“We want to be able to compete in terms of moving our country in the green technology way and we need to be able to learn how to teach research.”

So said Mr. A. Griffith, a science teacher from Barbados and one of the hundreds of educators who took time out of their busy holiday schedules to attend the Online Teacher Training Workshop held by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) from 14th to 16th December 2021. The three-day workshop was the final chapter of a workshop series funded by the Technical Assistance Programme for Sustainable Energy in the Caribbean (TAPSEC) and which included a winter boot camp and 25 sensitisation sessions.

The series is itself the culmination of a three-year effort to update and improve teaching materials and methods with the aim of preparing students for the region’s changing energy landscape. The initiative began in 2018 with the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Technical Assistance (REETA) programme — funded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) — which supported the development of a digital toolkit for the new Green Engineering Syllabus, teacher training and a concept paper encouraging the move to ‘green’ the CXC curriculum. TAPSEC then facilitated a partnership between CXC and the University of Guyana in 2020, which advanced a collaborative exercise in which educators across the region planned, designed, and developed the updated curriculum that is currently under review.

This instalment of the workshop series focused on preparing teachers of 11 CSEC and CAPE subjects to guide their students in completing the research components of their School-Based Assessments (SBAs). While the organisers expected a turnout of just 30 participants, more than 700 educators from 10 Caribbean countries logged in on day one alone, indicating a strong interest in learning the skills and techniques necessary to help students achieve success in their SBA submissions. 

They were welcomed by Gennette Clacken, Workshop Moderator and Instructional Designer in CXC’s Syllabus and Curriculum Development Department, who described the workshop as “a safe space” for their “questions, comments, concerns and experiences”. Mrs. Latoya Wedderburn-Rose, Manager in the CXC Syllabus and Curriculum Development Department, welcomed them all on behalf of CXC Registrar Dr. Wayne Wesley and Pro-Registrar Eduardo Ali, expressing her excitement about a workshop “filled with interaction, learning and the application of knowledge”. 

Mrs. Alsian Brown-Perry, Curriculum Development and Training Consultant, kicked things off on day one with an introduction to research before the participants were separated into 50 breakout rooms to create assignments based on the individual parts of the research process. They re-emerged to present the results of their collaboration and share feedback. 

On day two, participants explored the development of the research concept with the guidance of Dr. Paulette Bynoe, Deputy Dean of the University of Guyana (UG) School for Graduate Studies and Research and the workshop’s Lead Facilitator, who referred to research as her “pet subject” and promised a wonderful and interactive session. Dr. Leighton Naraine, Director at Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College, who described research as “a part of [his] lifestyle” covered “Data Collection, Analysis and Discussion” on day three.

Dr. Niebert Blair, Capacity Building Advisor at TAPSEC, shared her view of the programme’s impact, stating: “The well-organised virtual workshops and boot camps were not just informative, they allowed for the teachers to use the virtual space and interact with their counterparts across the region to establish teaching plans and activities for the students under the energy modules and learn further about research concepts.” Dr. Blair further credited the programme’s success to “the collaborative efforts among the organisers from UG, CXC and the participants from the Caribbean secondary school institutions”. She expressed the hope that additional funding would be allocated to CXC programmes geared towards reviewing subjects with the aim of integrating ‘greening’ concepts and sharing insights into the research process in the future.

Asked to share their impressions of the experience, participants described the workshop as relevant, insightful and informative, praising the interactive nature of the sessions and vowing to use some of the strategies shared when they get back to the classroom in January. Cindy Xavier-Henry, Dominica-based Head of Department for Social Sciences, indicated that the information would allow her to “help [her] department and students to understand the importance of literature review and how it can be done effectively.” Clover Henry-Wright of Jamaica praised the workshop for enabling her to be in a better position to “facilitate [her] students as they prepare their SBAs” for Food Nutrition and Health and revealed that it would also be helpful with her own Masters research proposal. Mitra Ramroopsingh, who teaches Integrated Science in Trinidad and Tobago, praised the three-day structure of the workshop, which allowed “time to explore” the topics “and the activities that go with [them]”. Rawley Harry, a technical drawing teacher also based in Trinidad and Tobago, summed things up when he expressed gratitude for “the opportunity to grow, because when I grow, my students grow”.