The quality of teachers determines the rate at which learners develop the required skills. If the teachers are well equipped with the right teaching techniques, students benefit highly and by the time they graduate from colleges and universities, they have the competence to offer quality service in the field of work which leads to high productivity in the economy. Helping teachers to improve on their teaching abilities requires a multi-dimensional approach.
I acknowledge the contribution of the mentoring programme in providing in-service training for the teachers especially those in the public schools. The school-based mentors and the senior mentors are doing a good job to guide teachers on how to improve on the quality of teaching for the benefit of the learners. However, I would like to propose that more emphasis should be put on teachers’ workshops on pedagogy. Focus should be on promoting the learner-centered approach of teaching, how to select teaching materials, effective ways of assessing learners and class management techniques.
This can be done at district level twice a year whereby each school sends teachers’ representatives from all the subject areas to go and share ideas with teachers from other schools and some education stakeholders. Then, when they go back to their respective schools, they can organize mini-workshops to share the techniques acquired from the district workshops.
In the district workshops, there should be education researchers who may be university professors and lecturers presenting research papers about their findings from the various schools and they should give recommendations on what should be done to deal with the shortcomings in the system. The other people who should attend include the school-based mentors, senior mentors, head teachers, district education officers, inspectors of schools and some resourceful teachers from some top schools in the country.
When all these categories of people meet, they can share a lot of information about practical ways of enhancing the quality of teaching and by the time the workshop ends, they all have a common understanding of the best practices to apply in the classroom. Then, the senior mentors and the school-based mentors can support the teachers in the implementation of the strategies adopted. Ideally, schools should relatively have the same standards such that they address the learners’ needs in equal measure.
In the workshops, teachers should be given the opportunity to talk about their classroom experiences so that all the parties involved can suggest possible solutions to the prevailing challenges and provide guidance on how teachers can help learners to grasp the concepts. There may be some teachers who have the theory of effective teaching but when they cannot translate it into practical application in class.
To deal with this challenge, some seasoned teachers from some top performing schools should always be requested to demonstrate how they teach in their schools so that the rest of the teachers can get practical experience on how to teach effectively. This can help to address the rural-urban divide in terms of academic performance where the situation has always been that students in urban schools always perform better than their counterparts in the rural setting.
You realise that teachers are trained from the same colleges and universities but when they join the field of work, they do not teach in the same way. The disparity is partially caused by the inadequate in-service training workshops in the rural schools. So, when you get some teachers from the top performing schools to guide their colleagues in the rural schools, you are able to strike a balance between the two categories of schools in terms of performance.
This strategy can be applicable if the university dons in the faculty of education keep doing research in various schools to examine the teaching process. I think that their role should not be limited to training teachers. They need to have sufficient information about what transpires in schools so that they can guide teachers in the field on how best to do their work.
At the same time, the data collected from schools can enable them to make the necessary adjustments in the curriculum for theteaching course at the university to ensure that it provides the undergraduates with practical teaching skills. Those who are being prepared to become teachers should be shown how to do it rather than being taught what to do. This implies that the teacher training courses should be more practical to enable the undergraduates to get a feel of what they are supposed to do when they join the field of work. The way the teachers are trained needs to be in line with the way learners should be taught so that the young people are able to achieve their full potential.
However, the strategies that I have proposed work best when certain attempts are made by the education policy makers to improve on the teachers’ welfare. There is need to provide more incentives for teachers to motivate them to do a good job in the classroom.
The writer is an English Language Instructor at Akilah Institute for Women.