Back in 2020, 90% of learners surveyed for Pearson’s Global Learner Survey believed that online learning would become a permanent part of education. That belief is proving well-founded. Digital technologies are transforming all aspects of education, from assessment, to homework, to parental engagement – and the pace of change is only set to increase.
Planning for a digital future
It’s important for schools to plan properly for a digital future. School leaders must consider how digital learning and teaching will be integrated into their school’s pedagogical approach and teaching practice. In order to build an effective digital strategy, you’ll need a strong foundation of digital skills among your teachers. Building an effective digital strategy requires a strong foundation of professional development for teachers.
A 2021 report found that 77% of the teachers surveyed think that classroom technology should reflect the technology that students are engaging with outside school. They’re keen to use technological solutions in their classrooms. However, 95 per cent of those teachers feel they need more support such as regular CPD (continuous professional development) to make the most of these solutions, and increase their confidence in using them in class.
When to identify digital skills gap in schools
So how can school leaders address these looming changes? Well, CPD and training will help you to build the foundation of your digital strategy, enabling you to equip your teachers with the skills they’ll need to navigate these new teaching approaches. But how can you figure out exactly where your teachers need support?
A skills gap analysis is a useful tool when assessing your staff training needs. It allows you to see exactly who can benefit from training, by identifying gaps in your teachers’ digital skills, and training them accordingly.
The best time to carry out a skills gap analysis is at the start of the school year. That way, you can assess the results, group your staff according to ability, look at your budget and plan some training sessions to address your teachers’ digital skills gaps. It’s a good idea to plan the training for midway through the academic year. That way, your teachers will have time to put their new skills into practice.
The benefits of carrying out a skills gap analysis are numerous. It will help you make the most of your CPD budget, and help you to futureproof your teaching team. It will build your teachers’ confidence in the effective use of technology, and make them feel that the school is investing in their skills. In turn, that can boost retention.
The results of a skills gap analysis can even feed into the hiring process over the longer term. For example, you might have identified that staff don’t feel confident creating video resources. So, for your next hire, you’ll know to keep an eye out for a teacher with experience of creating videos. If you hire a candidate with lots of experience, they’ll be able to share some of their knowledge with your existing team.
How to carry out a skills gap analysis in your school
So exactly how do you figure out where your teachers need training? There are a few steps:
1. Research the skills that your teachers will need and break them down into achievable objectives
Research the edtech trends that are currently on the horizon, and the kind of demand they will make on teachers’ digital skills. Reach out to edtech insiders and ask for their advice and insights.
Then, think about the technology that you’re currently using in your school, and what your digital strategy is for the next couple of years. What technology do you want to integrate further in your school’s teaching practice? How can technology be used to improve communication internally among the teaching staff, and externally, with parents?
Finally, ask your teachers what they’ve been learning about, what they’ve been using and what they’re excited about. These conversations and reflections will come together to give you an idea of the digital skills that teachers will need to navigate teaching in the years to come.
Once you’ve identified the skills your teachers need, you can measure how essential each skill is, from 1 to 5, from not important to extremely important. For example:
|Skill||Use digital technologies to give student feedback and support||Enhance learner collaboration with digital tools||Explore new learning experiences/content with emerging edtech|
|Level of expertise that your teachers need||high||high||medium|
2. Ask your teachers to self-assess
Once you’ve identified the skills that you want to focus on, it’s time to discover how comfortable and confident your teachers are at employing these skills. Create a form and ask them to rate their skills from 1–10 (needs extensive training–feels confident enough to train others). Leave a space for teachers to add any additional comments. For example:
|Skill||Level of expertise||Additional comments|
|Create digital resources to support learning and teaching|
|Use technology to communicate with colleagues, students and parents|
|Navigate online learning resources (webinars, libraries, apps, interactive courses)|
|Organise digital content, enabling easy and secure access for students, parents and colleagues|
|Use digital technologies to design and support learning|
3. Design your training
Once you’ve received each teacher’s self-assessment, sit down with your heads of department and ask them to add their feedback on which skills are most important in their subject, and their impression of each teacher’s abilities. Then it’s time to design your training!
With the information from your skills gap analysis, you’ll be able to see who needs training and in which specific area. If there’s a teacher with particular expertise, you might even be able to bring the training in-house by asking them to design and deliver a CPD session focusing on the skill where they excel. If you notice that a lot of teachers have rated themselves as needing training in a particular area, you’ll be able to research external training providers.
When it comes to CPD, school leaders have two resources – time and budget. A skills analysis will ensure you make the most of these resources to address the digital skills gap and choose the most relevant professional development for your teachers.
Mike John is the Senior Strategy Manager at the Pearson Professional Development Academy. He explains the importance of digital training, “The more confident and empowered educators feel to explore the possibilities of tech-enabled learning, the more we can build pupils’ digital skills too. By working together, we can encourage an on-going momentum – fully preparing students and teachers for their careers and the future world waiting to meet them.”
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