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close this bookThe MUSTER Synthesis Report - Researching Teacher Education: New Perspectives on Practice, Performance and Policy (CIE, 2003, 237 p.)
View the document8.0 Summary and Overview
View the document8.1 Introduction
View the document8.2 Data Sources
View the document8.3 Characteristics of College Staff
View the document8.4 Tutors' Views and Perspectives
View the document8.5 Concluding Discussion

8.3 Characteristics of College Staff

Table 6 summarises some of the tutors' backgrounds, career trajectories, and working conditions.

Table 6. Comparisons of backgrounds of college tutors and career trajectories








Mostly (>2/3) women

Mostly men, just over 1/3 women

Mostly men, (< ¼ women)

Over half women


26->50, most 36-45

30->50, most over 40

26->50; most 41-50

35-58; most 40-50

Teaching background

Mainly secondary, <50% primary experience

90% originally primary, some topped up with secondary

70% JSS/upper primary, 45% lower primary

Mostly secondary


Graduates, 1/3 with Masters

Mostly Diplomates, 1/3 with degrees, incl. a few masters

¾ graduates, others diplomates, 3% Masters

50% with Masters

Becoming a tutor

Applied: change, challenge, further study, for pension/higher salary

Some applied to do DPTE; otherwise all were 'picked, posted or sent'

Promoted from secondary schools

Applied for intrinsic reasons

Prof. Preparation:

Specific training

Dip. in Primary Supervision (2/38)

Dip. in Primary Teacher Educ. (9/33)


T.Ed. option within M.Ed


Informal, sparse, given guidelines and books

Informal, collegial, given materials, peer observation and feedback


Some informal help

INSET received

50%, mostly workshops/short courses, incl. research. A few F/T overseas scholarships, some P/T self-funded

All sent occasionally on 1-2 wk workshops. Very few overseas scholarships to gain degrees

2/3, all short courses, mostly 1-2 wks. No study leave

Some scholarships for post-graduate study

Work context:

Average workload

8 contact hours p/w, TP supervision

13 contact hours p/w, marking distance assignments

> 20 contact hours p/w

9-10 contact hrs. p/w; TP, counselling

Class sizes



Average: 52

Up to 200

Career aims

Current feeling about job

Most: intrinsic satisfaction, some altruism. Frustration with management and conditions of service

Most: low morale, dislike MIITEP; some residual intrinsic satisfaction; frustration with lack of resources and poor conditions of service


Most: intrinsic satisfaction and job interest. Main concern; being paid same as high school teachers.

Future intentions

50% would stay, others move to NUL or MOE; 13% would leave education

<20% would stay, >20% would leave education, most would go to MOE

<50% would stay, nearly 40% would leave education


* College tutors did not respond to questionnaire; information comes from general sources and from the sample interviews.

8.3.1. Background and training

Almost all primary college tutors have come up through the teaching ranks, but in different ways and from different starting points, so that not all have relevant experience. Most of the older Malawian tutors began as primary teachers, but as nowadays college staff must have degrees, the younger ones are secondary-trained. For similar reasons, in Lesotho less than half the staff have any primary experience and most of those surveyed agreed that 'most tutors do not know much about teaching primary pupils'. In Ghana most have had upper primary or junior secondary experience; fewer have worked in the infant grades. In Trinidad and Tobago most tutors have a secondary school background, again because they are degree-holders while primary teachers are not.

Unsurprisingly, tutors' qualifications vary with the country's wealth and with the opportunities offered for academic and professional development in the education system as a whole. Thus in Trinidad and Tobago half the tutors hold Masters degrees, in Lesotho almost all tutors are graduates, and about a third have Masters degrees, while Ghana about three-quarters hold a B.Ed and very few have Masters. In Malawi the majority of tutors have only diplomas; the rest have Bachelors degrees, with a sprinkling of Masters. While Malawian tutors are expected to be generalists, and may teach two or three subjects, including Education, elsewhere the tutors specialise either in one subject or in Education, though occasionally they may hold degrees in both.

It is notable that few of the qualifications were specifically designed to prepare people to train teachers, though a number of the Malawi tutors went through a 'Diploma in Primary Teacher Education' (DPTE) in the 1980s, and a couple of the Basotho38 staff had done a Diploma in Supervision. In Ghana, most college tutors had attended either the University of Cape Coast (UCC) or the University College of Winneba but they were not specifically trained as teacher educators since it was assumed that anyone graduating in education would be capable of teaching at a college, even though most of the methods taught were for secondary level. However, in Trinidad and Tobago the UWI offers a teacher education option within the M.Ed., which includes training in supervision, and several tutors had received scholarships to undertake this degree.

38 In Lesotho, one person is a Mosotho, the plural is Basotho

The gender balance broadly reflects the more general participation of women in the local teaching force. In Lesotho most of the college staff are women - though the Director has always been a man - and in Trinidad and Tobago just over half the tutors are women, while in Ghana and Malawi they are mostly male. However, Malawi's policy of promoting suitable women is raising the proportion in the colleges, two of which had female principals at the time of the study. (See Croft 2000 for a gender analysis of teacher education in Malawi).

Thus, while tutors come from the local teaching force and mirror many of its characteristics, this poses a particular problem for countries where primary teachers have low status and minimal training, making it difficult to find people to staff the colleges who have both academic standing and first-hand knowledge of primary schools. The lack of attention paid to specific training for the job is also a widespread phenomenon.

8.3.2. Career Paths for college tutors

As in many other countries, the careers of teacher educators appear haphazard and unsupported (cf Russell & Korthagen 1995). Nowhere did we find a clearly defined career structure, and ways of crossing from the school world to the college world are varied and unpredictable. In Malawi, for example, tutors reported being 'picked' from their schools to fill gaps in the colleges and promotions depend on the MOE. In Trinidad and Tobago, where there were few material incentives to transfer, tutors seem to have applied out of personal interest, or via encouragement by others, some having already proved themselves as advisory teachers. Elsewhere the moves seem to have been more deliberately planned; for example in Lesotho, tutors said they moved to get better conditions of service, less stress, and the opportunities for further study - not all of which actually materialised, since criteria for study leave and promotion were unclear. In Ghana, many teachers begin in the primary schools, further their studies by training as a secondary teacher, and then aspire to become a college tutor. This is seen almost as a 'natural progression' towards better conditions of service and more prestige; it also shows how training colleges in Ghana are regarded 'post-secondary' rather than tertiary or higher educational institutions. In sum, very few people became trainers from an intrinsic interest in improving the preparation of teachers.

8.2.3. Induction and in-service

One of the most troubling findings was the lack of any formal induction for college tutors. There seemed a general assumption that since you were a trained teacher, you would know how to train teachers yourself. The Malawian colleges offered some informal support; newcomers were given books and syllabuses and encouraged to seek advice, to observe others, or to be observed themselves. In Trinidad and Tobago there was a system of informal mentoring where new tutors could 'sit in' on colleagues' lectures, and were paired with experienced tutors on Teaching Practice rounds.

But at the NTTC peer observation was unknown and informal support apparently very sparse. It seemed that most staff had learnt on the job, drawing on memories of their own training. In the English department, tutors with only secondary training were allowed just to teach content at first, picking up the 'methods' courses later on. In the case of Professional Studies, some tutors appeared to have relied largely on what they had been taught at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) in Educational Foundations courses; this would imply that what is being offered to NTTC students may be 15-20 years out of date.

It was clear that when they had first come to the college many tutors had not known what to do, and relied on serendipitous help. One reported a conversation with a colleague thus:

I asked him: 'What kind of things do we do here at NTTC?' And he said: 'just teach as you have always taught, there is nothing new here'[...]. But in the department, there was a lady who was very helpful. I learnt a lot from discussions with her. (Female tutor)

If this kind of experience is widespread, it begins to be clear why colleges are not centres of innovation. Just as new teachers often teach as they were taught, so college tutors will train others as they were trained, and indeed three Ghanaian tutors explicitly mentioned ways in which they had copied their own tutors.

It is significant that none of the colleges studied had a staff development policy. All tutors expressed the need for refresher courses in both subject and professional areas, but complained that provision was inadequate. In the African countries studied in-service commonly takes the form either of local short courses, or long award-bearing courses that often require foreign travel. In Malawi and Ghana staff are usually sent by the MOE on short workshops to be told about developments in school or teacher education curricula. For example, in Malawi they were all given a two-week orientation to MIITEP, though it was apparent from interviews that this was not sufficient. In Lesotho tutors exercised more personal initiative, but opportunities were sporadic, and the courses usually short. A notable exception was that six staff were trained to run a special programme in Early Learning, through a combination of short courses and regional study tours, which was perceived as very successful.

Many tutors would like to upgrade their academic qualifications for both intrinsic and instrumental reasons, but opportunities are limited by funds and often by the lack of suitable local programmes. While in Trinidad and Tobago tutors could study for an M.Ed. at the local UWI campus, the African colleges were still largely dependent on overseas scholarships. In these countries there were individual tutors who had done post-graduate study in the UK or the USA, and while such courses were stimulating they often found considerable problems in applying the ideas at home. For example, one who studied in the UK said, only half jokingly, that although the course had been an 'eye-opener', he had had to 'reverse what he had learnt' in adapting the ideas to Lesotho because of the lack of resources in schools. In Ghana over a hundred college tutors were trained in British Universities under the Junior Secondary School Teacher Education Project (JUSSTEP), but they were able to make little impact on their return due to the deep-rooted conservatism of the colleges (Akyeampong, Ampiah et al, 2000).

Improvements in the college environment, its leadership and vision, are pre-requisites for change. Even the best in-service is only valuable if the lessons learnt can be applied in one's own classroom, and this depends on a number of other factors, such as basic resources, follow-up support, a critical mass of sympathetic colleagues, supportive management, and a culture conducive to change. Our case studies suggest many of these factors are often missing. But the external environment is also crucial, since colleges are usually part of wider systems, and fall under the Ministries of Education. In both Ghana and Malawi traditional assessment practices, outside as well as inside the colleges, acted as a brake on efforts to change (cf Akyeampong 1997). In Trinidad and Tobago colleges there were both innovative tutors and supportive Principals, but the Board of Teacher Training maintained a conservative grip on the curriculum that the colleges were only just beginning to challenge.