Book chapter: Technology and teacher professional learning circles in emergencies

Key information

Location South Africa
Start date April 2021
End date December 2021
Funded by Resourced by internal funds at Open Development & Education
Collaborators University of Johannesburg


With a well-developed background in teacher professional development (TPD) in sub-Saharan Africa, staff at OpenDevEd were invited by colleagues based at the University of Johannesburg to contribute a chapter to the book Future-Proofing Teacher Education: Voices from South Africa and Beyond. This chapter, entitled ‘Learning in emergency settings: The use of technology in Professional Learning Communities to support teachers’, drew upon the extensive primary research conducted by OpenDevEd for Save the Children Norway (Redd Barna) under the project ‘Evidence of good practice and impact of technology-enabled teacher learning circles’.


Bringing together existing literature and primary research, the chapter considers how technology can be used effectively to support Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) for teachers in emergency settings, focusing on three core functions: communication and collaboration; resource sharing; and monitoring and evaluation.

Primary research was conducted by the authors with more than 280 practitioners of PLCs in emergency settings globally. The primary research was commissioned by Save the Children Norway, and involved: a survey with 250 teachers, facilitators, and coordinators of PLCs in emergency settings; interviews with 10 programme coordinators; and workshops with 20 practitioners and facilitators of PLCs in emergency settings. Practitioners were from emergency settings covering refugees (Turkey, Lebanon, Kenya, Uganda, and Bangladesh), fragile contexts (Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Somalia), environmental disasters (the Philippines), post-conflict recovery (Rwanda), and forcibly displaced populations (Myanmar). These settings, while differing vastly, share commonalities in their disruption of formal schooling structures and practices.

While the challenges of technology-supported PLCs are not yet fully overcome or even itemized, technology can play a valuable role in enhancing access to and effectiveness of PLCs in emergency settings, provided that programmes are intentionally designed to address the challenges of the particular context. As well as improving the effectiveness of existing PLCs, technology makes engagement possible for teachers who may otherwise be unable to participate at all due to challenges with distance and security. It can respond directly to some persistent issues characterizing emergency settings relating to costs, time, and access to teaching and learning material and qualified coaches. In so doing, technology has the potential to create spaces for teachers to engage in PLCs where this may otherwise have been impractical or impossible.


The book, published by Routledge, is available to purchase in both eBook and hardback formats here.

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