Opening-up and learning together, an UNESCO supported project coming to an end

Over the past 6 months, from January to June 2018, I have been working with Naomi Wahls (@nwahls) mentoring together an UNESCO supported project, one of 17 globally, part of the programme Open Education for a Better World.

This project was led by Dr Alisher Abidjanov and had a focus on identifying opportunities to transform the current re-accreditation programme of foreign language teachers in higher education in Uzbekistan. UNESCO supported the project by providing two volunteer mentors. These were Naomi, lead mentor, and I. The UNESCO project page can be accessed here, where you will find more detailed information.

It has been a fascinating journey of collaboration and discovery with two individuals from two different countries and continents whom I didn’t know in advance of the project. Naomi is a doctoral student in open education and a member of GOGN, while Alisher is the Deputy Director of the National Center for Development of Innovative Teaching Methods at the Uzbek State University of World Language.

The early synchronous meetings we organised were really important to get to know each other a little bit and start scoping a plan based on the needs and requirements of our colleague and his university in Uzbekistan and seize some of the opportunities presented by open pedagogical approaches.

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12 January 2018, our very first skype meeting

Naomi, Alisher and I have been working closely together and the result is a proposal we have put forward to colleagues in Uzbekistan. I have to say that I was impressed from very early on with Naomi’s project management and leadership skills. Her openness and collegiality made a real difference to how we worked together and what we achieved as a team. The proposal has pedagogical, curriculum and technological dimensions and brings our ideas forward based on a critical review of existing provision especially linked to English foreign language teaching supported by technology, related literature and emerging research and practices. We felt that it would be useful that the proposal would be reviewed by two experts before sharing with Alisher and we are grateful for the feedback provided by Dr  Christian Stracke, ICDE Chair and Associate Professor at the Open Universiteit, Netherlands and Dr Brent Wilson, Professor of Professional Development with Technology at the University of Colorado Denver, United States of America. Their feedbck helped us fine tune some of its features.

We have not only put the proposal together but also used this time to share our plans, progress and results with the wider academic community through local, national and international conferences in different countries. These activities helped us to stay focused and make further progress while also seeing them as valuable opportunities for open peer review. We worked most of the time remotely but I did have the opportunity to meet Naomi in person at one of the conferences in the Netherlands where we presented our work together.

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My mini remote contribution for the above conference is below

The project has now come to an end but I can see already that our collaboration will continue. Through this project, new ideas are emerging that will further deepen our understanding around the complexity of the professional development of foreign language teachers in Uzbekistan and how we can help to resolve some of the issues and create rich and motivating development opportunities for academics teaching foreign languages at university in Uzbekistan. There are opportunities for wider collaboration that are emerging that could involve our own institutions and colleagues.

My doctoral research and its outputs have been invaluable over the last six month as it has given us food-for-thought on if and how collaborative open learning and specifically the framework, I developed, could be adapted in the context of foreign language professional development and specifically in the context of the existing re-accreditation programme in Uzbekistan. We are exploring and proposing this possibility through our mentor proposal with Naomi and a co-authored paper we submitted recently and jointly with Alisher to a peer reviewed journal.

A really positive and fruitful collaboration. I learnt a lot and we achieved a lot in just six month. Thank you Naomi and Alisher.

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