The principles behind European Schoolnet Academy courses (I): the theory of connecting individuals

Published by Benjamin Hertz on

Ever wondered why European Schoolnet Academy courses work like they do? In this blog post, we will share some of the research and theory on the basis of which most of our courses are constructed.

The foundation of European Schoolnet Academy course design lies in the learning theories of connectivism and social constructivism. Social constructivism suggests that learners are actively attempting to create meaning from experience. That process of creating meaning is usually a social process shaped by interactions with others.

Connectivism, on the other hand, argues that in a digital age where knowledge is stored and readily available to everyone, learning is less about the acquisition of knowledge. Instead, it is more about the process of creating connections to people and content, and being able to navigate these connections to access the right knowledge when needed.

Both theories emphasise the role of connections between individuals as central to the learning process. Accordingly, a key aim of most our courses is to establish meaningful connections between education professionals.

This theoretical framework is supported by research findings showing that teachers need to play a key role in shaping their own professional development for it to be meaningful and effective. Based on the extensive OECD studies of teachers and teacher professional development (TPD) programmes, Schleicher (2016) argues:

“Successful [TPD] programmes […] encourage the development of teachers’ learning communities. A key strategy involves finding ways for teachers to share their expertise and experience systematically.”

In a similar vein, Laurillard (2016) speculates that “unless teachers are the ‘prime actors’ in their own development, it will be impossible for them to keep up with the rapid changes in the environment, political, cultural, economic and, especially, technological.” Accordingly, and in line with the theoretical framework, our courses focus on the establishment of learning communities where teachers support one another and can steer the focus of their learning.

More recent research of the OECD (2019) into teachers’ professional development further shows that many teachers face significant barriers to accessing the professional development they need. Of those barriers, time, cost, and limited availability take the lead. To address this, our courses offer free, open, and flexible professional development environments that are scalable to large numbers of teachers.

The open approach and our focus on teacher co-learning with strong course communities form the general principles behind our work. But what does that mean in practice? Next, we’ll look into how we apply those general principles in practice. Curious? Sign up to be informed of our next blog!

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We believe in online learning. Every day we see enthusiastic teachers join our online courses. And while we help teachers develop, we also learn a lot. Our blog brings together those insights, resources and tips. From our community, and from us.

Categories: Insights



MARISA BADINI · October 4, 2020 at 22:00

I totally agree and confirm that connections and collaborative activities, or exchanging good practice along the MOOCS are powerful motivators, really effective for professional development. Learning process, both for students and teachers, needs positive feedback, self esteem, emotional engagement… Having voice, reading or listening from other teachers’experience, re-thinking personal approaches from a different perspective make me feel protagonist, inspiring new strategies. Moreover, international connections and cooperation open to a wider range of opportunities and cultural backgrounds that contribute to multidimensional development. The process is crucial, that’s why European Schoolnet online courses reach much more than the stated objectives: they inspire and support a valuable change in approaching teaching and learning, generating satisfaction and continuous wish to learn, share, exchange, interact, collaborate.


MARISA BADINI · October 12, 2020 at 13:32

I can confirm the high potential of connections among teachers during the online training. As happens with our students, being actively committed to share practice, opinions, ideas, also doubts, is what involves most and make us re-think our teaching habits. Personally I always learn a lot attending MOOCS on European Schoolnet Academy, both from coordinators and attendees. Moreover, comparing and sharing our teaching experiences we feel part of a great international Community, sometimes we start projects together… When the MOOC comes to an end, something personal is going to start, often in a collaborative way. Yes Connections work!

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