|Learning to Teach in Ghana: An Evaluation of Curriculum Delivery (CIE, 2000, 51 p.)|
|Chapter 9: Conclusions|
Learning to teach involves a whole range of professional learning experiences, which begin at the initial training phase and continue well into the teacher's professional career. In this report we have been evaluating the training process in Ghana from several angles, examining the background characteristics of exiting trainees, their views and experiences of college training and teaching practice. We have also reported on the instructional practices of some tutors, and finally an analytic evaluation of tutors' teaching load in two colleges.
Pulling together all of the evidence from this range of data sources, the following issues appear critical to the debate about improving teacher quality in Ghana. The study has revealed that the model of training is fundamentally a transmission model with emphasis on acquiring teaching knowledge and skills considered essential for teaching. The tutors we observed used a variety of teaching approaches, some of which reflected images of good practice from their training. Their apparent assumption was that the more students "got involved" in the lesson the more effective the learning. However, underlying their practices was the focus on knowing which led to tutors often giving notes for students to copy. Copying notes was a central part of the learning experience of students and this was fostered by the examination system. Learning to teach was seen essentially as possessing some adequate level of subject matter knowledge and the pedagogical strategies to transmit this knowledge. However, tutors were aware of other approaches to teaching but felt the constraints of time; having "to finish teaching the syllabus" and prepare students for external examinations, made it unrealistic to experiment with other, more exploratory, learning approaches e.g. learning based on assignments, projects etc. Overall, tutors felt that students' content knowledge base was weak and saw this as a weakness in learning to teach.
The college training clearly compartmentalises learning to teach and does not engage sufficiently with the other important aspects, such as practical learning experience, by situating developing knowledge and skills in that context. This may appear to some Ghanaian teacher educators as a sophisticated approach to teacher training and will most definitely have implications for the way in which tutors are trained. At the moment, the training most tutors receive is not specific to teaching in a training college (Akyeampong & Furlong, 2000) and therefore tutors may lack a broad conceptualisation of training teachers that involves providing a wider range of professional learning experiences.
The main resources for learning about teaching are school textbooks, college textbooks and tutors' notes in the form of pamphlets. The survey evidence, in particular, suggests that the majority of students have access to school textbooks from the schools in which they practice or the college library. Most feel however that more textbooks, especially primary and junior secondary textbooks, are needed in the colleges for easy reference and use. We think it is important for a wider range of resources, such as audio video equipment and improvised equipment, as exists in some teacher resource centres, be made available in the colleges to improve the quality of professional learning.
Student teachers' most valued experience of training was teaching practice in which they became more aware of the gap between theory and practice, "Teaching practice has exposed us to the type of job we opted for - at first we didn't know". This quotation raises for us the question of how much training could do to bridge this "at first we didn't know" realisation gap. Even when we suggested that the introduction of micro-teaching in the colleges could help in preparing them to face the real task, although there was acknowledgement of its value, the importance of performance learning was still stressed as the most crucial.
I think the outside one [off-campus teaching practice]is more needed than the micro-teaching because I can pretend to be a class one pupil but no matter the situation will ask questions which a class one pupil will not ask. So I think it is not the best idea to do the teaching among ourselves. The best is we go out and meet the people that we are going out to teach, then we deal with them. And we would know their behaviour, the way they ask their questions and if you are teaching then you will know how to do that.
Then also if you are someone who is not able to control his temper when you go out and meet the children you will control your temper because sometimes the thing they do in the classroom, if you are not careful you would do something which will break the law.
These views emphasise the fact that the use of micro-teaching still focuses on the application of methods and that what is needed is more opportunity of learning to teaching through being and not merely doing (Calderhead & Shorrock, 1997).
The interview evidence shows that supervision of teaching practice focuses almost entirely on how well methods are being applied. In relation to the concerns of the student teachers on teaching practice, it will be important to focus support on the problematisation of teaching, but this will depend on whether tutors, teachers and head teachers understand what this means.
The issue about improving the quality of teacher training in Ghana cannot overlook the impact of examinations and tutor teaching load on tutors' instructional practices and students' professional learning. Clearly, the issue of tutor load should be looked at in terms of student-hours. This gives a better picture of load. The rhetoric about reflective, child-centred, activity-based pedagogies for training often reflects a na view of learning to teach in a developing world context (see Jessop & Penny, 1998). Teacher education policy makers need to contend with these difficulties that have been identified.
In summary, in the attempt to improve the quality of trained teachers there are a number of key issues that need to be considered. These relate to: resources, the examination system, classroom space and tutor's own training, the culture of learning in schools and the perceptions, values and practices of teachers in schools.