|The Malawi Integrated In-Service Teacher Education Project: An Analysis of the Curriculum and Its Delivery in the Colleges (CIE, 2000, 75 p.)|
|Chapter 2: The Curriculum Strategy|
During our observations and interviews we sought to find out how the tutors utilised the handbooks. In particular we wanted to know how strongly the tutors were emphasising the new ideas from the progressive strand, and how far they were training the students to move from traditional teacher-centred methods towards active learning ones. It should be remembered that the tutors had almost all gained their experience by teaching on the previous programmes and most got their only orientation to the aims and philosophy of MIITEP through a two-week training course run by the TDU trainers, which was not long enough to develop the new methods in practice. Though some had been involved in writing the Handbooks, most of them saw the MIITEP changes as being imposed on them, rather than being part of their own professional development.
It is perhaps not surprising that, overall, tutors followed the letter rather than the spirit of MIITEP, and the pedagogy reflected more of the traditional than the progressive strand. Their classroom practices were much closer to secondary schools than to tertiary or professional training institutions, as detailed in Chap. 3. The size of the teaching groups, ranging from 30-100 plus, militated against interactive methods.
In general, the lessons followed a traditional structure, similar to those in a school, but with some weaknesses. As students often took a long time to arrive and then settle down, lessons might start up to seven minutes late. The tutor would usually review previous work, perhaps by question and answer, and then say: Today we are going to continue with..... but often there was little integration of the new work with the old. These reviews and introductions were often quite lengthy - 12 minutes in one case - so that substantial time had passed before students became active. By contrast, conclusions were conspicuously brief; tutors were often caught unawares and wound up either by inviting questions that never came, saying something like: so now you know how to do that, or giving tasks which might or might not be followed up in the next lesson. Time management may well be a factor in the problems of covering all the topics.
Most classes followed a predominantly teacher-centred pattern. Usually tutors spent most of their time questioning, explaining or instructing, while the students listened, wrote, watched, and responded either individually or even in chorus. Occasionally students were told to copy lengthy notes; more frequently the tutors just wrote the main points from the textbook on the chalkboard as they went along, though as every student had a handbook, this was not really necessary. Students very seldom initiated an interchange with the tutor, either by question or comment.
There were, however, some attempts to use more interactive and participatory methods. Several tutors organised groups as directed by the Handbook. In a few cases we observed these working well, with students engaging quickly in discussion or collaborative work. In others, we felt it might have been done for the observers benefit, as the students seemed reluctant to move, and bewildered by what they were supposed to do. While students were encouraged to report back from the groups, the ideas given were almost invariably based on points from the Handbook, and the tutor would usually sum up from the text. Chapter 3 gives more details.
There were some differences between subjects. The English tutors seemed to have the widest repertoire of teaching methods, and to incorporate more activities into their classes, as befitted their skills-based syllabus. Some tutors demonstrated techniques by making the students act as primary pupils; another had the students role-playing teaching in small groups.
In Mathematics, the dominant methods were questioning and then explaining the answer which again reminds one of secondary school teaching. Occasionally the tutor would get the students practising some of the activities designed for primary pupils, such as handling coins or preparing a balance sheet.
In Science tutors would do a demonstration, which the students would then try to imitate, while the tutor supervised; the discussion of findings was mainly done by the tutor just explaining the experiments. Students did not make their own written summaries and did not appear to be intellectually involved. In other words, there was nothing in the science lessons observed which suggested this teaching was different from the traditional way the subject has been taught, though at BTC students were occasionally shown a video.
2.4.1 Some issues arising from the pedagogy
Overall, there was a mismatch between the pedagogy and the professional experience of the trainees. Although offering initial qualification, MIITEP is a course for serving teachers, yet the students - most of whom had taught for 3-4 years - were treated as though they were raw school-leavers. There is a section in the Trainers Sourcebook about adult learning principles, but even the Handbooks give little recognition to their status; the text seldom suggests students reflect on their own recent experience or use this to share ideas, air problems, or develop solutions. We rarely heard a tutor refer to their experience, and never was it taken as a serious basis for discussion.
Evidence from the interviews suggest tutors are quite antagonistic towards the schools, and in some ways out of touch with the realities faced by primary teachers. One complained these mature students are more difficult to teach than the former secondary school leavers, who used to accept the tutors theories, saying:
(Some of these students).... are refuting what we try to teach them, though some of their arguments are genuine. (for example) on punishment, discussing positive and negative reinforcement, we advise them to counsel students, but they want to whip them...... when discussing groupwork, they say it doesnt work with 200 students. [what do you say?] We sympathise, it shouldnt be like that....Some say there are no teaching and learning materials, but that is the job of MOE.
(Interview, acting Principal)
This must lead to many missed opportunities. One maths tutor we observed went right through the Unit on Introducing Money as though it was entirely new, but the students told us many of them had tried it out several times in the classroom; a discussion of what problems had been encountered might have been more useful. (See Chap. 3)
A more farcical situation arose when a tutor was having some difficulty demonstrating how to unpack and use the Book Boxes (sets of readers for each standard supplied in lockable storage units to primary schools). At the end of the lesson it transpired one of the students had been an acting head teacher who used them regularly, and could easily have shared her practical expertise with the class. (See Chap. 3)
Finally, we saw no evidence at all of students being inducted into the kind of open learning on which much of the course was premised. There was no time to teach Study Skills. Although by the time of the research all students had Handbooks, they were seldom asked to read the next unit in advance, or to prepare for the next lesson in any way. When we visited students at St. Josephs during evening prep, we found them reading over past units, or revising their own notes. The library was closed, and no one was referring to any other sources. Few tutors gave them written exercises or directed them how to study. It seemed that they were not being properly prepared for the 20 months of independent study ahead.