Carmen Pellicer is the CEO of Trilema Group and ASHOKA Fellow 2016. She directs the monthly prestigious Journal “Cuadernos de Pedagogía”. As a theologian, educator and writer, Carmen Pellicer has set out to create a solid, tangible and functioning integral approach to change the educational system. In the last few years, Carmen and her team have empowered 50.000 teachers in Spain, LATAM and Africa. Carmen created Trilema Foundation, an organisation founded by teachers created to empower other teachers as pioneers of a much needed educational transformation.
The Right to Education of all the boys and girls on the planet is not completed once schooling is over. Once this is achieved, the question of the models and the strategies that allow for the optimal development of all the dimensions of each person is fundamental. The programmes of raising awareness are invariably one-offs, conferences, short courses, webinars, which in spite of not having an immediate impact, can nevertheless open up new perspectives, broaden our outlook and allow us to avoid the danger of accepting mediocrity. They should focus on encouraging self-analysis and provide the motivation to improve. Enthusiasm is a constant in these large gatherings, evident in the more than 2000 teachers in Chaco, Argentina or in Inca in Peru, with the Consortium of Catholic Education, to the numerous meetings in Colombia with the network of Ashoka Changemaker Schools or CONACED, the presentations in in-service training days organised by publishers and journals, associations such as IPAE and CIEC, and Universities like Andres Bello in Caracas or USIL in Peru. In these last five years, our teams have been involved in more than 100 on-site or virtual professional development courses. This has allowed us to meet thousands of teachers who share the same concerns: Learn more to Teach better.
The Design of the Training Programmes
Since 2017 we have visited the Chilean region of Antofagasta on several occasions, initially for professional development relating to assessment for 500 teachers in early years education. Some months later, we travelled throughout the region, giving workshops for teachers and talks for parents. This year, we are undertaking various systematic programmes relating to different aspects of innovation in infant education with groups of 240 teachers.
This is a good example of how we can advance from an initial motivation to the design of longer interventions that allow us to explore those aspects of school organisation and learning in greater depth. A positive consequence of COVID is the normalisation of virtual channels for training. We are happy to see each other on Zoom, and what’s more, trust in those on-screen meetings to give feedback to those teachers who are keen to apply in their classrooms what they have learned. In Argentina and Colombia especially, we have imparted various programmes relating to Executive Functions and Learning to Think, within the project ‘21st Century Skills’, as well as ‘Entrepreneur Education for Children’, Spiritual Competence, and ‘Flow, Happy and Healthy Kids,’ a programme that combines both Health and Emotional Education. These programmes are linked to the publication of classroom materials that facilitate their implementation in the classroom. They do not involve so much initial information but provide sufficient materials to help teachers to be clear about the pedagogical principles needed for a specific classroom methodology. The problem comes when the school environment is not prepared for these types of novel programmes. They can however have a domino effect, that is to lead the centre to put into practice more ambitious and longer-lasting processes of change.
Models of Institutional Support
The school Los Angeles in Costa Rica in recent years has carried out a programme centred on the Mapping of a New Curriculum and the implementation of a model of work with Interdisciplinary Projects, all of which combines training in active methodologies and assessment tools of competencies of all members of staff. The monthly meetings make clear the work that needs to be done and provide a personalised attention service, while the ‘TTC, Trilema Teaching Centre’ allows teachers individually to consult trainers concerning doubts. Every three months, the management team evaluates the process and indicates the new objectives while the group of innovation focuses on the design of experiences of excellence.
Programmes of Cascade training like this are more effective, involve all the educational community, are longer lasting and can be evaluated more rigorously. The intervention is undertaken at three levels: Management Teams, Staff and Innovation Teams. Our focus on 10% of staff members who are heavily involved in the project leads to groups driving change in the school. They are the driving force that should strengthen and become the seeds of transformation that we want to see, and we work with them not only in the contents of innovation but also in aspects of leadership so that they can prepare their colleagues in the future. For us, it is important to overcome the dependence on an external consultancy in the process of improvement so that the change is sustainable. For that reason, we always foster the empowerment of an internal team in each institution that can take on and maintain our professional development programmes. The use of the Professional Teacher ePortfolio, a digital assessment tool that records evidence of the progress of each teacher around the 10 standards of improvement, means that the centres can grow strongly and autonomously within a rigorous framework.
Within this model, our offer of postgraduate university qualifications such as the Digital Master’s, ‘Learning Leaders’ and the courses of experts in’ Executive Functions for Learning’ and ‘Education in Healthy Habits in the School’ centre on a deeper training for middle –management leaders. We have undertaken on-site meetings with students, the majority belonging to management teams, from schools in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as organising international trips with them.
The RUBIK model for the Management of Integral Change
In recent years we have carried out diverse initiatives that have made an impact on more than 50000 teachers. But in the middle of an outbreak of creative initiatives, we know that a process of change is much more than the sum of disorganised measures. In order to attain a model of excellence that responds to the needs of our students, it is necessary to generate a project of systemic transformation that centres on the commitment to the improvement of at least six fundamental aspects of school organisation. Like the six colours of the Rubik cube, they must change simultaneously. This is the case of several centres in Colombia like Lestonnac, Santa Francisca Romana, Gimnasio Moderno and La Salle of Bogotá, or Newman School of Cajicá, and Ayni Munai in Chile which are already active members of our Network Learning Schools, and the work that we are doing with REDCOL:
- A review of the Curriculum: The best schools set out in detail what they want their students to learn and select from the legislation and educational materials those fundamental aspects which allow them to understand in depth the distinct disciplines.
- Reconsider the different Methodologies that they use in the classroom, and how to produce intelligent learning through the elaboration of projects, problems, challenges, cooperative teams, the use of graphic resources to make visible what they promote, strategies that activate critical and creative thinking and that mobilise memory in an effective manner and create classrooms that are alive, emotional, and where curiosity and enjoyment combined with rigour and effort.
- Promoting Personalised Learning, a configuration of those learning situations that create opportunities of development for each and every student, starting with their idiosyncrasies and possibilities that go with diversity towards excellence and allows us to personalise the pedagogical intervention of the teachers.
- Change the culture of assessment and not simply to evaluate exam results, external tests and other multiple tests but to ensure that assessment accompanies and supports the student in their progress.
- Change in the organisational aspects of the school: spaces, timetables, resources that are put together efficiently and flexibly in order to create interdisciplinary experiences, collaborative work, vertical groupings, experiences outside of the school, links to the outside community and its members, an open school that allows real life to enter the classroom.
- Leadership, one which is both committed and efficient. We need management teams to have a clear vision of the school and the competencies necessary to make it a reality. This change requires planning and a constant evaluation of successes and failures in order to remake and propose, accompany and demand that each one gives the best of him or herself. This implies a change in the models of Professional Development for teachers. The culture of continuous improvement, considering and reflecting on best practice, the evaluation of performance, classroom observation, mentoring and coaching are some of the key aspects of our efficient model.
A good teacher can change the life of a child forever, a school can change the life of a whole community, and to change a country, it is necessary to change the system of education. In these years and after so many journeys, I have learned much more than I have taught. Above all, I am certain that in any part of the world, boys and girls can aspire to more. They cannot choose where they are born, nor the very difficult circumstances they sometimes have to face, but education, a good education, can allow them to change their destiny.
About Carmen Pellicer
For Carmen to have a motivated staff and 21st Century Skills in all schools is a must, that´s why she has created an inclusive process so any school can start their own transformation. She has been able to replicate this in ‘Escuelas que Aprenden’ 60 Schools Network. In the last years, she has assumed the ownership of 7 schools at a special situation of risk because her aim is educational excellence to reach all students, especially those who have difficulties.
She runs actions that impact the design of classroom materials, children’s stories to develop the emotions and impart values, audiovisual productions with social impact, collaborative initiatives in research in universities, or collaboration in debates of educational policies. She was one of the authors of the White Paper about the Teaching Profession that was at the centre of the political debate on education.
One of the keys to Carmen´s work is the thoroughness with which the Foundation´s initiatives are built, resulting in great credibility with the different educational institutions, researching on intelligence as the chair of the Executive Intelligence Degree at Nebrija University, directing the master’s degree in Pastoral Education at La Salle University in Madrid, developing training programs in Africa with AECID (Spanish International Cooperation and Development Agency) or joint Entrepreneurship Educational initiatives with the Princess of Gerona Foundation.
About TRILEMA Foundation
The TRILEMA Foundation, founded by a group of committed teachers, began life in Spain more than 20 years ago and has a long history of innovation, research and professional development programmes. At present, it manages seven of its own schools and is the driving force behind a network ‘Learning Schools’ to which more than 60 states, state-aided and private schools from four countries belong, sharing our values and our pedagogical model of teaching and learning. Based on that experience of the transformation of the everyday life of our educational centres, which are so different but which have in common the experience of innovation, our team of 30 trainers accompanies and supports hundreds of schools and educational institutions in Spain, Equatorial Guinea, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Colombia
Our vision issues from the profound conviction that Educational Excellence is a right of all students and one that must be guaranteed, above all, for the most vulnerable. This vision gives coherence to our presence in Latin America through various approaches throughout the last ten years.
“Throughout these in-service days, many things occur in the activities room, a lot more than we are able to realise or register. For that reason, what we have done in the course, the ability to train our way of looking and how we observe the actions of the children is of paramount importance, employing a systematic model that gathers information concerning the different dimensions, cores and areas that working in early years involves.”
– Gissele Guajardo, Antofagasta Infant Teacher
“After finishing the diploma in pedagogical coaching of the Trilema foundation, those of us from the Gimnasio Moderno were left with the sensation of having been through during these five days a pertinent and inspiring experience. And one that definitely will be of great help with the pedagogical transformations that we are leading. As a management team, we do many courses. However, we have to say that this diploma has a special significance for us as we feel that this is only the beginning of a very promising future for us, principally for three factors.
- The proposal of Trilema, specifically the structure of their different classroom support (tools, mentoring, coaching etc.). They have directed us a lot in the creation of our system of assessment and the training of our teachers.
- Their coaching strategies have allowed us to understand the importance of staff relationships and the careful use of language in our efforts to improve.
- Finally, we would like to underline the involvement with the teachers and management of Las Pachas and Los Nogales, and of Montessori, three schools from which have a lot to learn and with whom we would like to think about shared projects. Sometimes organisations are somewhat endogamous. Experiences like this remind us that we do our work better when we work together, exchanging experiences and motivations.”
– Santiago Espinosa, Gimnasio Moderno, Bogotá
“The support of Trilema and being part of the network Learning Schools has greatly motivated us to bring up to date our pedagogical practices and consolidate a culture of permanent learning with all teachers. Everyone feels they are working hard but at the same time feel motivated. I am very happy with my progress.”
– Liliana Arango, Principal at Santa Francisca Romana School, Bogotá
“We can affirm that the multisystemic model under the metaphor of the Rubik cube has had a positive impact in the process of transforming educational practice in the School Centre Lestonnac. Management promoted a leadership with a shared vision that generated common objectives and goals for all the educational community, and to achieve that, a plan was elaborated that established strategic lines and objectives as well as actions to be taken, those responsible, and the timetable and indicators of the monitoring process. Senge said: what is fundamental in learning in organisations is not only the individual but also the team. In our case, it has been all the educational community, being the cornerstone of change. The work done up to now confirms that a systemic change is possible if the vision of a new school is shared by all the members of the educational community and if it can count on a management team and leadership capable of involving everybody.”
– Sandra Gisella Lau Dioses, Principal at Lestonnac School, Bogotá.