|The Malawi Integrated In-Service Teacher Education Project: An Analysis of the Curriculum and Its Delivery in the Colleges (CIE, 2000, 75 p.)|
|Chapter 1: Issues and Context|
1.3.1 The Curriculum
We took as a starting point Erauts (1976) model of curriculum design which looks at the interrelations between aims, objectives, content, teaching/learning methods and materials, and assessment. This is useful for evaluating how far the programme embodies a consistent and coherent curricular strategy.
The actual content of professional curricula, however, is a more complex matter than this model allows for, involving selection from a number of different areas, and a strategic balancing of different academic and practical components. We made use of Shulmans categorisation of the knowledge base of teaching (Shulman 1987) for analysing some of the academic elements. Skill development can take very different forms, as Thiessen (2000) shows, and has to be studied both in college and in school. Finally, the theory-practice relationship is a key issue.
As has already been said, teacher preparation/development programme can only be understood in context, so we have also looked at its historical antecedents and identified some of the factors influencing its present form. The relationship of the Teacher Training Colleges to the government on the one hand, and to the school system on the other, are also relevant.
1.3.2 Theories of teaching and learning
As Avalos (1991) points out, teacher education programmes, like other curricula, are built up around various theories of learning, though these are not always made explicit. Two broad perspectives can be usefully distinguished: the behavioural and the constructivist. The behavioural position
considers that knowledge (learning) is acquired through carefully designed processes of communication (teaching) and that its success rests on the skills, competencies or behaviours of the communicator (the teacher) .... [while] the opposite position [constructivism]... considers that knowledge acquisition is primordially an activity handled by the learner with little external guidance. (Avalos 1991:10-11)
There are of course many intermediate positions where teachers and learners are seen to be contributing in different ways to the teaching/learning processes, which are here termed interactive. (See Sutherland (1992) for a useful summary of this complex field.)
Avalos comments that the dominant theory of teaching [in training colleges] in many developing countries is linked to the behavioural approach to learning (Avalos op.cit. p.11). However, under Northern/Western influence primary school curricula are being developed that require a more interactive or even constructivist approach. It would seem important that these changes should be reflected in the teacher education programmes - indeed, some might say they should start there. Conflicting views of teaching and learning form another theme for our analysis of the MIITEP curriculum.
1.3.3 The role of the teacher
Current discourse in teacher education in anglophone countries of the North/West often makes a broad distinction between teacher as technician and teacher as reflective practitioner. The technician is seen as having a restricted role, her job being to deliver the curriculum - which is prescribed at a higher level - as effectively as possible, while the reflective practitioner is expected to play a more extended role, that may include developing the curriculum to suit the context, evaluating and trying to improve her own practice, and mentoring new teachers.
In the developing countries of sub-Saharan Africa today the role of primary teachers is usually closer to that of the technician, for a variety of obvious reasons. However, the discourse of reflective practice is increasingly used in the context of reform, and if teachers are to be involved in school-based training, as in MIITEP, the teachers role must indeed expand.
1.3.4 The authoritarian v. the dialogic stance
Perhaps a more relevant distinction to be made in the African context is that between the teacher as the unquestioned source of knowledge, and the teacher as co-enquirer. Following Tabulawa (1997), this can be seen to have two aspects, epistemological and social. In traditional societies knowledge was seen as something fixed, finite and to be handed down, rather than something to be explored, questioned and developed along new lines. The elders were respected because they had this knowledge, and could teach it to the young, whose role was to listen rather than ask questions. Tabulawa argues that these deeply rooted cultural assumptions have contributed to the resistance to educational change in African classrooms, particularly where this involves the idea of teacher and learner entering into dialogue and pursuing enquiries together. This seems pertinent to teacher education, particularly if one accepts Schons (1983) dictum that the teachers expertise lies less in routinely applying theoretical knowledge than in framing problems in new ways, carrying out experiments in action, and finding appropriate solutions in unique situations.