Innovative Approaches to Teacher Professional Development: Notes from Nepal
There is an urgent need to strengthen the professional development of teachers and teacher educators in low-resourced settings, particularly in the context of evolving education reforms. To this end, a consortium comprising Villa College (Maldives), the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (India), and the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan are implementing a project titled ‘Multi-modal Approaches to Teacher Professional Development’ across Nepal, Maldives, and Afghanistan.
This project combines distance learning technologies, action research, mentoring and professional communities of practice, to strengthen capacities of teachers and teacher educators. While doing so, it aims to generate contextually relevant knowledge to improve the quality of teacher professional development in low-resourced settings.
South Asian Teacher Educators Fellowship
In each country, around 15 Fellows (teachers/teacher educators/school leaders/researchers/government functionaries) have been selected to participate in the South Asia Educators Fellowship, an integral part of this project. Fellows have been engaged in a series of activities over the past six months, including coursework in ICT for constructive teaching and learning, mentoring, and action research, followed by field action research projects to be implemented by the Fellows.
As part of their action research projects, each Fellow has identified a problem within their context. Fellows then work with teachers to implement their proposed interventions to address the identified problem in the classroom context. Fellows are also supported by Academic and Field Mentors to implement these projects.
Action Research: Experiences from the field
Members of the core team at TISS recently visited Kathmandu, Nepal from 13th to 15th October 2022 to meet with the Fellows and Field Mentors to understand the progress of the implementation of the action research.
To this end, they visited three schools to observe and meet with teachers who are being mentored by Fellows in Nepal.
Visit to Kathmandu International School, a private school in Kathmandu
One of the Nepal Fellows is working on an action research project to explore the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) for active teaching-learning of social studies in class 9. The team visited Kathmandu International School and observed one of the teachers, who is being mentored by the Fellow, in action.
It was a 9th grade social studies lesson on water and minerals, which was being held in a room with a projector. The class was being carried out in Nepalese, since there is a government mandate to teach social science in primary classes, grade 7th and 9th in the local language. The teacher had made use of Open Educational Resources in the form of a YouTube video to teach students about the main rivers and tributaries flowing through Nepal, and slides on different minerals in Nepal.
The teacher sounded confident, with a strong understanding of the subject matter, and the students were listening to the teacher, although mostly silent. In a brief conversation with the team, she mentioned that while she had been using videos to teach her classes, she was unaware of the terminology, Open Educational Resources.
Based on her feedback, the team advised the Fellow to conduct another training session with teachers on both OER and action research, as well as to explore the Clix OER website to find resources beyond YouTube videos. The team also advised the teacher to make the class more participatory by creating students’ groups to discuss key learnings after watching the videos. This would help the teacher gauge student learning and amend future lessons accordingly.
Visit to Saraswati Niketan Secondary School, a government school in Kathmandu
Another Fellow is integrating art and science in her work with teachers. The team observed one of these teachers teaching a class 10 science lesson on ‘chemical reactions.’ The lesson used art-based pedagogy, where the different chemical reactions (combination, combustion, decomposition, single displacement, and double displacement) were demonstrated in the form of a skit by a group of students.
The classmates really enjoyed the performance of the students, and the team suggested encouraging students to articulate the concepts and reasoning behind the chemical reactions, as well as carrying out laboratory experiments, to deepen the learning experience.
Visit to Shree Padma Secondary School, a government school in Bhaktapur district, Nepal
Finally, the team also had a chance to hear students’ experiences participating in project-based activities on ‘Eco-System and Bio-diversity.’ Students from Class 9 had collected photographs and created videos on this topic, and they spoke about flora, fauna, and food chains they had observed in their native village. Students from Class 10 also shared their experiences with project-based learning.
The visit helped the team understand the Fellows’ progress in their action research projects, as well as areas for support. It was also good to see cross-learning taking place amongst Fellows as they visited each other's schools to observe classroom implementation.
This project emphasizes action research as a means to strengthen teachers’ and teacher educators’ abilities as reflective practitioners. Based on feedback from Academic and Field Mentors, and lessons from the first cycle of implementation, Fellows will be adapting their interventions and implementing a second cycle in the coming weeks. They will also be learning how to collect, document and analyze data, summarize their findings, and write an action research report.
With this, we hope the Fellows will learn to incorporate action research as an important tool in their practice as teachers and teacher educators.