Welcome to my new classroom. It is one of the three classrooms we have borrowed at a local school to deliver training to 150 Ghanaian teachers and head teachers.
We were initially very surprised to see the white board in the room as we hadn’t encountered many on our school visits. This room comes equipped with one cupboard, shutters on the windows and the occasional rather large spider. It is lacking some essentials such as lights and a ceiling fan to make the heat bearable. On the first day we passed the desks with attached benches out of the unglazed windows and replaced them with plastic chairs for the 50 people attending each training.
As a group, us fellows have delivered inputs on behaviour management, assessment, planning, differentiation, group work and phonics. During the workshop style discussions I was surprised to see how articulate and well informed teachers are about modern teaching practices and how they can describe, for example, the difference between formative and summative assessment. The reason I was surprised is because it simply did not match the teaching I saw being delivered during school visits. We observed a very traditional chalk and talk style of teaching with lots of memorisation, closed questioning and copying from the board.
So, if the teachers already seem to have an understanding of many of the concepts of best practice, why is it not transferring through to the classroom? We need to remember that these teachers were educated in a system that valued memorisation over creativity and critical thinking. They may not know how or be given the necessary support to apply their knowledge of teaching strategies. Furthermore, in Ghana, teaching is often a low paid, low status job and teachers are given little time, structure or incentive to reflect on their practice and implement new strategies.
That being said, we saw teachers achieving amazing things despite huge challenges. Not a photocopier, laminator, big book, topic box, resource room or computer in sight, they used what they had to deliver new information and give students an opportunity to learn. I’m hoping that as the teachers and Ghana education officers are part of the training, they will help support and encourage the implementation of these new strategies. One important role we fellows are therefore playing is encouraging local teachers to reflect on their current practice and identify opportunities to incorporate the new strategies they have been introduced to.