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Challenges and opportunities for teacher professional development in interactive use of technology in African schools


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This paper examines the supporting and constraining factors influencing professional learning about interactive teaching and mobile digital technology use in low-resourced basic schools in sub-Saharan Africa. It draws on a case study of iterative development and refinement of a school-based, peer-facilitated professional learning programme (“OER4Schools”) that integrated use of mobile technologies, digital open educational resources and interactive pedagogy. The research and development involved teachers in three Zambian primary schools and culminated in an extensive multimedia resource. Using an ecological framework, factors emerging were characterised at three levels: teacher, school, and the wider community and policy context. They include school organisation and leadership, teacher motivation and perceptions of opportunities for professional learning and change, teacher views of pupil capabilities, availability of resources, teacher collaboration, and viewpoints of parents and policymakers.
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Technology, Pedagogy and Education
ISSN: 1475-939X (Print) 1747-5139 (Online) Journal homepage:
Challenges and opportunities for teacher
professional development in interactive use of
technology in African schools
Sara Hennessy, Bjoern Haßler & Riikka Hofmann
To cite this article: Sara Hennessy, Bjoern Haßler & Riikka Hofmann (2015): Challenges and
opportunities for teacher professional development in interactive use of technology in African
schools, Technology, Pedagogy and Education, DOI: 10.1080/1475939X.2015.1092466
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Challenges and opportunities for teacher professional development
in interactive use of technology in African schools
Sara Hennessy*, Bjoern Haßler and Riikka Hofmann
Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
(Received 1 June 2015; nal version received 4 September 2015)
This article examines the supporting and constraining factors inuencing
professional learning about interactive teaching and mobile digital technology
use in low-resourced basic schools in sub-Saharan Africa. It draws on a case
study of iterative development and renement of a school-based, peer-facilitated
professional learning programme (OER4Schools) that integrated use of mobile
technologies, digital open educational resources and interactive pedagogy. The
research and development involved teachers in three Zambian primary schools
and culminated in an extensive multimedia resource. Using an ecological
framework, factors emerging were characterised at three levels: teacher, school,
and the wider community and policy context. They include school organisation
and leadership, teacher motivation and perceptions of opportunities for profes-
sional learning and change, teacher views of pupil capabilities, availability of
resources, teacher collaboration, and viewpoints of parents and policymakers.
Keywords: teacher professional development; digital technology; sub-Saharan
Africa; interactive pedagogy; Zambia; open educational resources
This article explores the opportunities and challenges for supporting school teachers
professional learning about interactive teaching and digital technology use in sub-
Saharan Africa (SSA). Buckler and Gafar (2013) argued that teacher education has
been a neglected area of policy development and several SSA countries did not have
a national teacher education policy or strategy until as recently as 2007. It has been
proposed elsewhere that priority should be given to school-based professional
development (PD), particularly in developing world contexts where resources are
stretched and where many people teaching in schools are unqualied or underquali-
ed(Moon, 2007a, p. 356). Buckler and Gafars small-scale study of how rural
SSA environments impact on teachersability to access in-service programmes (car-
ried out as part of the Teacher Education in SSA or TESSA programme) indicates
that this is endorsed by teachers themselves, who prefer not to travel long distances
for courses and live away from families for long periods (Buckler and Gafar, 2013).
At the policy level, emphasis is now rmly on educational quality and teacher
professionalism in a bid to improve shockingly low literacy rates and attainment
levels; the latest Global Monitoring Report asserts that equitable access to well-
trained teachers must be a policy priority(UNESCO, 2014, p. 18). Yet in around a
*Corresponding author. Email:
© 2015 Association for Information Technology in Teacher Education
Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 2015
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third of countries, less than 75% of primary school teachers are trained according to
national standards, and training in many poor countries suffers from an overempha-
sis on theory rather than practice (p. 18). The report reveals that only 14% of the
poorest pupils in low-income countries complete lower secondary school.
To raise educational quality and improve outcomes in SSA, it is increasingly
clear that we need to begin to build capacity for twenty-rst century learning and
teaching, and developing digital technology use can play an important role. Much
research and development in the eld focuses on integrating technology in
education, although Power, Gater, Grant, and Winters (2014, p. 11) asserted that an
understanding of the technologies as tools, used by communities, in the social
practices of teaching and learning, directed towards educational goalsis paramount.
The inhibiting factors they identied largely related to curriculum-based use of
technology. Capacity building therefore needs to focus on supporting, resourcing
(especially with high-quality digital content) and raising quality of subject teaching,
i.e. not merely integrating technology but triggering change in classroom practice. In
our view, building pedagogical capacity in the SSA context (where technology
provision is currently limited) requires programmes structured to exploit technology
tools where available, but not being dependent on them. Such programmes do,
however, create pedagogic conditions that enable the productive implementation of
digital technologies when these later become available.
We draw on the research literature and our own experiences in Zambia over
more than four years of iteratively developing, rening and evaluating a school-
based professional learning programme, OER4Schools, that integrates use of
mobile devices, digital open educational resources and interactive pedagogy. Our
observations and interviews have corroborated the usual constraining infrastructural
and cultural factors of inuence observed in SSA settings (Naseem, 2011). These
include difcult circumstances for schools (e.g. lack of nances and teaching
resources, lack of or unstable electricity supply, lack of running water, safety issues)
as well as difcult working conditions for teachers, especially a dearth of appropri-
ate accommodation near the school, low and often delayed remuneration: Zambia
has the sixth lowest teacher pay of all countries (UNESCO, 2014). These constraints
are more pronounced in rural schools (Buckler & Gafar, 2013) and teachers may feel
disempowered and demotivated. High staff turnover and absenteeism rates (in both
teachers and pupils) are common, and morale may be low. Even where teachers are
keen to develop their own professional learning and their longer-term careers, lack
of opportunity for PD and practical obstacles are a hindrance (Buckler & Gafar,
2013). In our experience, small, delayed salaries also mean that teachers need to
take up casual work to supplement their income, resulting in less time available for
PD or lesson preparation.
Further issues concern the nature of the PD itself and its alignment with existing
curricula, policies and priorities, both within and outside the school. Previous
research indicates that pedagogic interventions cannot simply be exported to new
settings but require signicant adaptation to local expertise, resources and con-
straints to inform practice (Bransford & Schwartz, 1999). Our own studies (e.g.
Haßler, Hennessy, & Cross, with Chileshe & Machiko, 2014) have highlighted head
teachersview that specically targeted teacher development opportunities for inte-
grating both interactive pedagogy and technology use are an enabling factor. It has
been argued that effective interventions should help teachers believe that they have
or will have the capabilities and resources to use new technology, promoting
2S. Hennessy et al.
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coherence and commitment (Zhao & Cziko, 2001). Typically, new ideas and
technology resources are assimilated into existing practices and beliefs, rather than
teachers changing their practices to exploit the new ideas (Kennewell & Beauchamp,
Research into teacher PD reviewed by Avalos (2011) and conducted over the
previous decade provides some insight here. It includes a few articles scrutinising
diverse forms of PD activities in terms of the dilemmas, conicts and limiting
circumstances that variously inuence their effectiveness.
These articles highlight, for example, the dilemmas that facilitators and teacher
participants have [when] promoting self-regulated learning, teacher tensions during
activities due to competing responsibilities and pressures on their work lives arising
from external expectations and possible misalignment between motives or back-
ground of teacher participants in professional development and those of the responsible
entities. Professional development geared to new curriculum implementation both
assists the sharing of new knowledge with other teachers, but is also limited in terms
of new pressures on their work lives by expectations of the program and the school
district. (Avalos, 2011, p. 13)
These pressures need to be managed. The school organisation inuences the ease
with which workshops and support networks can be put into place. In our studies,
head teacher endorsement for interactive teaching along with the time commitment
it entailed was viewed as crucial by teachers, other head teachers and the research-
ers (Haßler et al., 2014).
While research evidence is limited, indications are that supporting factors include
opportunities for modelling, classroom trialling, reection and feedback. Guskeys
(1989) theory of teacher change asserts that shifts in attitudes and beliefs generally
follow and are stimulated by rather than precede, changes in behaviour. Hence,
teacher development needs to be concrete, continuous and cumulative over a tea-
chers career, as in Japanese lesson study, which highlights the importance of teacher
collaboration for PD purposes (Schwille & Dembélé, 2007).
In contemporary models of PD including that underlying OER4Schools, teachers
are construed as professionals, capable of critiquing and developing their own prac-
tice (e.g. Cordingley, Rundell, Temperey, & McGregor, 2004). Reective discus-
sions thus need to support this critical self-examination (Borko, 2004). Structured
opportunities for thoughtful reection need to emphasise understanding pupil think-
ing (Schwille & Dembélé, 2007). This means that teachers see teaching and learning
as a two-way social process; an in-depth, rigorous review of 54 studies of pedagogi-
cal practice in low- and middle-income countries by Westbrook et al. (2013, p. 63)
found a mutually reinforcing cycle wherein teacherspositive attitudes towards their
training and their pupils lead them to employ interactive communicative strategies
and practices which lead to learning in their students. Critique and reection also
need to be collegial, focused on clearly articulated priorities and related to
opportunities to observe, experience and try out new techniques in their own class-
rooms (OECD, 2005; Westbrook et al., 2013).
These supporting factors characterise PD programmes across the world, includ-
ing SSA. However a learner-centred teaching initiative contextualised for Namibia
encountered some issues; teachers had difculty making the expected connection
between theory in the materials and practice of the enquiry activities (Van Graan,
Pomuti, LeCzel, Liman, & Swarts, 2005). Enquiry-based practice and developing
skills for reection are demanding and time-consuming. Teachers may feel that
Technology, Pedagogy and Education 3
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implementing new pedagogy requires extra time (Carter & Richards, 1999), both
during and in planning lessons, and can distract from delivering their primary,
curriculum objectives.
Where teachers are relatively new to the ideas and practices underlying reec-
tion, active learning and enquiry, and unfamiliar with using technology in the class-
room, a PD programme will be considerably more time-consuming. To motivate
teachers to attend, the programme therefore needs to be purposeful and clearly struc-
tured, with recognition of achievement, ideally leading to a certicate. Nevertheless,
our studies indicate that mobile technologies while not intrinsically transformative
of pedagogical practice are highly desired by both teachers and learners, and so
can play an important motivating role (Haßler et al., 2011). Our argument in this
article is premised on the notion that technology use can leverage a more interactive
approach and a greater focus on learning. It moves away from the traditional view
that technical skills should be taught rst, without a pedagogically meaningful con-
text for such use.
To conclude, with any PD programme in this context it is critically important
to ensure that teachers are motivated and supported to participate as much as
possible, in order to have any impact. Access to technology equipment (and
telecommunication) and developing technical skills can be a powerful source of
teacher motivation for participation in PD, but our experience is that wanting to
develop ones own teaching practice can also arise out of professional pride, and
from experiencing successful teaching, pupil engagement and learning gains. For
these benets to be realised, some of the infrastructural and other constraints out-
lined above need to be addressed; for example, while issues such as low pay are
beyond the control of schools or those designing PD, programmes need to be cre-
atively designed for low-resourced contexts and time needs to be allocated for
participation. Effective and scalable ways of communicating new pedagogic ideas
need to be devised. Further issues and proposed solutions are discussed in the
report of our study below.
This article draws on our experiences of designing, implementing and evaluating a
substantial PD programme aimed at developing more interactive teaching supported
by digital technology use, together with Zambian stakeholders. Teachersvoices
have been missing from much of the research and policy discourse (Buckler &
Gafar, 2013); they are foregrounded in our own work and the data presented here.
We carefully took account of participantsviews and backgrounds in developing,
implementing and evaluating the programme. Our analysis drew on Tillmans
(2006) account of culturally sensitive research to guide our understanding of
Zambian classrooms, in particular to maintain a focus on soliciting and analysing
Zambian teachersown perceptions of supporting and constraining factors.
When research is approached from a culturally sensitive perspective the complexity of
an ethnic groups culture, as well as its varied historical and contemporary representa-
tions, is acknowledged. (Tillman, 2006, p. 266)
Researchers rely on participantsperspectives and cultural understandings of the phe-
nomena under study to establish connections between espoused theory and reality and
then to generate theory based on these perspectives. (p. 271)
4S. Hennessy et al.
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This perspective helped us to gather some insights from our teacher participants into
their local culture and the school community namely the established practices,
experiences, values, resources, ways of thinking, prior knowledge and skill levels.
Interview data were supplemented and interpreted through the aid of our own
experiences over several years of working in the country and speaking to our school
colleagues there.
To mitigate the risk of forcing an inappropriate intervention, teachersinput into
the programme organisation was sought wherever possible, and issues arising were
addressed collaboratively. Suggestions made concerning content of the wiki materi-
als were also taken on board and implemented in time for the next annual cohort.
The main research question addressed in the analysis presented in this article
What supporting and constraining factors inuence professional learning to
promote interactive teaching and mobile technology use in low-resourced
basic schools in Zambia?
This question was addressed from the perspectives of participating teachers, the
school leadership and the workshop facilitators. It included internal and external
constraints, and questioning focused on soliciting concrete examples and
Description of the programme
The current OER4Schools programme
OER4Schools is a multimedia PD programme designed to offer teachers in
English-speaking SSA new, sustained opportunities for peer learning, adapting the
established principles of effective PD to a new context.
The workshop-based pro-
gramme and its underpinning cycle of stimulus, reection, lesson planning and
classroom trialling are also extensively described by Hennessy, Haßler, and
Hofmann (in press).
OER4Schools goes beyond technology- and skills-focused initiatives by high-
lighting the crucial role of teacher support in promoting innovation and experimenta-
tion with teaching styles. The programme supports active, collaborative learning of
mathematics and science generally, and through using mobile technologies
(tablets, netbooks, e-book readers etc.) where available, along with digital open
educational resources (OER) and open source software.
The materials include unique, professionally lmed video exemplars of interac-
tive practices in Zambia and South Africa. The six units in OER4Schools cover
interactive teaching principles, group work, questioning, dialogue, Assessment for
Learning, enquiry-based learning, and communication with other stakeholders. There
are 25 two-hour sessions in total, which roughly provide a year-long programme (if
sessions are run weekly). The material has scope for adaptation to teachersown
purposes and settings and explicit encouragement for facilitators to respond to issues
arising. Each session features educator notes in shaded boxes interspersed with the
main text, providing additional guidance to the peer facilitator. All activities relate to
topics in the current Zambian curriculum. Each session also features an activity
practising technology use that is very closely tied to classroom use, rather than
teaching about technology for its own sake.
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The programme was co-developed and locally contextualised by Zambian
teachers and other local partners, who provided valuable input throughout the cre-
ation and renement of the OER4Schools resource. This resonates with the observa-
tion by Mubanga (2012), Director General, Zambia Ministry of Education, that
knowledge needs to be actively acquired by participants, importance needs to be
placed on local values and expertise, and existing capabilities need to be drawn
upon. Our overall approach to qualityis framed by the principles of social justice
(Tikly & Barrett, 2011) emphasising participation and voice, focusing on the
enabling school environment in Tiklys(
2011) context-led model for conceptualising
educational quality. As conceptualised through the Zambian School Program of In-
service Training for the Term(SPRINT) programme, which seeks to initiate sustain-
able CPD, including teacher group meetings, OER4Schools responds to the need for
cost-effective, large-scale development opportunities for teachers (with a pedagogi-
cal emphasis). The OER4Schools programme partly achieves this through the use of
OER, and embodies the OER freedoms (legal, technological/access, participation;
Haßler & Mays, 2014), which are related to the wider discourse of open develop-
ment(Smith et al., 2011). The programme shares a similar outlook with other OER
initiatives for teachers like TESSA
and OER Africa,
but is unique in that it is the
rst open, structured and sustained (year-long) programme which teachers can fol-
low systematically.
Overview of Phases 1 to 4
Data collection during the research programme was primarily conducted by the rst
two authors and two Masters students (one each in Phases 1 and 2). An overview by
phase is given in Table 1.
The (pilot) Phase 1 assessed the feasibility of supporting interactive forms of
subject teaching in conjunction with providing OER to computer- and Internet-
equipped primary schools in Zambia (Haßler, Hennessy, & Lubasi, 2011;
Hennessy, Haßler, & Mwewa, 2012). It was initiated in 2009 in response to a
project led by an NGO partner in Zambia,, who was integrating tech-
nology into Zambian schools with limited pedagogical support at the time. Our
aim was to identify and respond to the needs of school-based PD adapted to the
local context, as identied by iSchool and their school partners. In Phase 1, we
worked over a six-month period (JanuaryJune 2010) with eight experienced
teachers in three basic (primary ) schools in Lusaka province, all serving under-
privileged communities.
Our Phase 2 (October 2010October 2011) work involved only two of the origi-
nal schools for capacity reasons, with two teachers from each school moving for-
ward. The rst stage involved preparation in the UK and remote communication
with the teachers, supporting them in developing interactive pedagogy. The second
stage focused on the iterative co-construction of concrete lesson plans (between
Zambian teachers, lecturers and UK-based researchers) that promoted interaction
and collaboration supported by technology use.
Those stages in Phase 2 also beneted from the parallel UK Department for
International Development-funded Appropriate New Technologies to Support
Interactive Teaching in Zambian schools project (ANTSIT, October 2010April
2011, see Haßler et al., 2011). The research explored what kinds of mobile devices
and innovative uses can create an environment supportive of learning through active
6S. Hennessy et al.
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participation in under-resourced school communities. The grant provided a small
number of mobile devices and non-digital resources.
The third stage of Phase 2 capitalised on these outcomes. We worked with a pro-
fessional lm producer to record two lessons each with three teachers. Again, there
was a three-month period of attempted remote communication beforehand, and then
in-depth joint lesson planning and review immediately before and after the lmed
lessons. Our ultimate aim during this stage was to create a multimedia professional
learning programme, described below. Phase 2 is elaborated by Haßler et al. (2014).
In Phase 3 (school year 2012), the programme involved only one of the original
schools, and was facilitated by two teachers moving forward into this phase (one as
facilitator and the other later on as co-facilitator), working with peers. Chalimbana
Basic School (CBS) (Chongwe, Zambia; an hour east of Lusaka), the main research
school, is a mixed-sex government primary school with around 35 teachers and
about 1000 pupils (grades 19). It is poorly resourced and serves a predominantly
disadvantaged community; many children are orphaned or otherwise vulnerable.
Phase 3 involved 12 teachers (all grades 46 teachers) with varying levels of profes-
sional experience and qualications, engaging with the programme on a near-weekly
basis. Teachers (and pupils) had little prior experience of technology use (except
those teachers and pupils who had participated in earlier phases), apart from some
personal use of desktop computers. Participation in the research study was voluntary
for the teachers and pupils, and explicit written permission to gather evidence for
the study was obtained before any work commenced. The OER4Schools collabora-
tive resource development continued in parallel with the trial, with facilitators
reviewing and providing feedback on new materials, as well as lessons learned from
the earlier parts feeding into the development of later parts, leading to a complete
draft version by October 2012.
In Phase 4, OER4Schools was spontaneously launched by CBS as a whole-
school programme in January 2013, involving 35 teachers across grades 19. It was
agreed to move to bi-weekly teacher group meetings to reduce the load on teachers,
which meant that the programme was continuing until the end of 2014 as an ongo-
ing two-year trial; peer facilitators were leading colleagues through regular teacher
group meetings using the resource. The resource was further developed and revised
throughout 2013 in response to teacher feedback. Our research questions across
Phases 14 included: What forms of stimulus and support are most effective in
developing more interactive pedagogy? What changes took place? What were the
supporting and constraining factors? The nal question is the subject of this article.
First, we outline the technology used and then summarise the changes observed to
take place.
Technology tools and resources used in the OER4Schools trials
Importantly, the OER4Schools programme can be run with varying levels (and dif-
ferent types) of technology provision, as well as without any, whilst laying the peda-
gogic ground for subsequent integration of digital devices. The main research
school, CBS, had mains electricity but little functioning technology when the
OER4Schools programme was rst piloted there in 2009. There was a computer
room with outdated and non-functioning desktop PCs; this is typical in SSA
(Hennessy et al., 2010). For the second phase of the programme, we had already
made eight pupil netbooks available, as well as some additional low-cost teaching
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resources (such as mini-blackboards, measuring tapes, some calculators and a cheap
digital camera). For the third phase this number was increased to 12 with research
funds, and we set up a teacher lab with four laptops. The number of netbooks meant
that, with children working in groups of about four per netbook, each student had
about 1.5 to 2 hours of shared access, per pupil per week. The choice of netbooks
over tablets (the latter were also trialled in one school during Phase 2) concerned
affordability, robustness and availability of Ubuntu-based software and compatible
educational applications at that point in time (2012).
We also introduced a hand-washing routine around the use of the equipment. We
felt that this would help encourage a respectful approach towards the equipment, but
would also encourage hand cleaning (with soap) widely advocated as a disease
prevention measure, while facilities are often missing.
For the teacher lab, we commissioned a square table from a local carpenter (with
a central hole for cables, including power and Kensington locks), wide enough for
four larger laptops (15’’ screens), with space for additional resources and pair work-
ing at each screen. We also provided a laser printer, so that resources for the teacher
group sessions could be printed.
A local Wi-Fi network (using Nanostations) linked netbooks and laptops to each
other, and to a central (low-power, high-resilience) server. The server provided a num-
ber of facilities, such as locally hosted resources, including a PXE-boot based way of
restoring netbooks to the default conguration, as well as a dropboxallowing teach-
ers to store their les on the server and access them from any teacher laptop, or for
pupils to access les during lessons. This facility was also used to upload audio reec-
tions (as .MP3 les) and images, for retrieval by the researchers. A fast Wi-Fi connec-
tion to the local server allowed teachers to conveniently upload materials for sharing,
without accessing the Internet. The server also acted as a gateway for the teacher lap-
tops to connect to the Internet (via the very small aperture terminal [VSAT] of the
adjacent college). This very slow and intermittent connection did allow teachers to
browse the Internet and to download resources for ofine classroom use. It was not
technically feasible for the classroom netbooks to connect to the Internet directly. The
connection also allowed the retrieval of research data by the researchers in the UK.
The OER4Schools resource draws on a number of computer-based coreactivi-
ties that are applied to suit various learning objectives and topics throughout the pro-
gramme and across the curriculum. Such coreactivities include writing (in
OpenOfce, or collaboratively with EtherPad), spreadsheets, image manipulation,
mind maps and (importantly) GeoGebra, all based on open source software and
OER. Rather than overloading teachers and students with a large range of bespoke,
closed appswith restricted curriculum use, we chose to use a range of open-
endedinteractive applications, enabling teachers and students to develop familiarity
and expertise. Note that teachers and students are not introduced to the technology
via demonstration and rote learning, but through enquiry-based explorations.
The well-established issues pertaining to the use of technology in developing
countries, such as lack of resources, security, poor connectivity, power outages, lim-
ited battery life, other technical issues and maintenance (Hennessy et al., 2010,
p. 121), applied in our context too, as expected. Some such challenges were miti-
gated, however, as the programme progressed and some teachers learned to
overcome these constraints, and support other colleagues in doing so. For example,
they instigated a daily charging routine under pupilsresponsibility, to ensure that
netbooks were charged and ready for use in class. They also ensured that resources
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were downloaded when there was connectivity, in order to be able to use them
ofine. Details are described in previous papers and reports (e.g. Haßler et al., 2011,
2014). Findings related to PD (across all phases) are the subject of this article.
Findings pertaining to changes in classroom practice
Throughout the four phases, the teachers in our studies were gradually coming to
grips with novel technologies and developing an interactive teaching approach. Thus
we inevitably needed to provide substantial support over time initially face-to-face
through post-lesson discussions and workshops (Phases 12), and then through the
multimedia resource and structured PD workshops (Phases 34). Our conclusion
was that under these conditions some engaging and pedagogically interactive lessons
could take place, although the quality of the nal outcome could vary.
During the one-year trial in Phase 3, and corroborated by interviews in Phase 4,
teachers developed greater motivation through the programme and employed interac-
tive strategies, seemingly leading to pupil learning (as in the study by Westbrook
et al., 2013).
Specically, they were found to have raised their expectations of pupils, adapted
to their knowledge levels, used a range of interactive techniques, especially practical
and group work, integrated technology use and collaborated with peers. Learners
built deeper understanding of subject matter, were more actively engaged and moti-
vated, collaborated with each other and used digital technologies for problem solv-
ing (see Hennessy et al., in press, for details). Teachers were ultimately able to teach
interactive lessons, including a degree of improvisation to address challenges
(Haßler et al., 2014). Our ndings conrmed that PD opportunities are essential for
teachers to make creative and pedagogically interactive use of new technologies.
Our empirical work, informed by the research literature, has led us to arrive at a
number of guiding principles for in-school PD in this and related contexts (Haßler
et al., 2014). These include face-to-face opportunities supporting learning from and
with mentors and colleagues through reective dialogue and critique of practice; a
focus on classroom trialling and pupilslearning needs; culturally appropriate and
sustained development opportunities that accommodate concerns and constraints of
teachers and the school environment. These principles underpin the OER4Schools
PD programme and constitute potentially supporting factors for PD aimed at interac-
tive teaching with technology in SSA.
In addition, ndings specically relating to mobile technology use (partially
derived from ANTSIT, see above) elicited supporting factors for such a programme.
For instance, mobile devices (netbooks, laptops, tablets) were used successfully with
non-digital tools, such as measuring tapes, counters or stones, stopwatches, rulers
and particularly with mini-black/whiteboards for recording and used as showboards
after individual or small group work. Non-digital tools are inexpensive and can be
ubiquitous in a school for a fraction of the cost of a technology installation. A sole
focus on mobile technologies in PD is thus unhelpful.
Data collection
The data used in this article predominantly derive from semi-structured interviews
with teachers and senior leaders at CBS, as well as some workshop recordings,
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Table 1. Overview of OER4Schools research data.
Method (data type) Quantity/timing Focus
Phase 1: 200910 Pilot work with eight teachers
from three schools
Post-lesson meetings and
informal discussions
(not quantied) Exploration of local needs and
Phase 2: 201011 Development of interactive
lessons and resources with
four teachers from two schools
Semi-structured interviews
(audio transcripts)
Ten teacher and three head
teacher interviews in total
Participantsexperiences and
perceived outcomes of the
project, opinions about
interactive teaching and
pedagogic change (e.g. open-
ended questioning), OER,
sharing experiences with
colleagues, views on future
programme development
Phase 3: 2012 Twelve teachers (grades 46)
in one school
Semi-structured teacher &
senior leader interviews,
focus group (audio
March 2012: individual
interviews (seven teachers +
facilitator + deputy teacher +
head teacher) and a focus
group with four teachers +
Participantsmotivation for
taking part, expectations, prior
expertise, opinions about
interactive teaching
October 2012: ve teachers
Experiences and perceived
outcomes of the programme,
reections on existing and
changed practice, learner
participation, lesson planning,
choice of teaching approach,
use of technology, follow-up
November 2012: three group
interviews (eight teachers) +
Assessment for Learning,
enquiry-based learning, most
signicant change, supporting
and constraining factors,
adaptations needed in the
Workshop audio
recordings, feedback
from facilitator (partially
Seventeen workshop
recordings (February
September 2012)
Lesson review, lesson
planning, logistics,
understanding of programmes
Three workshops observed
Phase 4: 201314 All teachers (35; grades 19)
in one school
Semi-structured teacher &
senior leadership team
Eight interviews in total
(June/July 2014), including
teachers involved since 2012
since 2013 (13),
since 2014 (ve), facilitators
(four) and the head teacher
Participantsexperiences and
perceived outcomes,
particularly with regard to
scaling the programme, levels
of continuing participation,
teacher learning and change,
impact on pupils, structure of
programme and workshops,
technology use
*Note that the group of 2012 teachers interviewed in 2014 is small, partially because of teachers leaving
the school, but also because two became facilitators.
10 S. Hennessy et al.
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with the bulk of results deriving from Phases 3 and 4. The participants were as
detailed above. There were a number of interviews conducted in 2012, and addi-
tional interviews in 2014, in various groups according to the time they joined the
programme and their role in the programme. Additional questions were introduced
in each phase (see Table 1), while questions for teachers were standard across
grades and schools within each phase; variations were used for facilitators and
school leaders. All interviews were accurately transcribed. The workshops record-
ings were reviewed and either partially or fully transcribed. We note that tran-
scribing the more lively workshop discussions presented a challenge because of
several people talking simultaneously. Most data come from sources in the table;
additionally a number of post-lesson meetings and ongoing informal discussions
informed our understanding.
Data analysis
An ecological perspective
2010) review of the diffusion of digital technology innovations in educa-
tion from an ecological perspective construes the teachers classroom as the cen-
tral ecosystem within the school (another ecosystem), nested within the region or
nation. This view portrays change in the classroom ecosystem as likely to impact
related ecologies, and conversely, lack of change in the organisational ecologies
may impede change at the classroom level. Change is complex and the ecosys-
tems evolve in unexpected ways (Davis, 2010), with planned innovations likely
to have unintended consequences, so needing to be monitored and continuously
adjusted as the systems attempt to maintain equilibrium (Somekh, 2010). Recog-
nising this, we characterised the opportunities afforded by the programme and the
(related) challenges/constraints on several levels: (a) teacher, (b) school, and (c)
the wider community and policy context. These levels shaped our data collection
through suggesting different perspectives to investigate, particularly in terms of
soliciting views about supporting and constraining factors at each level during
interviews, from all participants: comments from teachers and head teachers span
the three levels, of course. The levels are used as an organising framework for
the ndings.
Analysis procedure
Analysis was conducted by an independent researcher (the third author) who had
not previously been involved in the project. Initially the data were scrutinised to
identify general themes and areas of rich content as well as emerging puzzles and
speculations to be tested further. Categories of relevant content were formed and
rened and these were used in a second round of coding to apply them across the
data set. The qualitative data analysis software NVivo was used to assist and to run
further reliability checks through in-built text and coding queries. Selected data were
coded twice to further ensure the robustness of the coding. The groundedness of the
categories was explored prior to interpretation by systematically examining the
spread of the discussions across the participants and data sources.
The focus of the analysis was on constraining and supporting factors inuencing
implementation of a professional learning programme for interactive and mobile
Technology, Pedagogy and Education 11
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digital technology use in SSA. A central strategic approach was examination of
issues/data across:
time (early and late interviews);
people (examining similarities and differences in different teachersviews);
communicative settings (interviews and workshop discussions)
to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the emerging argument.
As the discussion of the ndings below illustrates, in this process discrepant as
well as ambiguous cases were systematically examined. Each aspect of the emerging
argument, together with supporting and contradicting data, was then discussed and
scrutinised for reliability and validity.
Teachers in SSA face many challenges and hardship in their daily lives. Our focus
here is on examining these challenges from the particular perspective of their inu-
ence on opportunities for professional learning and pedagogic change. We include
the supporting factors that can address the challenges for teacherscontinued
engagement with professional learning.
Teacher-level factors
Teachersperceptions of their professional learning needs and the motivating role
of technology
One of the challenges of supporting professional learning in any context is meeting
professional learning needs that teachers in that setting perceive themselves as hav-
ing. At the beginning of the OER4Schools programme the participating teachers
suggested that they were already familiar with the ideas of interactive teaching from
their college courses. Some initially considered the novel aspects of the programme
to relate simply to technology use.
(two months in): The only difference [from before] is that pupils also can do interac-
tive teaching [learning] using the netbooks. [Reiterates later] We
were doing group work, though we didnt realise that this is another
way of …‘interactive teaching. We just had another name.
Some teachers acknowledged that the pedagogic ideas of the programme were
not necessarily being implemented in their classrooms.
PRISCILLAH: So far [two months in], we [already] did most of the things that we
discussed in the programme, yes. Except we dont practise what we
are taught in colleges.
The workshop facilitator also suggested that the underpinning ideas are in princi-
ple familiar to the teachers but only in theory: its more like we are building on
what we have already acquired and maybe forgotten(Abel).
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As we have discussed in detail elsewhere (Hennessy et al., in press), as the
teachers had previously engaged with the PD programme, there was widespread
recognition among them that previously interactive teaching had not actually been
the norm, even if pupils were, for example, seated in groups. For instance, Martha
suggested at the start of the programme that she had already been engaging her
pupils in interactive teaching and interactive group work (see above). Towards the
end, she reects:
MARTHA: This programme has been a revival in my teaching. Because in
the past if you are lecturing, you dont even give the group
Other teacherscomments resonate with this acknowledgement.
AGGIE: Maybe we are doing it just on the surface, but after doing this
[OER4Schools] we were really deep into it and even knew how to
really involve [learners], because in Zambia we are saying les-
sons should be pupil centred. But sometimes we say, this topic
is too hard for the pupils, I cannot just leave them to do it alone.
While the teachers gradually came to see the added value of the PD, this points
to a potential constraint for PD programmes that may apply more widely. Our analy-
sis suggests that there is a commonly accepted discrepancy between teacher educa-
tion and professional practice among teachers; it is not perceived as necessary or
even possible to implement ideas learned during training, but never observed in
practice (before encountering the OER4Schools videos). This may pose a challenge
for engaging teachers in PD. It may thus be that meeting teacherslearning needs is
not a xed starting point for a programme but a process, one that in itself involves
professional learning. This was reinforced by the workshop facilitator when asked
about whether the programme corresponds to the teachersinterests and needs at
ABEL: With time I think it will. At the moment [two months in], |I
wouldnt say much because Im sorry to say this, but most of
them are thinking interactive teaching is all about ICT.
One supporting factor that clearly led to motivation of teachers to engage in this
PD programme, then, was related to digital technology use. These teachers had
previously had limited opportunities to use and learn about technology. Their
motivation was not solely related to their own skills but to their pupilsskills for
future use: this world now is going technology all over(Martha). Some mentioned
use to support classroom learning, for example researching the pupilswork(Mir-
riam), and the observed excitement of children (who didnt even have TVs at
home) encountering computers (Susan).
Teachersperceptions of pupilscapabilities to engage with the programme ideas
(in a workshop): It is supposed to be child-driven but that depends on the type of
children that one has, if they are able to organise themselves, to
make sure that learning takes place, not like our children.
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This quote and the earlier one by Aggie illustrate an initial feeling among the
teachers in the school that their pupilsare not capable of learning interactively. In
the late interviews the teachers discuss extensively and with concrete examples the
ways in and extent to which their perceptions of their pupilscapabilities have
shifted during the programme, to their surprise; they acknowledge that they used to
systematically underestimate their pupils prior to participating in, and trialling, the
new pedagogies and tools (Hennessy et al., in press). Judith describes and illustrates
Before I used to underrate children saying that I got to keep on lecturing. I ask[ed]
questions to say what about this?, what have I said here?, without giving them a
chance to think on their own before I could summarise everything. But after this pro-
gramme, I rst tell them what. I expect to get, the objectives. So on their own
they are able to nd answers and thereafter tell them to me.
They were doing some activities, of measuring how much fats each one has. I couldnt
believe it, I was really surprised because they were able to weigh themselves, write
the kilograms for each one, because we are doing it in pairs so that one weighs the
friend, then also the height. And then they were able to multiply the height of some-
body to square it, and then divide into their weight.
The same lesson also involved the use of spreadsheets to calculate and record body
mass index.
The issue of low teacher expectations and the surprise about pupils
capability to learn quickly also pertain to pupils learning about technology use.
Teachers are usually adamant that pupils need to be taught about hardware before
they can make use of it. Learners perceived as poor are particularly expected to have
difculty in learning with technology. However, expectations were not realised and
technology has come to be perceived as a leveller.
AGNESS: The rst time, I wondered if the ones from villages will know what
this is To my surprise, after [using the computers] three times,
before I could even tell them to they were there, switching it on.
This quote refers to a netbook familiarisation activity conducted early on in the
However, at the stage of introducing PD, the teachersperceptions of pupils
(lack of ) ability to engage with the programme can be a core constraint. If the peda-
gogic ideas are not seen as feasible, teachers may be less likely to engage in profes-
sional learning. On the other hand, the danger of PD programmes, as we have
discussed earlier, is that ideas are taken up in a way that merely assimilates them to
current practice. We suggest that teachersunderstandings of the ideas also warrant
Teachersunderstandings of new pedagogic ideas
The new understandings of pedagogy that emerged during the teachersparticipation
in the programme did not happen immediately or automatically. Effectively
communicating new pedagogic ideas is another challenge for supporting profes-
sional learning.
The convoluted workshop discussions that illustrate some of the teachersstrug-
gles with understanding the ideas are difcult to present briey. We illustrate this
issue through an exchange between two teacher-facilitators in one of the workshops
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in which Abel appears to be suggesting that Agness does not quite understand the
ideas of enquiry-based learning as promoted by the programme. As with other
ambiguities and misunderstandings arising in workshops, he attempts to clarify this
to all participants.
In the extract below, the teachers have worked in groups to design concrete
outdoor activities for the children based on the principles of enquiry-based learning
and are now discussing those ideas and plans together. The workshop facilitators
rst remind the participants of the importance of making plans that can actually be
realised and ensuring they are well received by colleagues. Moreover, they
emphasise the importance of considering the pedagogic principles at play and
AGNESS: You can end up making a eld trip just for leisure if you are not
careful. [But] if you plan, you can make sure you are going to plan
something which the pupils are going to use, remember, its
enquiry-based learning. Where they are going to learn something.
They then move on to presenting the concrete plans the teachers have developed.
One of the workshop facilitators again highlights the core pedagogic issue of the
task and its conceptual challenge:
ABEL: If we are to look at what you have developed there, your plan. Let
us ask ourselves this question as they are ending their topic: Is what
we have developed, is it enquiry-based learning?
He evaluates it as not having sufciently embraced all the principles of enquiry-
based learning:
ABEL: I think this one is enquiry-based because it involves the learners
going out there to nd out, except, how youre going to be ques-
tioning them, are they going to be deep questions, are they going to
be thought-provoking questions. What type of questions can you be
The other facilitator, Agness, elaborates on the project plans and Abel points out
superciality and weaknesses, clarifying how the proposal falls short of the princi-
ples of enquiry-based learning and how it could be enhanced.
AGNESS: Pupils will go out there and collect different types of plants then
after collecting they will start naming the plants theyve collected if
they are similar or different. After that, they even draw the plants
theyve collected, then the assessment will be done by the teacher.
ABEL: The types of questions you will be asking, are they going to be
Abel elaborates on his critical challenge and Agness builds directly on his idea:
ABEL: I think its not enquiry-based if it is classied as plants. But if
you put it in a way [that classies] owering and non-owering it
becomes more interesting. They will want to see and know which
AGNESS: Why is it not a owering plant?
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This excerpt illustrates how new pedagogic ideas offered for professional
learning are not necessarily taken up by teachers in a way that offers the potential to
impact on their current practice in intended ways but that this requires sustained
effort and support. Another example for this was the use of trafc lights,an
Assessment for Learning technique to indicate progress during group work, which
was sometimes used as a tool for voting instead.
This also illustrates the potential key role of workshop facilitation in mediating
the teachersunderstanding of the pedagogic ideas, their feasibility, accessibility and
practical application. The following workshop extract from a session where teachers
identied PMI (positive, minus, interesting) aspects of each of four kinds of enquiry
reinforces the importance of supported, practical activity for grounding complex
ideas. The workshop facilitator, Agness, links the difculties children experience
with traditional teaching to the teachersown difculties with professional learning.
TEACHER: When we were discussing we felt it was very complicated
what is involved in each type of enquiry. But, when we did it, we
found it to be interesting.
AGNESS: And thats when we understood that part. So, it shows, that even in
class, once you, as a teacher, just talk, talk talk, some pupils will
just be left in a dilemma but once you give them an activity to do I
think they will understand better.
Developing condence to both try out new techniques and use new technologies
requires a leap of faith, as one teacher described it. We suggest that our analysis of
the three constraints discussed thus far further suggests that immediate opportunities
for trialling new, promoted pedagogic ideas in practice in their own classrooms
appear to have been central to enabling and supporting teachersunderstanding of
the pedagogic ideas and their pupilscapabilities of engaging with them. The teach-
ers also came to perceive differently the communities they serve and, ultimately,
their own capabilities a central achievement of professional learning, as Agness
AGNESS: Ive changed I know how to form groups, I know how to give
different tasks to the children at the same time, and by so doing, I
cover a lot within a short time. I know how to use this ICT with
my class especially where Etherpad is concerned, [concept]
mapping is concerned. So, Ive really changed. Ive really
improved. I know how to download from the Internet.
A number of video exemplars that show teachers using netbooks in class (as
mentioned by Agness) are available on the video collection for the resource.
School level
Resources as a challenge and a motivator
There are also many system-level factors inuencing the possibility of professional
learning in this school setting. One central challenge these teachers face in their daily
teaching is scarce resources. The teachersprofessional learning about technology use
was constrained by limited access to computers and technical support, both in their
classrooms and in the teacher lab facilities, which limited the time they could spend
familiarising themselves with the technology dimension of the PD programme.
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The nancial situation of the school was perceived as a further constraining
factor; teachers mentioned lack of money to take pupils on eld trips to try out ideas
from the programme in practice. However, physical teaching resources can also be
constructed in the school context by sufciently motivated teachers. Resources
available include furniture and teaching resources (paper, pencils, books, posters,
mini-blackboards), as well as computers.
At the same time, the analysis suggests that the teachersengagement with the
programme itself enabled them to nd novel ways of dealing with some of the
constraining factors, such as limited access to rich teaching and learning materials
supportive of interactive pedagogy:
PRISCILLAH: As a teacher, you have to be resourceful. Thats one thing I also
learned from OER4Schools. So, even where we dont have enough
materials in the school, I should learn to improvise, you know, there
are so many things that I can use, to come up with.
This is not a complete solution:
PRISCILLAH: Certain materials are difcult to improvise, so it really made me not
carry out certain experiments.
But it is a start. The introduction of mobile digital technology use in the PD pro-
gramme provided further support as it enabled teachers to access information and
materials online that would otherwise not have been available to them, and simulta-
neously developed their teaching capability.
PRISCILLAH: I thought if I incorporated ICT in my interactive teaching, it was
going to bring more benets, not only to me, but to the learners
that I teach. For example, there are times when you have limited
resources. Now, in the situation where you have ICT in school, like
we have the Internet, I would simply, quickly rush to the Internet
and check for information. Not just what we have in school but
getting more and also broadening my own understanding, as a tea-
cher, so that I can teach interactively.
Similarly, when the teachers spoke about lack of money inhibiting them from
taking the pupils on eld trips, Abel, the workshop facilitator, suggested they think
more creatively about the environment they are already in and the potential for
learning outside the classroom it may offer.
ABEL: I think when planning for your project. So, as a teacher, you
need to look at the environment. What things are around us, what
topic can I teach, using the resources within the environment.
Our observations of enquiry activities indicated that the teachers came to make
use of their local environment for enriching pupilslearning.
We suggest that these affordances can be considered as latent supporting factors
of the PD programme (Rainio & Hofmann, 2015). The PD programme facilitated
and framed the discussions and infrastructures that made these new creative ways of
thinking and action possible but they only came into being through the teachers
own active engagement with the programme. The same applies to another emergent
supporting factor, collaboration with colleagues.
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Collaboration with colleagues and emerging supporting factors at school level
There was one resource that we suggest is a central supporting factor for profes-
sional learning and is available in any setting, however impoverished: colleagues.
We have already illustrated above how discussions with colleagues and teacher facil-
itators in the workshops mediated teachersunderstanding of programme ideas and
allowed them to test out new techniques and ideas. A common theme in the data is
how informal collaboration with colleagues helped to develop teachers. Early on in
the programme, Mirriam, when asked about the most signicant changes in her prac-
tice so far (March 2012), mentioned more interactive learning and teaching in her
classroom and increased support for and from other teachers.
MIRRIAM: Pupils are learning interactively And then, as teachers, we are
able to consult each other: oh, on this point, what can I do?’‘How
can I go about this lesson?We consult among our group. Yes.
[Both outside and] during the workshops. Because, we even do
some observation, especially Martha. Because we are neighbours
so when Martha is teaching, I go there, I observe when she has
the problems, I help her. She also comes to my class.
Martha (and Judith) corroborated this, adding, That way you nd I have even
improved my interactive teaching.
There is potentially a productive cycle whereby increased collaboration with col-
leagues may support the teachers in the implementation of pedagogic changes and
dealing with the challenges described earlier. Having the support of a colleague is
constructed in these accounts as enabling a teacher to see what they could do differ-
ently, take risks and try implementing new practices. However, the shortage of staff-
ing resources constrained their access to this support, as we explain below.
Organisational challenges for implementation of PD
The organisation and timetabling of teaching clearly inuenced the implementation
of the PD programme. It was perceived by teachers to constrain their professional
learning and capability to draw on the above-discussed emergently identied
The teachers have stated that interactive teaching requires in-depth planning and
reection, and spending a lot of time on research(Doreen). In the lesson itself,
increased interaction and feedback mean that lesson plans sometimes do not get
completed (Theres a lot of interference in the progress of the lesson: Sydney) and
differentiation now means more time commitment too (you nd [some pupils] are
lagging behind you, and you want to bring them to the same level: Clive).
As teachers increasingly emphasise learnersunderstanding, previous practices
are de-emphasised (such as going through the motions of completing the formal syl-
labus), and this in turn means that backing from the head teacher is needed.
(head teacher,
CBS): The pupils werent conversant with the computers, so the teachers
were taking a lot of time to teach one concept [and] not covering
all the subjects that we teach in a day.
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The time needed to attend workshops, study the materials and trial the new ideas
in their classrooms was also perceived as a central challenge by the teachers that
limited their engagement. Teachers highlighted the competing priorities they faced,
either at school level (e.g. running clubs) or at national level (e.g. introduction of
new primary curriculum in Zambia).
One facilitator described how it was important to maintain motivation and
momentum with regular meetings but facilitators needed to prioritise material in
order to t it all in to the time available: We can be skipping those [readings], but
look at the very important and very new things to the teachers(Abel).
A supporting factor is that the OER4Schools programme ts neatly into the
above-mentioned Zambian governments SPRINT framework, which seeks to
encourage sustainable PD (Mubanga, 2012), primarily through regular teacher group
meetings scheduled within the school day. (Teachers at the main research school
teach only half of the day which is ofcially eight hours long whereas teachers
in another of our schools taught double shifts of pupils, so it was harder for them to
participate.) Both the head teacher and facilitator reported that teacher attendance
was not full and considered that participantsreasons were often domestic issues
and sometimes insubstantial.
An interesting challenge raised by the teachers was the potential misperceptions
of colleagues and school leadership of their novel activities during the programme
(cf. Avalos, 2011, p. 13). Teachers felt that their leaders did not understand the role
of educational noise, although head teacher Cecilia conrmed her understanding
that where there is interactive teaching, the class is noisy. Teachers also worried
that colleagues would think they were being lazy or wasting timewhen conducting
enquiry activities outdoors, and stressed the importance of informing administrators.
Wider context: community and national level
Community level: pupilsbackgrounds
Perceptions concerning the type of childrenthe school has are discussed in the data
as constraining factors for pedagogic change. These impinge on the perceived value
of and opportunity for professional learning (for example, one participant describes
giving pupils written formative feedback on their learning as a waste of timesince
their kind of pupils wont read it anyway). Likewise, parental support was incon-
sistent and some children received little:
PRISCILLAH: A child would [often] come to school without homework being
done. Parents dont even care.
Some of the constraints relating to pupilsbackgrounds and communities con-
cern issues that are difcult for PD programmes to impact on. Beside lack of paren-
tal support, these involve poverty, hardship, bereavement and living a long distance
from school. At the same time, it is worth noting that there is some evidence from
our study that the participants perceived the opportunities for professional learning,
new pedagogic ideas and use of digital technologies together as also offering at least
partial support in dealing with these challenges. Some of the teachers suggested that
pupil absenteeism had reduced owing to learnersenthusiasm for the project,
particularly the opportunity for digital technology use. Pupils were described as
excited(Bernadette, Susan) and several suggested that participation in class had
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signicantly improved (e.g. those previously not speaking, are active participants
now: Priscillah).
While policy advocates use of local language (particularly in lower grades), and
many children do not speak English well, it is nevertheless widely used as a medium
of instruction. We found that children tend to switch to local language for discussion
during group work, which helped children with weaker English skills catch up.
Thus, code switching was encouraged within the programme.
Some of the teachers also reported shifts in thinking with regard to the childrens
communities and better understanding the knowledge that these communities have
and its potential value for education.
JUDITH: I did the activity of where pupils went to the community to nd out
how HIV/AIDS is being spread, and how it can be prevented. I said
you go, you nd out. The other groups went to nd out how it
can be contracted, nd out from the people around. The others went
to nd out how it can be prevented. And they came up with the
answers. So to me, it proved that answers they are all over, even
the community can come in, it will help with teaching the children,
its not only the teachers we are all learners. We can learn one
or two from the community as well, even from pupils. There are
certain things that pupils know which we dont know.
There is even some evidence of a reciprocal shift in parental attitudes, turning a
constraint, at least in some cases, into a source of support.
(head teacher): [Parents] concern is that at the end of the year their children will
fail the government exams. So there are some who are asking
[me] questions; but of course after being taught the value of what is
happening that its helping their children to fully understand and
to be more acquainted with what is happening now in the world
they understand and they appreciate and they recommend. Thats
why I told you that last year we had more Grade Ones who entered
the school because the parents saw the difference what the
school is doing in the community. So the interaction that the par-
ents have given, that is a very big supporting factor.
National level: perceived risks and challenges
Finally, one consideration for PD programmes in any setting is their compatibility
with national policies and requirements, including curricula and school inspec-
tions. This can pose a particular challenge in SSA settings where national policies
are not always internally consistent or clearly communicated to schools;
documentation can be elusive or misplaced. However, our analysis demonstrates
that beside endorsement by policy makers of a PD programme (such as
OER4Schools), the participating teachersperceptions of national requirements
pose a further constraint.
Some concerns are expressed in the interviews and workshops about the com-
patibility of the programmes approach with the national curriculum and government
policies that form the basis of school inspections. Several teachers felt uncomfort-
able about sharing learning objectives with pupils and unwilling to put this into
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PRISCILLAH: He was saying that we needed to tell the children the objectives
because children should know what you as a teacher wants to
achieve by the end of the day. [However] if these people were
to come, the inspectors, denitely they will question us, because
its something that is not done in our syllabus. They will simply
say But where did you get this from?
Other teachers were, however, happy to implement all aspects of the programme
(and facilitators upheld its principles); thus, there remain some discrepancies in
viewpoints as there may be among teachers in the UK and elsewhere. National
policy directives and school inspection regimes probably inuence some pedagogi-
cal approaches and associated conceptions of learners and learning across most
schools. In our study, the underlying values of OER4Schools were made explicit
and laid open to challenge within workshop discussions where teachers were free to
express their divergent opinions.
In particular, there was quite a bit of disagreement, pedagogical and policy
related, on mixed-attainment grouping and debate about whether the approach was
appropriate for all pupils, or in line with government requirements and inspection. It
is interesting to note that mixed abilitygroupings are now required by Zambian
education policy and not solely something advocated by the OER4Schools pro-
gramme; this change came in during our development period and teachers were
aware. On the other hand, the very discrepancies indicate that there is scope for dif-
ferent interpretations and movement.
Both head teachers interviewed held a positive view of the progressive outlook
of the Ministrys aspirations. Cecilia asserted that inspectors would be pleased to
nd interactive teaching being implemented, since it was taught in colleges, so
when they nd the pupils are making noise they will understand. They would be
unhappy to see a rote-learning lesson:
CECILIA: Inspectors will not accept [traditional teaching style], they would
tell the teacher to improve on that. In fact they will tell the head-
teacher that he or she should make a follow-up to see that there is
DAVID: I dont think the Minister of Education would come and say, Now
stop doing this, unless they want to be going backwards instead of
going in front!
In practice, there were too few inspectors and Cecilias school had not been
inspected for several years, so the threat may have been less than that perceived by
teachers. Moreover, it is important to note what is controlled by the Ministry, and
what is in practice controlled locally:
DAVID: Mostly, that is the inuence that the government has on our school
the curriculum and the teachers. The teaching method, mostly
comes from the teachers themselves after they have had to do their
college [courses].
Using an ecological framework, supporting and constraining factors for introducing
and sustaining pedagogic innovation in a low-resourced environment were
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characterised at three levels: teacher, school, and the wider community and policy
context. The analysis is, in line with Daviss(
2010) conception, not straightfor-
wardly segmented since there are discussions of opportunities for change in the
immediate classroom setting but in ways that also relate to the connections with the
out-of-school lives of the children. There are further opportunities discussed that
reportedly helped the teachers in dealing with both the school- and national-level
challenges. Ultimately, then, there are some broader changes reported by these
teachers about their own thinking that cut across the levels to some extent. These
include teacherschanging views of the pupils and their capabilities, of their own
capabilities, and their perceptions of the gap/connection between school and pupils
Rainio and Hofmann (2015), examining the emergence of new ways of dealing
with problems of pupilsdisengagement during a PD programme, discussed how the
professional learning that took place during that programme was not pre-dened by
the programme. The new heuristic and practical tools for thinking and teaching that
supported the teachers in their professional learning and pedagogic change emerged
through the teacherscollaborative and agentive engagement with the PD and, as a
consequence of it, with each other. They have discussed how the support and change
potential offered by such programmes may be latent rather than overt: such pro-
grammes may enable and frame certain practices and infrastructures and it is the
process of the teachersengagement with these that enables supporting factors for
professional learning to emerge. We have, in this article, described in detail several
emerging latent supporting factors that played a role in this study and which we
argue can be realistic across a range of settings.
At the classroom level, while the conditions for teaching and learning are very
challenging, and initially posed difculties for teachersengagement in taking up the
ideas from the PD programme, the programme appears to have also enabled the
teachers to identify latent supporting factors within both their own classrooms
notably the pupilscapabilities and enthusiasm for trying new things and the pro-
gramme itself, which gave impetus to these new pedagogic ideas. Pedagogic
changes at the classroom level are described by Hennessy et al. (in press), and we
remind readers that the OER4Schools programme content itself is freely available at
the website given in note 1, and can be built upon or adapted to new country con-
Guidelines for implementing PD
We conclude with a set of guidelines to support the implementation of PD pro-
grammes, as well as to develop policy (Buckler & Gafar, 2013). In order to imple-
ment the guidelines cost-effectively, they need to be embedded in policy, within
national initiatives funded via both aid and government resources (such as SPRINT
in Zambia). Some of the guidelines do not imply additional costs, but suggest an ori-
entation for programmes. Indeed, the guidelines may help to avoid ineffective ele-
ments of programmes, and focus on more effective aspects instead. We also note
that these guidelines are not meant to be complete or exhaustive: sustainability is a
multi-levelled complex notion, and for programmes to be sustainable, a range of
other factors beyond the scope of this discussion need to be taken into account
(we refer the reader to Haßler, Hennessy, & Hofmann, with Makonga, in prepara-
tion). Moreover, policy change may be necessary to facilitate the smooth integration
22 S. Hennessy et al.
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of digital technology throughout the school curriculum and in pre- and in-service
teacher education programmes.
Programmes need to be long-term. Research demonstrates that change happens
slowly, and that a programme needs to be sustained in order to lead to pedagogic
change (Schwille & Dembélé, 2007).
Develop teacher agency and leadership. Programmes need to support professional
growth of teachers over time, by encouraging not only their active participation in
PD programmes and effective integration of new pedagogies, but their creation,
adaptation and renement of the programmes themselves. A shift from providing
off the shelfOER to creating locally contextualised and culturally embedded
resources empowers teachers to become agents of change and innovation.
Focus on classroom implementation. Partly because teachers perceive the pedagogic
ideas as repetition of what they have already been taught, but may not be actually
(or fully) implementing them in practice, a focus on classroom implementation with
sufcient scaffolding is necessary. Teachers may also believe that certain techniques
are either irrelevant for practice or do not suit their pupils, which can likewise be
challenged in this way. Overall, classroom implementation is essential in connecting
theory and practice (conrming Van Graan et al., 2005).
Create opportunities for collaboration with colleagues (within and outside work-
shops). It is important to timetable structured opportunities for group discussion and
reection, e.g. to discuss the understanding of pedagogical ideas and classroom
implementation (Schwille & Dembélé, 2007). This also helps teachers understand
ideas perceived as complex, and increases their level of interest. Because good
workshop facilitation is an important mediator of professional learning, facilitators
need to be chosen carefully, and support for facilitators is important.
Draw on digital technology as a motivator for professional learning and pedagogic
change. In our programme, digital technology is not only constructed as enhancing
(teacher or pupil) learning, but also as a factor leveraging interactive pedagogies.
Teachers are drawn in by (and introduced to) the technology, with the deliberate and
explicit premise that effective use of technology depends on its interactive use. We
have not undertaken a costbenet analysis, and there may well be other, more cost-
effective, motivational factors. It would nevertheless seem worth investigating what
contribution the introduction of digital technology can make to teacher motivation.
However, if digital technologies are introduced for other reasons, it is essential
to capitalise on this noveltyalso as a motivational factor for pedagogic change. In
particular, introducing digital technology per se rst, and then addressing pedagogy
later, is counterproductive. This shift (within a programme) from technology focus
towards pedagogic focusneeds to be made consciously, initially, and needs to be
clearly structured, rather than expecting this to happen automatically. Otherwise the
technology is assimilated into existing practices without leading to higher-quality
learning outcomes (Kennewell & Beauchamp, 2007).
We illustrated how during the course of the programme the teachers did come to
see that the pedagogic ideas of the programme were new and implementable. They
thereby came to see their own capabilities in new ways, partially mediated through
Technology, Pedagogy and Education 23
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digital technology use. This addressed, in part, the original constraints of seeing the
pedagogic ideas as repetition, not fully understanding them and not perceiving them
as feasible.
Encourage and scaffold teachers in obtaining resources. It emerged that teachers
own professional learning through the programme enabled them to address material
shortages by accessing online resources and improvising, at least as a partial solu-
tion. Workshop facilitators helped teachers to see what resources might be available
locally at no cost to substitute for implementation options that were inaccessible
owing to lack of funds. Whatever resources there are do need to be used efciently.
From the teachers perspective, the quantity of computers available is usually seen
as a constraint, but this may overlook possibilities for carousel group work,or
more efcient timetabling. (In our study a small set of netbooks was shared by 12
Encourage engagement with the local community. The programme enthused pupils,
and it offered emergent support helping teachers to see their pupilscommunities in
new ways as a resource for learning. This challenges teachersperceptions of (and
some over-generalisations about) the disadvantaged communities they serve and the
challenges they pose. Programmes should encourage teachersawareness of the local
community, as additional motivational and pedagogical support.
Make space for the programme within the school timetable (and adjust policy
accordingly). Organisation of the school day (including teaching and management)
can be a challenge, with conicting priorities not necessarily focused on learning.
Such diversity of focus (including many smaller programmes) means that there is
little space for implementation of longitudinal, pedagogy-focused programmes
(Carter & Richards, 1999). The space for such programmes should be created at
the policy level; this is demonstrably possible. For instance, the SPRINT policy
in Zambia provides a PD framework that schools and teachers are familiar with
and sets an expectation of at least some professional learning time. Where teach-
ers teach long hours during double shifts, however, they would need to be
released from some teaching. Policy provision also needs to embed the principles
of interactive teaching at national level, and thereby support implementation at
school level; in this way, the OER4Schools programme constitutes one possible
implementation of SPRINT. Through adequate policy provision (and implementa-
tion), (perceived) restrictions of national curriculum and (perceived) risks due to
inspections can be countered.
While our research shows evidence for change towards greater quality teaching
and learning, both in the classroom (Hennessy et al., in press), and in teacher PD
(this article), the question of sustainability and scalability needs to be addressed.
This includes the wider rollout of the programme to other schools in Zambia and
indeed elsewhere. For this, an effective network of teachers and headteachers at
local, district and regional levels is needed, supporting each other in implementing a
programme such as OER4Schools. This is not a trivial task, especially given that
our data clearly show that face-to-face contact and a degree of external support are
initially benecial. The pre-existing SPRINT programme facilitates sustainability
and growth of OER4Schools in Zambia, and such in-service professional
development initiatives may provide models for use elsewhere. The question of
24 S. Hennessy et al.
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sustainability is the subject of a forthcoming article by Haßler et al. (in preparation),
which also gives further details of the continued, self-sustaining peer facilitation of
the programme, running in CBS with negligible input from us and little funding
since 2012. Discussions with the Zambian Ministry of Education are currently
underway about expanding the programme from 2015 onwards. Since the start of
the programme, a number of teachers have been transferred to other schools, and
have continued using OER4Schools, as well as engaging other colleagues. The lead
facilitator of the programme has also conducted workshops at other schools and for
a local non-governmental organisation, partially adapting the resource for new con-
texts. There is interest in the programme from Kenya, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and
Uganda, with some exploratory activities underway to provide the teacher develop-
ment component of ongoing or forthcoming technology initiatives. Re-contextualisa-
tion of OER4Schools has already been done for Kenya by a Kenyan teacher
in-country and it is in progress by the Rwandan Education Board in conjunction
with the One-Laptop-Per-Child scheme that is well established in that country.
We are most grateful to the teachers and the school who participated in our trials for their
enthusiasm and support. Thanks also to Masters students Andrew Cross and Melissa Marsden
for their roles in the data collection and analysis. The OER4Schools programme was based
in the University of Cambridge Centre for Commonwealth Education (CCE) and was sup-
ported by the Commonwealth Education Trust, primarily funding the creation of the resource
and the research. We greatly appreciate the administrative support provided by various CCE
staff throughout the programme.
Commonwealth Education Trust10.13039/100007628 [Grant Number N/A].
1. The complete resource is available at, together with back-
ground information.
4. See
5. See
6. See
7. See
Notes on contributors
Sara Hennessy is a Reader in Teacher Development and Pedagogical Innovation in the Fac-
ulty of Education and the REAL (Research for Equitable Access and Learning) Centre at the
University of Cambridge. Her work focuses on understanding pedagogy and professional
development of teachers in using classroom technologies more effectively, with a particular
emphasis on the role of open educational resources. Much of her recent work has focused on
improving the quality of learning and teaching in sub-Saharan African schools and teacher
Technology, Pedagogy and Education 25
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Bjoern Haßler is the director of Open Development & Education Ltd, and formerly a Senior
Research Associate at the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge. His interests
include open educational resources, mobile digital technology and interactive pedagogy, in
school education, higher education and teacher professional development. His primary
research focus is to determine viable options for enabling low-resourced education systems to
provide an unprecedented quantity of quality, inclusive Education for All, particularly in sub-
Saharan Africa.
Riikka Hofmann is a Research and Teaching Associate in the Faculty of Education at the
University of Cambridge. Her work focuses on effective teaching and learning and profes-
sional change in schools and other organisations, with a particular emphasis on developmen-
tal conversations in different institutional settings. She is also an expert member of a policy
trials advice panel for the British government.
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... Having access to technology is not the only requisite for successful remote learning; teachers and students also must be able to use these technologies for educational purposes. Previous research on the use of technology in schools has emphasized the need to train teachers appropriately so they can use technology to promote successful student learning (Hennessy, Haßler, and Hofmann 2015;Selwyn 2020;Rubagiza, Were, and Sutherland 2011). In Rwanda, for example, Rubagiza et al. (2011) noted that the technology introduced in classrooms in the early 2000s lacked both appropriate teacher professional development and adequate support to enable students to get the most out of new innovations. ...
... When examining teachers' support of students during the school closures, we found that, while their skills and access to technology did not predict the level of support they provided, teachers from the better resourced schools of excellence were significantly more likely to support their students than those from the regular schools. This suggests that the regular schools need more direct attention to ensure that they have suitable facilities and, importantly, sufficient training to ensure that their teachers and students will be able to use devices for remote teaching and learning, should the need arise, as some have maintained in the broader literature (Hennessy et al. 2015;Selwyn 2020;Rubagiza et al. 2011). We also found that older teachers might require additional help to support students' learning using electronic and online means during the school closures. ...
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Rwandan schools were closed in March 2020; they started to reopen in November 2020. To understand the Rwandan schools' level of preparedness to teach remotely during this unprecedented emergency, and for the eventual return to school, we conducted phone surveys with school leaders and teachers in 298 secondary schools in August 2020. Drawing from knowledge mobilization theory and quantitative data, our results indicate that there were gaps in school leaders' and teachers' access to technology and training, a lack of preparedness that could inform policy and practice in future emergencies. Our findings reveal that, before the pandemic, the male teachers in Rwanda had more access than the female teachers to both technological devices and online experience, and that the teachers from well-resourced schools were more likely than teachers from regular schools to own some kind of device to use for teaching. We found that the teachers whose school leaders had received guidance on how to continue education during the school closures were more likely to receive their support. Two additional findings were that younger teachers were more likely than the older ones to support their students during the school closures, and that the school leaders and teachers we surveyed believed that students from low-income families and rural areas benefitted the least from remote learning. These findings indicate that, in Rwanda, the level of preparedness to support schooling during the COVID-19 emergency was negatively affected by preexisting and ongoing inequalities in access to both material and nonmaterial resources.
... This included enabling access to TPD materials and facilitating communities of learning through social messaging applications (see Section 5.1.2), solar-powered devices to combat electricity shortages [159], and using a local Wi-Fi network connecting teachers to a central server [72]. Researchers emphasised the importance of providing support to teachers in rural contexts, for example, in troubleshooting technology issues, enabling reflection and providing motivation [100,111,160,248]. ...
... The use of participatory video-making in South Africa, for example, was a valuable tool in enabling teacher agency and opportunity for group reflection on matters of marginalisation, such as poverty, orphans and HIV/AIDS [137]. Teachers using laptops, video and OER in the OER4Schools initiative in Zambia were found to have raised their expectations of what rural and vulnerable students can achieve [72,73]. They developed their awareness of all learners' progress. ...
Full-text available
Pre-service education and in-service teacher professional development (collectively termed teacher professional development or TPD here) can play a pivotal role in raising teaching quality and, therefore, learning outcomes for children and young people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). However, TPD opportunities in LMICs are limited, unsustained, and often not informed by recent research evidence, and outcomes are mixed. Educational technologies offer potential to enhance formally provided programmes and informal peer-learning forms of TPD. We present the first systematic review of the literature pertaining to technology-mediated TPD for educators of school-aged learners in LMICs, aiming to characterise appropriate and effective uses of technology along with specific constraints operating in those contexts. An in-depth synthesis of 170 studies was undertaken, considering macro-, meso- and micro-level factors during TPD design and implementation in the 40 LMICs represented. Volume of publications increased dramatically over the review period (2008–2020), indicating that the field is rapidly developing. Results largely showed benefits for teachers, but evidence for sustainability, cost-effectiveness or tangible impacts on classroom practice and student outcomes was thin. Promising, locally-contextualised forms of technology-mediated TPD included virtual coaching, social messaging, blended learning, video-stimulated reflection, and use of subject-specific software/applications. We report on the variable effectiveness of programmes and limited attention to marginalised groups. To maximise effectiveness of technology-enhanced TPD, the role of facilitators or expert peers is paramount – yet often glossed over – and the interpersonal dimension of teacher learning must be maintained. Recommendations are made for researchers, policymakers, teachers and teacher educators.
... It seems clear also that there is a need for significant investment and support to help teachers manage and use appropriate technology to mediate learning and then to use information from student engagement and achievement to improve practice (Hennessy, Haßler, & Hofman, 2015;Macharia & Pelser, 2013). Careful consideration must also be taken about changes to staff working conditions, workload, and remuneration in moving between modes of provision (Gregory & Lodge, 2015;Kennedy, Laurillard, Horan, & Charlton, 2015) as well as the impact on students and the support that they might need (OECD, 2015). ...
Full-text available
This chapter explores some of the challenges and opportunities for expansion of open, distance, and digital education in the global south. The discussion begins by defining the terms as used in the chapter and explains why such approaches are of relevance to the diverse countries involved. The chapter then provides some current examples of open, distance, and digital education provision and how some of these practices have been adapted in response to external factors such as climate, financial, and pandemic crises. The chapter then discusses the challenges and opportunities indicated both by current practice and by current research into issues such as open pedagogy, technology-enabled learning, and educational financing. The chapter then makes an argument for the development of more resilient, future-directed education provision, drawing heavily on the experience of the Commonwealth of Learning in its efforts to support sustainable development through learning.
... It seems clear also that there is a need for significant investment and support to help teachers manage and use appropriate technology to mediate learning and then to use information from student engagement and achievement to improve practice (Hennessy, Haßler, & Hofman, 2015;Macharia & Pelser, 2013). Careful consideration must also be taken about changes to staff working conditions, workload, and remuneration in moving between modes of provision (Gregory & Lodge, 2015;Kennedy, Laurillard, Horan, & Charlton, 2015) as well as the impact on students and the support that they might need (OECD, 2015). ...
Full-text available
This chapter explores some of the challenges and opportunities for expansion of open, distance, and digital education in the global south. The discussion begins by defining the terms as used in the chapter and explains why such approaches are of relevance to the diverse countries involved. The chapter then provides some current examples of open, distance, and digital education provision and how some of these practices have been adapted in response to external factors such as climate, financial, and pandemic crises. The chapter then discusses the challenges and opportunities indicated both by current practice and by current research into issues such as open pedagogy, technology-enabled learning, and educational financing. The chapter then makes an argument for the development of more resilient, future-directed education provision, drawing heavily on the experience of the Commonwealth of Learning in its efforts to support sustainable development through learning.
... It has been observed that challenges related to ICT adoption and integration among PSTs in many in African schools could also be due to lack of opportunities for teachers to engage in professional development programmes about teaching with ICTs while on teaching practice (Hennessy et al., 2015). PSTs are not technology efficient and exhibit low self-confidence in their identification, adoption and integration of ICTs into the classrooms (Turkmen, 2006;Zammit, 1992). ...
Full-text available
Information and communication technology (ICT) competences are among the most important requirements to effectively teach mathematics and science in today's classrooms. Teacher educators in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region have prioritised ICT competences for pre-service teachers (PSTs) to effectively select suitable instructional techniques for teaching mathematics and science subject matter. The purpose of this study was to compare PSTs' knowledge of integrating ICT resources into mathematics and science instruction during their teaching practice based on the country of their training, and to determine a linear combination of subfactors that best explains their ICT knowledge. Data were collected from 524 final year PSTs in three SADC countries: Lesotho, South Africa and Zimbabwe. A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to compare the effect of country on PSTs' ICT competence levels. In addition, a stepwise linear multiple regression analysis was conducted to determine a linear combination of subfactors that significantly influenced their ability to integrate ICTs into their instruction. The results of the study revealed a significant difference in PSTs' ICT competences by country. A post hoc test was conducted to determine which groups differed significantly. The results have highlighted the importance of PSTs' access to ICT resources during teaching practice in the three countries. Furthermore, the results have contributed to knowledge about teacher education in the three countries.
... For instance, a study carried out in South Africa also revealed the negative impact of strikes on learning, particularly among the most deprived pupils (Wills, 2014). Moreover, Buckler and Gafar (2013) conducted research on teacher morale over a four-year period in a rural region of Ghana. One of their findings was that training partly improved their morale, in particular by giving them a sense of professional identity as teachers. ...
Full-text available
The study aimed at assessing teaching stress on in-service teachers’ motivation and its implication for quality education in Ethiopian Secondary Schools. A correlational research design was employed. The target population for this study was one higher learning institutionalize college in-service teachers who attend their upgrading degree. 358 in-service teachers were sampled out of 1078 by stratified random sampling technique to collect pertinent information through a questionnaire. Firstly, about 69% of the in-service teachers were frustrated by teaching-stress; secondly, about 70% of them failed to feel responsible for low results scored by students;thirdly, about 79% of them were poorly motivated in the teaching profession. Finally, it was found that there was statistically a significant strong negative relationship between teachers’ level of motivation and causes of stress (workload, resources constraints, time pressure, students misbehavior and large class size), ρ (354) = -.75**, ρ (354) = .73**, ρ (354) = -.72*, ρ (354) =.72** and ρ (354) = -.80**, p < 0.05. Therefore, to sustain the quality education in Ethiopia, all education stakeholders should search for mechanisms to minimize teaching stress and increase teachers’ motivation through providing professional training, incentives, and privileges in type and in kind.
... However, the biggest obstacle to the integration of ICT is teachers' lack of knowledge in regards to the use of ICT in teaching (Nikolic et al., 2019). The essential elements in the integration of technology in the school are ICT resources, training, time and technical assistance (Bingimlas, 2009), but teachers feel that the integration of ICT and new pedagogies requires too much time and that they distract them from their study plan (Hennessy et al., 2015). Another aspect to take into account in studies on ICT integration is its context and consequences, mainly in disadvantaged areas (Mooketsi & Chigona, 2014 (Fisher et al., 2016). ...
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Background The development of students' digital skills is essential to access the labour market and interact with society, being especially important in disadvantaged socioeconomic contexts affected by the digital divide. Objectives The investigation has two objectives. On the one hand, to study the integration of ICT in disadvantaged contexts and, on the other, to know the critical use that is made of them in schools as a source of educational change. Methods In this research, eight international experts in education are interviewed on what they consider to be the best way of implementing new technologies in disadvantaged contexts to achieve educational improvement. A mixed methodology has been used, qualitative through semi‐structured interviews and quantitative through a text mining analysis of the interviews' transcripts with the R programming language. Results and Conclusions The results show that the teaching staff is the key element. The curriculum, objectives and school director's help are also highlighted, as well as the collaboration of the students who have to be provided with the necessary digital resources. At the state level, greater funding and support from universities are needed to support research and the quality of teacher training.
... Previous empirical studies were conducted in various school subjects, environmental settings and educational contexts (e.g., Almusawi et al., 2021;Backfisch et al., 2021). However, current technology integration within the educational field focuses on certain types of schools (e.g., pilot schools; Akcaoglu et al., 2015) that might be seen 'at the front end' of technology innovations (Admiraal et al., 2017), although some studies have been conducted in developing countries (Lumagbas et al., 2019), low-resourced schools (Hennessy et al., 2015) and rural schools (Wang et al., 2019). The use of technology in schools is expected to increase as a result of the widespread use of technology in schools through high-budget projects and initiatives. ...
Research has often ignored the complex systemic nature of ICT integration in education, including the importance of the historical, social and political context. This study examines the content of local ICT policy plans that have been developed and how school leaders and teachers perceive their experience with ICT practices of rural schools. A mixed-method research approach was applied, involving 25 rural schools in Western China. Data was collected from multiple sources (policy documents, interviews with school leaders, focus groups with teachers, classroom observations, an ICT inventory and a teacher survey). The results revealed three types of challenges for ICT integration in rural schools: (1) guidance and learning opportunities as a political challenge, (2) ICT infrastructure and digital content as a technical challenge, and (3) teacher training and technical support as a human challenge. These challenges have implications for policymakers and practitioners when improving rural education through ICT integration.
The role of talk in science education has long been established; an essential part of learning science is for students to engage in scientific discourse. Nonetheless, productive science discussion is still rare in the classroom. The rarity can be partly attributed to the complexity of dialogic science teaching: teachers have to respond to the dynamic flow of student talk in the moment, orchestrate different voices towards a collective understanding, support the emergence of new ideas, ensure disciplinary rigour of scientific practice, and attend to the complex social relationships in the class. The construct of contingent responsiveness (CR) describes teachers’ adaptive expertise in responding to student ideas in the moment to promote collective sense-making and classroom equity. This study used a design-based research method (DBR) to co-design a technology-enhanced professional development (PD) programme with teachers of students aged 5-12 years old in Pakistan, incorporating mixed-reality simulation technology (i.e. Mursion) over four iterations. The effectiveness of the PD programme in supporting CR was evident in the significant shift in teachers’ response patterns before and after the PD, shown by epistemic network analysis both visually and statistically. Furthermore, this study shed light on how to support teachers in developing CR using systematic conjecture mapping, tracing the path from design features to mediating processes, and then to the outcome. The conjecture map was refined over four iterations, which improved the design and learning theory over time. It was found that 1) adopting dialogic framings, 2) developing fluency with talk moves, 3) deploying flexible attention, 4) engaging in knowledge-based reasoning, and 5) experiencing metaphoric resonance could lead to CR. These processes were enabled by a combination of design features, i.e., mixed-reality simulations, talk moves, guided collaborative inquiry, case studies, and collective reflection. This study achieved the dual goals of DBR, producing usable knowledge in the form of an effective PD programme and building a preliminary learning theory of CR. Furthermore, unpacking the mechanisms of the PD allows the design to be adapted and tested in other educational and cultural contexts, thus enhancing its adaptability, sustainability, and potential for scalability.
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This article reports on the findings in relation to the implications of social climate for the professional development of teachers. The study was conducted in the context of the secondary education expansion plan in Tanzania which initiated the construction of new schools within communities. The main purpose of this study was to gain insights into how teachers’ interaction with diverse policy contexts shaped them to grow as teaching professionals. This study was qualitative in nature. Participants were 28 teachers from four community secondary schools. Data were collected by using individual and focus group interviews which were inductively analyzed. Findings identified specific social conditions within and beyond the school that impacted the development of teachers, and in turn, affected student learning achievement. The article suggests that improving the social climate enhances the sustainability of the teaching profession.
Technical Report
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his rigorous literature review, commissioned by the Department for International Development (DfID), UK, focused on ‘pedagogy, curriculum, teaching practices and teacher education in developing countries’. It aimed to: (i) review existing evidence on the review topic to inform programme design and policy-making undertaken by the DfID, other agencies and researchers; and (ii) identify critical evidence gaps to guide the development of future research programmes. The overarching question this review engaged was: Which pedagogic practices, in which contexts and under what conditions, most effectively support all students to learn at primary and secondary levels in developing countries? This was explored through three sub-questions: 1. What pedagogical practices are being used by teachers in formal and informal classrooms in developing countries? 2. What is the evidence on the effectiveness of these pedagogical practices, in what conditions, and with what population of learners? 3. How can teacher education (curriculum and practicum) and the school curriculum and guidance materials best support effective pedagogy? Methods: An advisory e-user group comprising ministry personnel, teacher educators, educational researchers, NGOs, foundations and other development partners offered advice and support and commented on the draft initial report, draft final report, and responded to enquiries within their area of expertise. Nine electronic databases for relevant literature and 17 key journals were hand searched; the websites of key governmental and non-governmental organisations were also searched; citations referenced in identified papers were followed up; and team members, the e-user group, and the team’s professional contacts were consulted for recommendations of relevant studies and ‘grey’ unpublished reports and papers. The review was conducted in two stages. Stage one consisted of a systematic ‘mapping’ exercise on the 489 studies that met the inclusion criteria through coding, giving a broad characterisation of pedagogical practices used by teachers in formal and informal classrooms in developing countries. Studies that met the inclusion criteria of relevance and clarity of method were selected for stage two, the ‘in-depth review’. Fifty-four empirical studies, reported in 62 publications, using both quantitative and qualitative methods, were included and rated for methodological trustworthiness and quality of contextualisation. A random sample of 15% of studies was double coded for quality assurance. Data from the 45 studies ranking high or moderate on both dimensions were used to address this review’s overarching research question. Results: The review’s main claim is that teachers’ use of communicative strategies encourages pedagogic practices that are interactive in nature, and is more likely to impact on student learning outcomes and hence be effective. This claim for teachers’ use of communicative strategies is not something that is reported consistently in those terms in the literature reviewed, but it has emerged from an interpretation of the overall body of evidence. The overall strength of that body of evidence is moderate, with a combination of high and moderate quality studies from a range of contexts, relatively numerous in relation to other rigorous and systematic reviews, but mostly of observational-descriptive studies. Studies were not directly comparable, with different aims and research methods and a variety of outcome indicators to assess effective pedagogic practices. Evidence comes from studies of not only interventions but also reforms and existing conditions, so that these practices indicate what is possible under difficult conditions, with large, multilingual classes and scarce resources, and where students come from poor or marginalised backgrounds. The evidence is strongest in the consistency of findings on the extent to which teachers are able to implement the pedagogical strategies and practices envisaged by reforms and training. There is also convergence in how studies report that curriculum and teacher education can best support effective practices. However, there is less robust evidence of the way these strategies and practices impact on student learning outcomes, as few studies used baseline and post-tests or school or national student achievement data, and many used greater student engagement and confidence as general but not rigorously evidenced indicators. The review identified that pedagogic practice is developed through interaction between teachers’ thinking or attitudes, what they do in the classroom and what they see as the outcome of their practice. The review identified two specific teacher attitudes that encouraged the use of three interactive and communicative strategies; these in turn facilitated implementation of six specific teaching practices that were used in effective ways and engaged students. These attitudes were teachers’ positive attitudes towards their training and their students, which positioned them in the best frame of mind to construct the teaching and learning process as an interactive, communicative process in which teaching involved provoking a visible response in their students that indicated that learning was taking place. Three specific strategies that promoted this interactive pedagogy were identified: • feedback, sustained attention and inclusion; • creating a safe environment in which students are supported in their learning; • drawing on students’ backgrounds and experiences. The above strategies formed a basis for developing the six effective teaching practices, although not all of these needed to be simultaneously present: • flexible use of whole-class, group and pair work where students discuss a shared task; • frequent and relevant use of learning materials beyond the textbook; • open and closed questioning, expanding responses, encouraging student questioning; • demonstration and explanation, drawing on sound pedagogical content knowledge; • use of local languages and code switching; • planning and varying lesson sequences. While all teachers may use the above practices, the key difference is that the most effective teachers use them communicatively, paying attention to their students and placing them centrally in their construction of the teaching-learning process. These effective teachers recognise the need to provoke a positive response in students and do so in more interactive, communicative ways, so that students engage, understand, participate and learn. All of the above practices, even when used alone, if carried out in this interactive and communicative way, are then effective in the classroom. Brought together as a package in an intervention or carefully constructed curriculum, supported by relevant professional development, they might make a considerable impact on student learning.
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Supporting and upskilling teachers are essential to enhancing the quality of learning in developing contexts – the focus of Education For All – yet little evidence exists concerning what kinds of teacher education are actually most effective and what changes in ‘quality’ are desired and feasible. This paper illustrates how a concrete, research-informed school-based, model of professional development in sub-Saharan Africa can address the quality agenda. It reports on a trial of a pioneering, multimedia programme supporting interactive mathematics and science teaching using open educational resources and classroom digital technology, where available. The programme was carefully adapted to the Zambian context and ran weekly for one school year with 12 teachers in a low-resourced primary school. The study examined the impact on teachers' thinking and classroom practices. Data were derived from observations, lesson and workshop recordings, teacher interviews, portfolios and audio diaries. Through a teacher-led workshop approach and trialling new pedagogical strategies, teachers raised their expectations of pupils, adapted to learners’ knowledge levels, used more practical and group work, and integrated technology use. Pupils built deeper understanding of subject matter, were actively engaged, worked collaboratively and used digital technologies for problem-solving.
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This paper reports on the development and outcomes of the second phase of OER4Schools, a school-based professional development programme supporting interactive forms of subject teaching in conjunction with Open Educational Resources (OER) and technology in Zambian primary schools. We worked with partners to identify the needs of school-based continuing professional development adapted to the local context; the programme was based on participatory, collaborative and inquiry-based pedagogies for both classroom learning and teacher development. We worked over a one-year period with four experienced teachers in two basic (primary) schools serving disadvantaged communities. Data were collected from observations, interviews, surveys, lesson planning/review meetings and team workshops. All participants integrated OER and technology into mathematics and science lessons and developed more interactive practices, including collaborative learning. Professional dialogue, quality conversations, reflective practice, cultural sensitivity, peer learning and cooperation were pivotal mechanisms through which teachers shifted their focus from teaching (and teacher exposition) to student learning. Seeing students as capable individuals, teachers raised their expectations and developed insight into interactive practices such as group work, providing meaningful opportunities for student collaboration and active learning by all.
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Many pedagogic interventions aim to counteract the problem of students’ disengagement in learning but often fail to take into account the perceptions and practices of educational practitioners. In this article we analyse teachers’ collaborative talk as an important part of developing school practices. We examine how teachers construct students’ engagement as a goal of their work and how they, in the course of a research-based, school-led pedagogic intervention, begin to re-define this problem and their perceptions of their students. Using a discourse analytic framework, we analyse nine video-recorded group discussions with 30 teachers in a socially disadvantaged urban secondary school participating in a 2-year intervention study. The analysis focuses on teachers’ talk of their students as the teachers constructed obstacles, preconditions and possibilities for the development of their work. We categorize the teachers' talk about their students’ engagement as emphasising (1) Students as autonomous choice-makers; (2) Students as active doers and participants in school; and (3) Students as whole, embodied beings. During the intervention, teachers’ talk shifted not only from negative to more positive talk of their students but also to seeing their students as more complex and embodied beings whose problems in school are not inevitable obstacles for classroom work but as something that the teachers can start to do something at. In this paper we call this change in teachers’ talk as “envisioned ideology”. In pedagogic interventions there need to be what we call “latent supporting factors” that can enable the development of this kind of “envisioned ideology”.
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In a small‐scale study of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)‐rich primary school, interactive whiteboards (IWBs) were found to be the predominant ICT tools used by teachers. The study sought to identify how the teachers used features of ICT to enhance learning, based on a list of ICT’s functions published for teacher education programmes. This list did not appear to account for all the aspects of the IWB’s influence that were described by teachers and observed in their lessons. Interview and observation data concerning digital whiteboard technology were probed further, using a framework for analysing activity settings designed for teaching and learning. This process generated a new taxonomy of features of ICT involving two levels: those intrinsic to digital media and devices and those constructed by hardware designers, software developers and teachers preparing resources for learning. Pedagogical actions supported by these features were identified and views concerning the impact of these actions on learning were analysed. This article reports the findings of the analysis, and exemplifies a use of the taxonomy in comparing practice across subjects. It suggests that this focus on ICT’s features may be valuable for both future research on the impact of ICT on learning and the design of new ICT resources.
There is an ironic and costly contradiction in the attempt to integrate technology into education. While evidence of the educational benefits of technology abounds and investment in hardware and software has dramatically increased, rela-tively few teachers use technology regularly in their teaching and the impact of computers on existing curricula is still very limited. What lies behind this contradiction? Why don't teachers make wider use of instructional technologies? In this article we introduce a novel model of goal-oriented behavior, Perceptual Control Theory (PCT), as a framework for understanding teacher adoption of technology. Unlike other approaches that examine this issue by studying the ex-ternal environment, this new framework attempts to under-stand teacher adoption of technology from the inside. It con-siders teachers' use of technology by examining the goals of teachers and how the use of technology might help or hinder their goals. While it is too early to provide systematic find-ings to show the usefulness of this application of PCT, we have used it here to interpret and synthesize the findings of a number of studies on teachers and technology. We also make suggestions derived from this model for the infusion of tech-nology into schools. To summarize the major themes, in order to understand why and why not teachers use technology, we must look at teach-ers as goal-oriented, purposeful organisms. PCT provides a comprehensive model for understanding technology infu-sion. From a PCT perspective three conditions are necessary for teachers to use technology: 1. The teacher must believe that technology can more effec-tively meet a higher-level goal than what has been used. 2. The teacher must believe that using technology will not cause disturbances to other higher-level goals that the he or she thinks are more important than the one being maintained. 3. The teacher must believe that he or she has or will have sufficient ability and resources to use technology.
The paper sets out a theoretical approach for understanding the quality of education in low income countries from a social justice perspective. The paper outlines and critiques the two dominant approaches that currently frame the debate about education quality, namely, the human capital and human rights approaches. Drawing principally on the ideas of Nancy Fraser and Amyarta Sen the paper then sets out an alternative approach based on a theory of social justice and of capabilities. The paper develops an overall understanding of how education quality can be understood in relation to the extent to which it fosters key capabilities that individuals, communities and society in general have reason to value. It then analyses three inter-related dimensions of the quality of education from a social justice perspective. Each dimension is considered in relation to contemporary policy debates and research including the work of EdQual. The first dimension, that of inclusion draws attention to the access of different groups of learners to quality inputs that facilitate the development of their capabilities, the cultural and institutional barriers that impact on the learning of different groups and priorities for overcoming these. The second dimension, that of relevance, is concerned with the extent to which the outcomes of education are meaningful for all learners, valued by their communities and consistent with national development priorities in a changing global context, whilst the third dimension, that of democracy considers how decisions about education quality are governed and the nature of participation in debates at the local, national and global levels. It is argued that a social justice framework can provide an alternative rationale for a policy emphasis on quality that encompasses but goes beyond that provided by human capital and rights approaches; that through emphasising the importance of context and through providing a normative basis for thinking about quality in relation to development, it provides a useful starting point for re-conceptualising education quality and how it can be evaluated; and, that it draws attention to the central importance of public dialogue and debate at the local, national and global levels about the nature of a quality education and quality frameworks at these levels.