Delivering effective teacher training programmes in Northern Nigeria: insights from the Teacher Development Programme (TDP)

By Zara Durrani, Oxford Policy Management (OPM) Consultant

“…Whenever our colleagues that participate in TDP come back from their meetings, they gather us in a class and teach us what they learnt. We have learnt many things like grouping of pupils, the use of simple, simple words when giving examples, and allowing the pupils to also contribute in class,” (non-TDP teacher reflecting on teaching practices learnt through the programme)

The basic education landscape in Nigeria faces critical and wide-ranging challenges. A recent report by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), for example, suggests that a startling 13.2 million Nigerian children (i.e. equivalent to more than half of all the out-of-school children worldwide) are out of school. Against such a backdrop, the new APC-led government in Nigeria has identified education as one of its top priorities and places high premium on the recruitment and training of teachers. In this regard, several DFID-funded programmes like EDOREN, ESSPIN, and TDP are producing data, research and evidence on what works for improving access to, quality, and systems of education in the country. TDP in particular focuses on teacher development and reform.

Oxford Policy Management (OPM) released a new report in September 2016 based on an in-depth formative research study into the delivery and implementation of TDP’s “in-service teacher training activities” during the first phase of the programme’s implementation. A series of formative lessons and recommendations arise from the study.

TDP’s intervention

The Teacher Development Programme (TDP) is a six-year (2013-19) DFID-funded education programme that seeks to improve the quality of teaching in primary and junior secondary schools and Colleges of Education in five states in northern Nigeria. Implemented by Mott MacDonald, Phase I of operations covered Jigawa, Zamfara and Katsina starting in 2014-15. Phase II of the programme extended to Kano and Kaduna from late 2016.

TDP’s in-service training model (ISTM) is a multi-pronged intervention and provides training and support to teachers both within and outside the school. It aims to improve classroom teaching by combining the delivery of pedagogical training (through ‘cluster meetings’) with the promotion of a supportive teaching environment through mentoring and supervision of teachers by head teachers; peer interaction among teachers; school support visits (SSVs) by teacher-trainers; and provision of teaching and learning materials like teacher’s guides, lesson plans, audio-visual materials (including the ‘trainer in the pocket’ mobile phone) and other classroom materials.

Evidence on TDP’s in-service teacher training

Based on the interventions listed above, the analytical emphasis of this formative study was on perceptions and processes structured around three key research themes:

  1. Making TDP’s cluster training more effective given low levels of baseline subject knowledge and pedagogical skills among TDP teachers;
  2. Improving TDP’s printed and audio-visual training materials to make them more useful and more used;
  3. Strengthening school leadership and management (SLM) practices by establishing the head teacher as academic leader and mentor in the school and ensuring effectiveness of TDP’s school-based interventions, such as SSVs.

Key lessons and recommendations

Half way through its implementation, TDP is already beginning to demonstrate the feasibility of introducing and strengthening in-service teacher training through innovative, holistic approaches in settings as complex as northern Nigeria. Key lessons from the programme include:

  1. Language of instruction: The challenge of language barriers came through clearly in the research in relation to both cluster training and teaching and learning materials given low levels of English competence amongst many teachers. Teachers generally preferred being taught in Hausa, which suggests that learning materials for teachers may need to consider this preference. More broadly, having “English as a Foreign Language” (EFL) classes for teachers could help improve their fluency, enable them to better understand instruction in English and ensure that teaching training approaches translate into improved pupil learning outcomes.
  2. Review relevance and functionality of technological applications: The use of technology within TDP’s ISTM has been innovative with regards to materials, both for learning and for data capture. However, given various operational challenges from the absence of SD cards for the trainer in the pocket phones used by teachers, to damage to the tangerine tablets teacher-trainers use to collect data during SSVs, a more detailed review of these technological innovations will be useful to assess their ongoing relevance and functionality, appropriate usage, and corrections or alternatives going forward.
  3. Enhance knowledge sharing between teachers and head teachers: Overall knowledge sharing between TDP and non-TDP teachers seems to be occurring regularly with many non-TDP teachers indicating that their own pedagogical skills have also improved following introduction of the programme. To build on this, two key areas need further improvement. The first is to introduce a more efficient system of peer-learning between head teachers across TDP schools which would contribute specifically to the SLM component of the ISTM as well as facilitate inter-school knowledge sharing at the head teacher level. Secondly, the apparent lack of knowledge sharing and limited involvement of non-TDP teachers during the SSV process needs to be addressed by revamping the visits to include wider group support and feedback sessions.
  4. Strengthen transparency and responsiveness of feedback mechanisms and systems of data utilisation: TDP’s ISTM clearly incorporates spaces for feedback via cluster trainings and SSVs. However, building on this by strengthening feedback mechanisms in certain areas, and having greater transparency and communication around feedback utilisation will be an important step forward. Cluster trainings and materials require clearer mechanisms whereby TDP regularly responds to feedback or demonstrates how it is used. Similarly, head teachers would benefit from a standalone channel of feedback for their role specifically as head teachers, and not just generally through cluster trainings. Feedback during SSVs may also be more discursive and iterative and SSVs more broadly need to be more transparent about how data is being utilised to inform the programme’s monitoring and evaluation processes.
  5. Advocate for better school infrastructure and learning materials to strengthen gains from in-service training: Various challenges outside of TDP’s control were found to influence the work and potential success of the programme. For example, the absence of key in-school materials (such as textbooks) and shortages/poor classroom infrastructure which affect the quality of the learning environment. While these areas are the responsibility of other actors such as SUBEBs and the LGEAs, TDP should consider what role it can actively play going forward to help mitigate these problems (for example, through stronger advocacy efforts at the central programme management level with government, and developing local ‘school leaders’). This is particularly important to ensure sustainability of gains after the programme exits and responsibility for the ISTM approach is handed over.
  6. Leadership around harmonising wider ISTM approaches in TDP schools: Given the consistent finding of an overall positive perception towards TDP’s ISTM approach, it is recommended that TDP consider the possibility of playing a coordinating and harmonising role across its target states in key areas of the ISTM. It can do so by working with other partners currently delivering in-service teacher training activities, such as Jolly Phonics and MDG, to maximise complementarities and synergies in training content.

Broadly speaking, there appears quite significant process strengthening and functionality near the conclusion of the first phase of the programme. Nonetheless, as TDP goes into Phase II, some key adjustments are required as per overarching lessons from the formative study. These findings are also likely to have broader relevance for the federal and state basic education boards, and other ongoing or future teacher training programmes.

Read the full TDP Formative Research Report here.

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