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PERSPECTIVE

ANALYSING PRE-SERVICE TEACHER TRAINING.

Jancan Limo, Education Facilitator
19 November 2019

The measure of a teacher’s expertise in the field is not in how much they know, but on how well they facilitate students to know. It is not in what they know, but in how they teach what they know. 

Teachers are not custodians of information. The success of a teacher, therefore, is evaluated on how much they facilitate the learning process and how well the students perform in what they teach. Going by this understanding, we can assume then that their training revolves around how well they deliver the knowledge, competencies and values or facilitate the learning. But is this really the case?

A teacher training course in a diploma college requires the trainee teachers to study two core subjects: 1) Content you will teach in the future and 2) education as a subject, Physical Education and some common units such as communication skills, entrepreneurship, general workshop, environmental education and library science. Most of the common units are covered in the first year and not necessarily examined at the end of the course.

So, what happens during the training? What does it look like to train a Mathematics and Geography teacher who specializes in teaching Mathematics? How well prepared will he/she be to do the job?

Looking at the first year of this teacher’s training, we find the curriculum consists out of 273 hours of learning mathematics spread across the three school terms. In these hours, teacher trainees are taken through advanced mathematical concepts. Advanced here means that they are concepts that are beyond secondary school level. 100% of these hours are spent only on teaching these tertiary level mathematics. There is no emphasis on secondary school mathematics or how they can teach secondary school concepts.

During the second year, the number of hours in the curriculum rises to 433 in total, spread across the three school terms. This is due to the fact that the teacher trainees have finished the common subjects. Out of these hours, only 72 are spent on methodology i.e. theoretical concepts that touch on pedagogy and didactics. The remaining 361 hours are purely spent on advanced mathematical concepts.

“There is no emphasize on secondary school mathematics or how they will teach secondary school concepts.”

The third year only lasts two school terms. One term of learning and final exams and the remaining term on teaching practice. Breaking down these two terms, you will realise that teacher trainees spend a bigger part of the first term on advanced content; 72 hours to be specific. 48 hours is the allocated time for teaching practice. The final term, teachers are expected to be practising what they learnt. The average hours the teacher will spend in class before graduating will be will be only 48 hours.

Analysis of the Mathematics Teacher Training Curriculum

Looking at the overall training time, there is a lot of emphasis on the advanced concepts – 706 hours, there’s 120 hours on pedagogical theory and 48 hours in total for practise. The training is therefore biased towards the acquisition of more content, rather than on learning the specifics of how to deliver content to students and practise of what they have learnt.

Dissecting deeper on how training is done, the following becomes clear:
⦁ Teacher training is almost 100% delivered through lecture method.
⦁ The concepts taught are advanced and are no different from those studied by engineering students.
⦁ The study of teaching methodology is very generalized i.e. does not specify how Geometry is to be delivered differently from algebra or such.
⦁ Lastly, very little is covered on the secondary school concepts.

Teachers spend most of their time and years after College facilitating learning. Their main job is to educate students. The study of advanced concepts is only helpful in assisting the teacher on having a wider view of the content. Knowledge of how to deliver what is expected in the curriculum is more important to their everyday teaching yet is almost not covered at all.

“The training is therefore biased towards the acquisition of more content over learning the specifics of how to deliver and practising what they have learnt.”

The downside of how training is delivered in colleges is that teachers become the only custodians of knowledge, therefore leaving little room for discussion in class. Furthermore, the lack of specific approaches of how content can be delivered results in all subjects being taught the same way, through the lecture method. The lack of exposure to other approaches of teaching inhibits content delivery innovation.

Should we do nothing to respond to these gaps that exist as a result of how teachers are trained, we will never fulfil the purpose of educating students. The narrative of teachers rushing through to cover the syllabus, without considering the level of students’ understanding, has to end to break the current cycle. If not, low performance and general dislike of learning experiences by students will continue to affect teacher motivation, which will continue to drive the rushed lecture method. If we don’t fix the root problem, we will end up continuously spending more on education while reaping fewer and fewer returns.

Action has to be taken.

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