into generalizable outputs that they could share using visual and written storytelling methods.
During the first module in Bolu, the teachers were introduced to one another, the Teacher’s Network core team, and representatives of the founding institutions. Experts from Istanbul Bilgi University’s SEÇBİR facilitated participatory discussions about some basic issues within the educational system. On the second day, teachers participated in several activities where they were introduced to design thinking.
During the third module, the teachers synthesized the lessons they learned from first-hand observations they had made in variety of settings within their schools and also from interviews they had conducted with colleagues, students, and parents. The teachers designed prototypes to test their proposed solutions and various experts from the ATÖLYE team joined them as mentors.
In the fourth module, teams continued to develop their proposed solutions using the outcomes from a month of testing. Teachers turned their latest ideas into posters with the support of illustrators from the ATÖLYE community and exhibited them to participating representatives, academics, and experts from various private and NGOs. Experts provided teachers feedback on their projects from a variety of perspectives.
For the fifth module, to ensure that they were able to effectively communicate the lessons obtained from the projects they developed, teachers worked on how to articulate key themes of their projects. For this, they learned the ‘storytelling method’ and how to implement it to their presentations successfully.
The sixth and final module of the pilot program was designed as a retreat in Gümüldür. Teachers shared updates about their projects and got feedbacks to help finalize their projects. On the other days of the retreat, the participants assessed the pilot program itself and worked on developing a vision and design strategy for the future of the Teacher’s Network.
At the end of the pilot program, the teachers had designed and shared a variety of projects with their colleagues, such as ways to develop integrative learning environments that are inclusive ; activities to prevent bullying in school cafeterias; educational material for astronomy for students from different ages to share a learning experience together; and classroom activities that help students overcome the fear of failing and turning these failures into learning outcomes.
Besides the seven founding foundations, many administrators from non-governmental organizations from the education industry and academicians have also supported the project. Some of the foundations that have either participated in the design process or have given feedback are : the Purple Certificate Program, Baska Bir Okul Mumkun, the Turkish Education Association, Turkish Educational Volunteers, MEF University, Umut Foundation, Ögretmen Akademisi Foundation, Istanbul Bilgi University Sociology and Education Work Unit, Kültür University, Aydın University, Ashoka, Turkish Industry & Business Association, Türk Felsefe Kurumu, Terakki Foundation and the Global Civics Academy.