|Learning to Teach in Ghana: An Evaluation of Curriculum Delivery (CIE, 2000, 51 p.)|
|Chapter 8: Curriculum Delivery: Practices, Perceptions and Shaping Factors|
From interview, observation and other field data (staff teaching load) three factors could be inferred as contributing to how the curriculum was delivered in the training colleges.
8.5.1 Examination Requirements
First of all there is the influence of external examinations, which shape students' expectations of learning and add to the pressure on tutors to conform to certain instructional practices. Although none of the tutors directly said they taught the way they did because of the examinations, nevertheless it could be inferred that this was having an impact on their attitudes and actions.
In one instance, it had to do with a perception that allowing collaboration could lead to students copying in the exam. This appeared to influence the kind of learning experience a particular tutor was willing to provide, as the following interview transcript reveals:
Interviewer: Do you encourage students to compare their work? [Why?]
Tutor: I don't, after I have finished teaching I give them exercise which they exchange and mark.
Interviewer: So you are saying that during the work they don't do any collaboration. So everybody works independently
Tutor: When we allow that, when they go to the exam room they will try and copy.
Interviewer: You believe they must work independently
Tutor: Yes, especially when I am around
Time and again during the interviews the tutors alluded to the hidden' or sometimes open pressure from students to work in a certain way to reflect examination expectations. In the next transcript interview, we see how a mathematics tutor explains the impact of exams on his approach to teaching. This conversation was in the context of the tutor reflecting on a lesson he had just taught and explaining why he had not provided an assignment and used it as a basis for his teaching.
Interviewer: So why don't you do that, I mean give them an assignment
Tutor: That is what I am saying the problem is, the time factor. What we did this morning if we want to do that, because of the nature of the exams the students will say "dieba dieba"
Interviewer: What does that mean?
Tutor: What will come, [in the exams] so if you are doing anything they will feel you are wasting their time ...
Interviewer: You think the examination is contributing to that
Tutor: Very good, because if I am teaching, I will look for, like they are saying "dieba, dieba", so that I will teach them and they will also look for "dieba, dieba" and learn ... so that we would get time to prepare them. If I ask them to do demonstration [using multi-base blocks to demonstrate addition of two digit numbers] without the sketches in their books, you see they won't get anything and the examination they will fail.
From the last quote there is a hint of the effect of the actual demands of the examinations on the tutor's instructional practice. By ensuring that the students can produce a diagrammatic representation of the demonstration, the tutor felt his students stood a better chance of answering questions which required them to demonstrate their understanding in this way.
In his 1997 study, Akyeampong found access to, and use of, learning aids and materials in the TTCs to be often non-existent. Many tutors he interviewed explained that providing more activity-based learning experiences was time-consuming and more demanding than the "chalk and talk" approach. Since students pass their examinations via the "chalk and talk" approach they see little reason to change their teaching methods. In conclusion, it would seem that the examination system is a disincentive for tutors to provide other rich learning experiences in their instructional practices even though most of them believe in the benefits.
8.5.2 Time Constraints
One issue that was often raised by the tutors was the constraints of time on what they could actually do. With looming examinations in mind, as well as the overcrowded syllabus and extracurricular activities, there was very little time, in their view, to engage in learning activities that required extensive exploratory work by students. This had the effect of compelling them to resort to lectures and note-taking. One of the things we noticed in the colleges was the interest in pamphlets that had been written by tutors for sale to students. The pamphlets were in actual fact lecture notes using past examination questions as examples and were very popular.
8.5.3 Tutors' teaching load
The way in which teaching is organised has important implications for curriculum delivery. In the training colleges almost all the teaching is organised in a classroom and scheduled according to subject specific contact hours with tutors. This means that often a tutor's teaching load is viewed strictly in terms of fixed contact time with students. A common complaint from tutors is that their teaching load was excessively high and that this made it unrealistic to expect them to provide learning experiences that would potentially increase their teaching workload. It raises all sorts of questions for curriculum delivery in the colleges.
For example, if for reasons of providing rich professional learning for students, tutors are encouraged to provide a wider range of learning opportunities, what are the implications of this for their teaching load? How should we conceptualise teaching load? Is it possible, or indeed reasonable to reduce tutor-student contact hours and increase student group work vis-is projects, investigations, reflective assignments and individualised study, to take advantage of the possibilities these offer for improving learning to teach? We feel that addressing these questions is important because of their direct implications for improving learning to teach, and for this reason the issue is described in detail below.