Processes of Pedagogic change

Processes of pedagogic change: integrating subject and language learning through teacher education `(authors version)

  • Angeline M. Barrett, University of Bristol
  • Zawadi Richard Juma, St John’s University of Tanzania
  • Francis William, University of Dodoma

Forthcoming in Erling, E., Clegg, J. & Rubagumya, C.M. (Eds) Multilingual Learning in Sub-Saharan Africa. London: Routledge.

A considerable body of research evidences the power of multilingual education to transform classrooms and to strengthen subject learning. In many postcolonial contexts, large numbers of learners within mainstream basic education learn in a European language, which may be unfamiliar to them. An urgent question for research, therefore, is how multilingual education can be introduced and scaled up. We report on a project that developed an approach to integrating science and mathematics subject learning with language learning within one university and scaled it up across five teacher education institutions in Tanzania. Critical features of the process are identified. These point to the importance of collaborative professional learning for endogenous innovation that aim at expanding a community of practice rather than replicating an ideal practice.

There is a substantial and growing body of research arguing for multilingual educational practices in multilingual societies (Wright et al., 2015). These arguments are evidenced by small to medium scale classroom research, involving qualitative observation of classrooms, interviews or larger surveys with teachers and, less frequently, consultation with learners (Cenoz, 2017). The research evidence has been collected from diverse multilingual contexts, ranging from the city states of East Asia (Lin and He, 2017), hyperdiverse cities of Europe (Duarte, 2018), and, pertinently for this edited book, diverse rural and urban landscapes of low- and middle-income countries within sub-Saharan African (Msimanga and Lelliot, 2014; Probyn, 2015; Terra 2018) and across the Global South (see for example contributions to Shoba and Chimbutane, 2013; Coleman, 2017). Taken individually, the studies are small and context-specific in their conclusions. Cumulatively, they provide a robust evidence base for the potential of bilingual or multilingual educational practices to promote socially just education, as this volume illustrates.

It is harder to find evidence on how to take multilingual education (MLE) to scale. Yet, in many formerly colonised countries that use a European language as the language of instruction within the state education system, this is precisely the challenge. Lack of evidence on scale-up is not specific to multilingual education (MLE). Samoff, Dembélé and Sebatane (2013) over many years developed a review of education reform scale-up of education initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa. They found very few examples of successful innovation going to scale. More often, projects which are extraordinarily successful at improving the quality of education in a specific place and time have
faltered when ministries attempt to scale them. This does not bode well for using the evidence basis from numerous successful but mostly small-scale initiatives to influence national policy in the direction of MLE across an education system. National policy does matter as it may put a brake, or even a block, on pedagogic innovation. However, it is also critical to give attention to the processes of professional learning through which pedagogical change occurs are also critical:

pedagogical renewal does depend largely on teacher development … . But just as student learning is significantly determined by the quality of teaching (of teachers by extension), teacher development (conceived as teacher learning) is in part determined by the quality of the learning opportunities which teachers (prospective, beginning and experienced) engage in. The quality of such learning opportunities is, in turn, determined in part by the quality of the designers and facilitators, that is, teacher educators and trainers. (Dembélé and Lefoka, 2007: 547)

Teacher education should be regarded as a “fulcrum for change” (Stuart, 2002), particularly when it comes to strengthening pedagogy. Teacher educators are well-positioned to influence large numbers of student teachers at the start of their careers. They are expected to be pedagogic experts who engage in school-based research, particularly if based in university departments of education. Further, they are networked with a number of schools, where their students are posted for teaching practice placements.

The Language Supportive Teaching and Textbooks project in Tanzania, capitalised on these positional advantages of teacher educators to develop and disseminate a pedagogic approach which draws on bilingual strategies to strengthen science and mathematics teaching and learning at the lower secondary level. State primary education, which enrols a large majority of pupils and is the only available provision in most rural areas, uses Kiswahili as the language of instruction, whereas English
is used in all secondary schools (Sumra & Rajani, 2006). For most students, the transition in language of instruction is abrupt and challenging and this has been observed to impede science learning (Mwinsheikhe, 2009; Juma, 2015). Whilst language in education researchers have advocated a change in policy for four decades, the implemented policy has not changed.

Meanwhile, in the last ten to fifteen years lower secondary education has expanded rapidly and Tanzania now has a policy of universal secondary education. The development and scale up of language supportive pedagogy was an attempt to mitigate the classroom consequences of a controversial but, so far, intransigent language policy. The project aimed to enhance the language proficiency of student teachers for subject teaching at the same time as introducing them to a bilingual pedagogical approach designed to address the language barrier.

In this chapter, we briefly outline the nature of the pedagogic innovation before explaining the process of collaborative professional inquiry through which it was scaled up. We finish by highlighting the essential elements of the process of professional learning and draw out implications or the design of scale up of MLE.

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