|Primary Teacher Education in Malawi: Insights into Practice and Policy (CIE, 2002, 144 p.)|
|Chapter 5: Teaching In The College Classroom|
From these observations we can see that while the subjects are taught very much as set out in the Handbooks, individual tutors can and do adapt the 'units' to their own personal practice and style. However, they seldom depart far from the actual content - even when it is shallow or misleading - but some make more effort to get closer to the espoused participatory approach than others.
The classroom's eye view raises some new questions concerning the way teaching was organised.
First, there is too much material to cover, and tutors tended to try to cover all the units rather than ensure the students had fully understood. To make matters worse, many lessons started late due to slow movement of students between rooms. Some tutors, especially at St. Joseph's, gave extra classes in the evenings to try to catch up.
Second, many classes were doubled up creating groups of 80 or more. This has to be seen against average lecturers' teaching loads of between 8 and 12 periods per week. Smaller classes would have made interactive teaching easier.
Third, in the case where students had been told to prepare for the lesson, the proceedings were much livelier. There was certainly scope for lecturers to plan ahead more frequently and set tasks for trainees in advance of teaching so they could come to class prepared to participate in debate and discussion. In such residential settings, the evenings were available for study. However, the libraries were closed at that time, and students seemed to lack study skills.
Fourth, the overall impression was that the college-based programme was predominantly about transmitting knowledge, rather than facilitating professional learning through reflection on theory and practice. There was almost no encouragement for students to argue or challenge. The knowledge which was accorded high status was that found in books or given by tutors, while personal practical knowledge, was devalued. Tutors appeared to treat the mature trainees as 'empty vessels'. They neither used nor valued the students' years of teaching, or indeed their experiences as citizens and parents. Both tutors and students shared this view, so to that extent there was a consistency of expectations. The section in the Teacher Trainers Source Book about principles of Adult Learning, stressing ways of respecting and building on prior learning, seemed largely ignored.
Fifth, there may be several reasons for the lack of attention to trainees' experience as well as the shortage of time. Most tutors felt that trainees' experience was of little use; students themselves believed they had come to learn the 'right way to teach'; and they found it difficult to analyse their experiences and discuss them meaningfully, especially in a foreign language.
Sixth, the overall resemblance of college work to traditional secondary school teaching was noticeable, and may reflect many tutors' training and experience. Methods used were mainly exposition by the tutor intermingled with question-and-answer sessions, with some rudimentary group work. Questions were generally low-level and often closed; students would answer in one word, sometimes in chorus. Some tutors gave students notes. Continuous assessment, such as it was, took the form of exercises or tests rather than essay or project work.
Finally, much of the teaching appeared exam-driven, with students and tutors evidencing more concern about passing these hurdles than about teaching better when they returned to school. Even the teaching practice sessions seemed more concerned about grades than about learning new methods.
The next chapter considers evidence from the school-based elements of MIITEP.