Joyce Matthews: How a trainer of teachers moved her in-person, analog workshops online

Ganda Suthivarakom

Feb 22, 2021

Scotland-based teacher trainer and facilitator Joyce Matthews understands the struggle educators feel in trying to translate their curriculum from IRL to an all-online world. Her programs for educators cover the art of andragogy, the leading of people, showing teachers how to be better leaders in their work. 

Since her classes were designed to be a discovery dialog in a live classroom setting, she has had to remaster her skills in the virtual world. We talked to Matthews about how mmhmm has helped her translate the analog experience into one that works on video, why she would like to see more professional development for teachers who want to learn asynchronously, and what she hopes teachers will take with them once the pandemic has ended. 

How do you describe the difference between facilitating and training?

Very simply, training takes you from the unknown to the known. Facilitation takes you from the known to the unknown. You discover so much about yourself in facilitation, and so much about what you know and are able to do. It's like peeling back the layers of an onion—you go into a room and you think you maybe know a little bit about something, and you come out and it's like having a massive lightbulb moment, a big transformation. It allows every single learner to set their own learning agenda.

How did you start as a facilitator and trainer of teachers?

I started off as a physical education teacher. I finished with that because I felt I'd done as much teaching children as I could. Then I became a trainer of teachers, which I absolutely loved. I trained lots of teachers in physical education, until I got to the stage where I realized that I was seeing the same teachers year in year out. And I thought, well, what is going wrong here? Either the teachers are not very good at this or I'm not very good at this. 

What I was trying to do was turn them into copies of me. And they were never going to be copies of me. So I had to find a way to help them to be even better versions of themselves. And that's when I discovered facilitation, which really gave me the freedom to bring out their strengths and their achievements and their areas of interest. So I trained as a facilitator and worked for the National College of School Leadership in England. In 2011, I got the opportunity to set up my own business, and I took it!

Joyce Matthews standing at the flip chart that says Welcome Facilitators of Learning

How, how has mmhmm been helpful to you in this time?

Before the pandemic, I ran a three-day program for teachers to train as facilitators of andragogy. That was my best-seller. I was all booked up. Then suddenly it stopped. 

For me, mmhmm is the only platform I’ve found where I can model what I would do as a facilitator: I use flip charts, and I want to have them beside me, and you can't do that in Zoom. It's not easy. Everybody was sharing screens and using PowerPoints. I don't use PowerPoints; I use flip charts, because I draw on them, and it means people can respond. You can draw as people see things as a facilitator. I wanted to model that. And mmhmm gave me the place to put my flip chart beside me, the same as it would be in a room. That was spot on. 

My delegates have asked me, “What are you using? What is that platform?” Lots of teachers want to use it.

What do you hear from teachers about their biggest challenges right now?

The big thing for teachers is whether to do synchronous or asynchronous—whether to do live lessons or to record and let the children access them whenever they want to. That's another asset that mmhmm has got because it's so easy to record, and very, very useful.

At the moment, teachers are really struggling. You can't just take a real-life curriculum or a day in a teacher's life and just do lessons back-to-back. They need that facility of either recording things and sending them out or making them accessible or doing it live.

I would like to see more asynchronous professional development for teachers.

Do you hear any hesitation about doing asynchronous teaching? 

Yes! And I think because they don't know a lot about it. I would like to see more asynchronous professional development for teachers, because at the moment, teachers are still tied to computers at times. And I don't think people have quite realized the benefit of asynchronous and doing things like MOOCs [Massive Open Online Courses] where you can just do as many videos as you want at the time of your choosing. Especially since a lot of teachers aren't sleeping at the moment, or maybe up in the middle of the night, it's perfect. 

What do you hope that the education world will take away from the pandemic and bring into the future of teaching once we're all okay to meet in person? 

I am hoping they will realize how innovative teachers have been under pressure. They've suddenly had to do something, and they've done it. And they've kept innovating within the constraints that we’ve got. Every day on Twitter, I see teachers saying, “Oh, I found another app.” Everybody's helping each other across the globe. They're building their professional learning networks, and they're helping each other and being more and more creative as time goes on. So I hope they take that creativity forward with them, and don't forget how good they are at.