National Teachers’ Conference “The Challenges of Distance Education in Developing Students’ Competences”

2021 m. May 3 d., 13:34

The Republican Teachers’ Conference “Challenges of Distance Education in Developing Students’ Competences” is a traditional annual joint event of the Education Department of Kaunas City Municipality Administration, Kaunas Teachers’ Qualification Centre, and the Methodological Council of Kaunas City Schools, in which the pedagogical community shared their valuable experience with colleagues. The conference, which brought together over 350 participants from all over Lithuania, took place in a virtual environment. The aim of the conference is to encourage the educational community to share valuable experiences on how they develop students’ competences to achieve learning outcomes through distance education. The organisers of the conference encouraged cooperation between teachers and student support professionals to exchange experiences, develop students’ general and subject competences, and share valuable practices. The hosts of the conference, Erikas Griškevičius, Principal of Aleksandras Pushkin Gymnasium in Kaunas, and Dr Dalia Lapėnienė, Principal of Jonas and Petras Vileišius School in Kaunas, greeted the participants of the virtual conference, welcomed the initiatives taken by Kaunas teachers and leaders, thanked the participants and the people thanks to whom the conference was held, and recalled the programme. Agnė Andriuškevičienė, Advisor to the Minister of Education, Science and Sport of the Republic of Lithuania, welcomed the participants of the conference, conveyed the greetings of the Minister Jurgita Šiugždinienė, and welcomed the culture of learning and sharing. Dr. Ona Gucevičienė, Head of the Education Department of Kaunas City Municipality Administration, welcomed the teachers’ activity, communication and cooperation in exchanging experiences in developing students’ competences and achieving the highest possible student achievements. The plenary speaker, Dr. Viktorija Sičiūnienė (VMU), touched upon a topic of importance for every teacher with her presentation “Assessment that fosters student competences”. Everyone was interested to hear how the competences will be developed through the content of the subjects. The main principles of the updated curriculum are discussed: competency-based education, relevance to the child’s developmental stages, interdisciplinary integration, integration of the individual integrative programmes, and a teacher-selected 30% share of the curriculum. Attention has been drawn to the way in which the competency maps published with the draft programmes in the updated CPs reflect the competences being developed. They outline the achievements and learning content for each of the specified competences.

After a break, the conference was divided into groups. The groups were formed by combining subjects. Work took place in 9 groups. The groups were moderated by the chairpersons of the subject methodological groups: Diana Petrauskienė, Chair of the Kaunas City Biology Teachers’ Methodological Group, Methodical Teacher of Kaunas Maironis University Gymnasium, Laima Kanienė, Chair of the Kaunas City Preschool and Pre-school Teachers’ Methodological Group, Jūratė Slavinienė, Chairperson of the Lithuanian language teachers’ methodological group of Kaunas, Chairperson of the Lithuanian language teachers’ methodological council of Kaunas, expert teacher of Lithuanian language at Kaunas Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas Gymnasium, Daiva Šabūnienė, Chairperson of the Methodological Group of Social Educators of Kaunas City Educational Institutions, Expert Social Educator of Kaunas Bernards Brazdžionis School, Rita Juknienė, Psychologist of Kaunas Vyturi Gymnasium, Chairperson of the Methodological Group of Psychologists of Kaunas City, Jolanta Vengalienė, Chairperson of the Methodological Group of Primary School Teachers of Kaunas, Headmistress of Kaunas Dainava Pro-Gymnasium, Edita Rabizaitė, Chairperson of the Methodological Group of Early English Teachers of Kaunas, Lina Kostiukovienė, Chairperson of the Kaunas City History Teachers’ Methodological Group, expert teacher of history at Kaunas Kazis Grinius Progymnasium, Polina Žemaitienė, Chairperson of the Methodical Teachers’ Group for Ethics in Kaunas, expert teacher of ethics at Milikoniai Pro-Gymnasium and Kovas 11-osios Gymnasium in Kaunas, Ilona Palavinskienė, Chairperson of the Methodical Teachers’ Group for Physical Education in Kaunas, Violeta Belevičiūtė, Chairperson of the Kaunas Music Teachers’ Methodical Group, Deputy Director of Kaunas Vyturio Gymnasium, Music Teacher, Zita Nėnienė, Chairperson of the Kaunas Mathematics Teachers’ Methodical Group, Deputy Director of Kaunas Vēršvų Gymnasium, Dr. Edita Vainienė, Deputy Director for Education, Senior Teacher of English, Aleksandras Pushkin Gymnasium, Kaunas, who encouraged everyone to hear, see and understand. Distance learning(s) has not only been a challenge for many teachers, requiring them to rethink their teaching methodologies and to find tools for virtual learning, but it has also become a new opportunity to successfully address the problem of engaging students in active learning. The topics of the presentations have been chosen after listening to the problems or questions expressed by school communities and members of the methodological groups, and taking into account the fact that in difficult times, the most effective solutions are found in practice, and therefore need to be publicised. Each of them, by sharing their insights in a vividly specific and unique way, gave us a better insight into the topic, the process of finding solutions, and the variety of possible solutions. Some of the solutions were immediately welcomed by the audience and were taken up and directly applied, while others evoked a desire to learn more in the future. Concrete steps for teachers to create engaging digital content that can be used both in distance learning and back to school, obliged them to continue sharing valuable experiences with colleagues and peers. Much attention has been paid to the six key competences selected in the updated CP: Cognitive, Social, Emotional and Healthy Lifestyle, Creative, Civic, Cultural, Communication. The speakers confirmed that in order to achieve change, it is necessary to optimise the scope of the general education curricula by removing elements that are no longer relevant, redundant and irrelevant. It is also necessary to update the content of education, providing up-to-date scientific knowledge and enabling students to develop the skills they need. It is important to ensure coherence in the content of the curriculum, specifying the logical links between the different elements and highlighting the possibilities for integration, by describing students’ achievements as a set of general and subject competences. Excellent practical observations, peer-to-peer guidance reaffirmed that teachers’ creativity, motivation and attitude are the key to successful content development and support for students’ learning pathways. It is important to trust teachers and not to burden them with the general problems of education and existing schools. After the working groups, the participants were met by prof. habil. Dr. Vilija Targamadze, Member of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Education and Science. She shared her insights on education and answered the participants’ questions. She stressed that in Lithuania, as in many other countries around the world, the role of generic competences is growing. It is becoming increasingly important to pursue knowledge in a targeted way, to master the skills acquired in dynamic and often heterogeneous situations, without losing sight of the value aspect that competence requires. So it’s important to learn at school that, in a world of complex relationships, every action can have different consequences. There is no rush, but a need to look into the updating of the CPs, and in particular to hear insights from practitioners on how to improve the CPs, as the CPs will determine the content of education(s) in the general education school for years to come. The conference was closed by Rasa Bortkevičienė, Director of Kaunas Teacher Qualification Centre. She recalled the aim and objectives of the conference, which were sought by the entire pedagogical community of Kaunas. The Director thanked the conference organisers, participants, speakers, prof. habil. Dr. Vilija Targamadze, who, being very busy, found time for teachers. The annual conference is like a check that we are on the right track. We hope that the signs of help we have put together on our journey will help you to test the updated programmes.

Jolanta Vengalienė,
Chairperson of the Kaunas City Primary School Teachers’ Methodological Group,
Director of Kaunas Dainava Progymnasium