The Abuja teacher professional development event was organised by ACE in partnership with UK Africa Professional Educators’ Seminar under the auspices of the local education government authority of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. A total of over 300 primary and secondary school teachers were in attendance.
It was at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) event in March 2019, organised by the Varkey Foundation in Dubai that UKAPES co-founder, Joyce Elemson and Kiki James, founder of ACE conceived the idea of hosting a CPD for teachers in public schools in Nigeria. After wide ranging discussions, it was agreed that ACE could also include teachers in its services by offering a teacher development course delivered by UKAPES. It must be noted that ACE exists to make as a sustainable, realistic and effective difference in the lives of Africans through a focus on education and training, affordable healthcare and economic empowerment for the masses in the Abuja area and selected towns and cities in Northern Nigeria. ACE has among its achievements, provided and installed computers and other ICT equipment to support marginalised pupils’ digital skills development in government established schools, thereby boosting equity between the public and the largely private educational institutions within the city.
Months of planning, meetings and addressing bureaucratic requirements with the education authorities finally led to an approval for the event to proceed. The education officials in their efforts to maximise the output and benefits recommended that a minimum of 4 teachers per school attend the event for further dissemination to the rest of the teaching staff in their various schools. Two modules were to be delivered to all teachers in exposing them to modern pedagogies and improving maths teaching techniques on the first day. The second day, though was considered but not sustainable due to problems of logistics.
ACE staff were visibly present to take charge of registrations all attending teachers, signposting them to the allocated room for the event. They also provided equipment including a projector, laptop and a public address system to ensure a smooth operation and effective participation of all teachers.
As an introduction, Joyce gave a brief history of UKAPES by relating how she came to be involved in teacher development within a personal project. She emphasised that while it is important to raise awareness of CPD provision as an international gold standard in the UK and other Western countries, it is desirable that the same provision is replicated in Nigeria and indeed other parts of Africa as a means of strengthening teaching and learning and maximising educational outcomes for young people. Participating teachers were encouraged to pose questions or make any comments during the course of the training just before the module on modern pedagogical strategies was explored.
After sharing the outcomes, teachers were asked to think and reflect about their current teaching strategies, select a partner, discuss the strategies and annotate on post-it notes to be displayed on the white board. The essence of the exercise was to compare and contrast their current teaching strategies with the modern pedagogies, select those that are feasible and incorporate into their subsequent practice.
It was essential for teachers to be exposed to the historical origins of pedagogies as a background and appreciation into different teaching techniques. Teachers visibly made notes and took photographs of shared slides and some recorded the training sessions. Following on was an exploration of each strategy starting with co-operative learning which promotes peer-learning through individual contributions from learners from various cultural perspectives, challenging and stimulating learning and helping them develop speaking and listening skills. Teachers were prompted to think about their classroom arrangement in reference to promoting co-operative learning. Most teachers agreed that rows and columns were the standard layout which could be easily rearranged into the workshop style to facilitate co-operative learning. One of the teachers raised an observation about the practicality of the strategy due to existing large class sizes. With a class of 103 pupils, he felt that it was just impossible to rearrange the room to accommodate the workshop style owing to the space taken up by furniture, restricting teacher movement and effectiveness of his teaching sessions. Other teachers commented about the typical large class size which was predominant on the outskirts of the FCT in many small towns and villages with a high children population and subsequently suffering from low teacher/pupil ratio. Teacher shortage was identified as a serious problem within the area, which must be addressed to reduce large classes and improve teaching and learning quality.
It was suggested that in as much as teachers are empowered, the simple effort to rearrange class for efficiency was a cost-free technique to enhance pupils’ learning experience through pupil development of speaking and listening skills.
Experiential learning was next discussed where teachers were assisted to take into consideration individual learner’s experience from outside the classroom when planning lessons as this activity promotes equality and diversity. An embedded illustration drove home the concrete experience acquired by a learner which a teacher could reflect on, conceptualise and reiterate.
As the training progressed, the concept of differentiation was clarified to mean the meeting of different needs of different learners within a group. The effort which may be perceived as a burden caters to the every need of a learner which can only be attained through prior knowledge of each learner. Visible examples were given to teachers to develop this aspect of their practice including repositioning of learners to curtail noise, various questioning techniques, modified worksheets of bigger font sizes, use of coloured overlays, timed activities, scaffolded activities, magnifying lens, prompts and appropriate use of technology among others.
Comments were relayed about certain aspects of their existing practice in relation to the training. For instance, a teacher related an experience of explaining the process of evaporation by bringing learners out to the open and drawing their attention to dried clothing on the washing line and the dried-out puddle from the heat of the sun. That is relating theory to real life, a technique that may not always present an opportunity in all contexts. Teachers were encouraged to give deep thought to opportunities of relating theory to the real life and vice versa when planning their lessons.
More strategies were highlighted that ranged from assessment for learning to embedding literacy, language and numeracy. While teachers absorbed the content, they were quick to identity real time obstacles to the compliance of the concepts because of inadequate resources and sometimes poor political will as stated by one teacher. An IT teacher complained bitterly about the duration of his teaching period which could be prolonged for good effect. It was strongly advised that pressure could be placed on education leaders to review lesson duration for core subjects such as Maths, English Language, Sciences and IT.
Teaching in the 21st century requires that teachers are proficient in the use of appropriate technology. To educate young people without imparting digital skills can be considered a complete disservice as such pupils will be excluded from the modern day lingua franca of all institutions of learning. Teachers were encouraged to use their smartphones and tablets to teach. Posing simple questions before a video is shown or using an interactive web sites to assess are effective ways of incorporating technology into teaching. The use of Smartboards and EASITEACH software among others may require specialist training for the tech-shy teacher.
Highlighting the three main styles of teaching, it was suggested that teachers create a balance among visual, auditory and kinaesthetic styles of teaching and learning rather than the conventional focus on auditory and visual. An example was given about the measuring of the dimensions of a room to calculate its volume. The activity is to be issued to pairs of learners in a group and checked against accurate dimensions. This is meant not just to inject some kinaesthetic activity but to ensure a higher degree of involvement and motivation, boost deep learning and more importantly encourage team working skills among learners.
Generally, teachers were very attentive to the module, engaging throughout the session and were actively making notes. In reference to the post-it notes, they were advised to revisit the existing strategies, compare with the modern techniques and select some practical techniques to be used in their subsequent practice.
The second module focused on improving Mathematics pedagogy which identified challenging topics faced by students generally within the Maths curriculum. As individual concepts were examined, teachers agreed that mathematical language presents a challenge as well as selecting and applying a concept for problem solving. An example was given in the question below:
Pamela has a square based garden measuring a length of 65m. She picks up litter 3 times round the garden a day. How long will she have walked around the garden?
The above question requires knowledge of 2D shapes and the appropriate selection of a geometrical concept, to be applied and used to solve the given problem. It is interesting to note that learners are more accurately reactive to direct mathematical questions such as finding the perimeter/area of a 2D shape but less favourable to independent selection and application of concepts for problem solving purposes. It was suggested that teachers consider teaching in familiar contexts – Contextual Maths.
Contextualisation in Maths was strongly recommended for teachers to incorporate in their teaching methodologies for the purpose of highlighting the value of Mathematics in real life and for full learner engagement. It also has the benefit of developing independent thinking skills in young people, mental alertness and the ability to tackle everyday problems of a numerical nature. Mathematics in contexts, they were advised, has proven to help people attain personal effectiveness by making good decisions throughout the course of their lives.
As the session progressed, all teachers were encouraged to take on board new e-resources for cascading onto colleagues in their various schools whether Maths was their subject specialism or not. The objective of sharing the e-resources went beyond the classroom environment to supporting their personal and children’s Maths development. At this juncture, 10 websites, which include interactive features in real time teaching and learning contexts, were shared one by one with teachers. This generated some excitement especially as they were taken through navigations of selected features. Further, one teaching app with which teachers could design and upload assessment, a calculating app and a virtual learning environment were shared with teachers for their own exploration and planning purposes.
The session ended with an appreciation to teachers for all their hard work and commitment to a profession which has the highest humanitarian impact among all professions. With a higher than expected attendance, ACE and its staff, led by Eno Simons, a senior administrator, were appreciated for arranging the session with UKAPES and the FCT local education authorities, and for providing refreshments for all. The question and answer session gave rise to providing clarity on how additional learner systems could be embedded in the education sector in Nigeria and the need for specialist training in identifying learning needs.
An FCT education official gave the vote of thanks urging teachers to effectively change their practice in light of the newly acquired techniques and to share as much as possible with colleagues in their various schools. This was followed by an expression of appreciation to ACE and the facilitator; a networking and photo session.