Angels for Children and the University of Education Karlsruhe

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Teacher training

“What you see is what you get”: Skills, knowledge, attitude

“The best teacher is the one who gradually makes himself redundant.” (George Orwell, 1903-1950)

Our contribution to further education in Laos is structured as a 4-tier cascading system. I was asked to design it in July 2015 and it is continually being developed, expanded, and improved by the entire team. It is governed by the principle that “teaching” means studying and providing the conditions in which a particular group of learners can learn.1

Its smallest working unit in our “teach-the-teacher” project is the tandem-partnership between 1-2 Lao teacher(s) and one German volunteer. On the higher operational level, there are teams at each school or college which can range from 4 to 40 active members. The largest unit, the entire team, comprises ca. 80 people at this point. As from September 2018, we welcome a new partner: Savannakhet University.

The tandems build a working-relationship together throughout the four tiers:

  • language skills development through regular English lessons (one hour a day)
  • development of teaching skills (methodology and didactics) through job-shadowing, hospitations, tandem-teaching, feedback, and joint lesson preparation (one hour a day)
  • customized workshops on relevant topics and practical help through new material, introduction of new teaching equipment & digital media, modernisation of libraries, book donations
  • model-teaching in “Activity time” for pupils and students and in various new “English clubs”, which focus on oral communication (1 hour a day)

In each of those four areas, the German partner accompanies and guides their Lao tandem-teacher(s) through four phases of development: Presentation, practice, consolidation, performance.

In this example of model-teaching in the new “Maths club”, the goal is not oral communication in English, but proficiency in maths. One of Fabian’s maths tandem-teachers – whom you cannot see – is standing nearby and watching him. She observes what he is doing, and how, and then tries it out herself with another pupil. She decides to try this again on her own, maybe already in her next lesson. Once in the classroom, she discovers that she does not have enough compasses for her class – and this constitutes three topics for the next three teacher-tandem-lessons: Lesson planning, choosing and securing enough materials, finding/making/keeping track of them.

This process is only possible because, at the same time, the Lao teacher guides their German tandem-partner through similar learning stages regarding their own confrontation with an overwhelmingly foreign setting and culture. This “zip”-like, or “bi-directional”, learning process creates a safe learning environment in which mutual trust and then also challenges grow. More ideas develop and anything can happen from here.

Once our partners teach their first own fully self-developed, communicative, and accomplished lesson before our very own eyes and 100% of their pupils are wide-awake and eager to participate, we know we should move on. And once we have transformed our Western (pre-)conceptions into a little more understanding and humility, we are ready to go home.

Text by I. Martin

Photos & video by I. Martin



1 The term “teacher training” is used as the temporal reference to the in-service rather than pre-service education of teachers. The term is increasingly replaced by “teacher education“, especially in the English-speaking world, because this term foregounds the preparation of teachers for their role as “reflective practitioners” rather than “training of routine tasks”. As this binary opposition maybe does not scale enough the needs of teachers who are also foreign-language learners in a part of the world where English is a “distant” language (and L3), I would favour the term “teacher training/education”. Unfortunately, it would look silly on a blog tab.

2“I’m starting with the man in the mirror” is a line in a song by Michael Jackson.


Appendix: Overview of workshops

Enter “workshop” into the “search” window on the main page for the articles written on the workshops held between 2015 and 2018:


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