Capturing changes in Sudanese teachers' teaching using reflective photography

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<ul><li><p>ers in Kaditionauntered working in Arabic and English.ake sense of new ideas and practices.</p><p>In-service teacher educationfulness for offering insight into how teachers reify new practices.</p><p> 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.</p><p>primary education classrooms but increasingly attention is shifting</p><p>can act (Moon&amp;Wolfenden, 2012). Over the last tenyears there havebeen a considerable number of policy developments, curriculumreformulations and pedagogic focussed interventions informed bylearner-centred pedagogy aiming to improve the quality of teachere</p><p>completion rate data and international numeracy and literacy testse(UNESCO, 2011).sistant to changes shows that thetransmission stylehorus, answers to2006; Altinyelken,06; Mtika &amp; Gates,</p><p>2010; Pontefract &amp; Hardman, 2005).A variety of reasons have been suggested for this lack of progress</p><p>but a common theme is the lack of attention shown to context e atthe local, school and classroom level, systemic contextual factorssuch as policies, the demands of the curriculum and associated highstakes examinations and teacher resistance to change (Chisholm &amp;Leyendecker, 2008; Hardman et al., 2009; Tabulawa, 1997). Thesendings are not unique to Sub-Saharan Africa; reviews of the liter-ature across the globe conrm that teachers beliefs and actions are</p><p>* Corresponding author. The TESSA Programme, Stuart Hall Building (3), TheOpen University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK.</p><p>E-mail addresses: Freda.Wolfenden@open.ac.uk (F. Wolfenden), Alison.Buckler@</p><p>Contents lists available at</p><p>Teaching and Tea</p><p>.e</p><p>Teaching and Teacher Education 34 (2013) 189e197open.ac.uk (A. Buckler).to a critical examination of the quality of the learning experience.Learning achievement is often relatively low with large numbers ofpupils failing tomakeprogress particularly at lower grades (UNESCO,2010). Research has suggested that the inuence of school on pupillearning is more pronounced in low-income countries (Vespoor,2003) and of all the variables that impact on schooling, the qualityof teaching is one of the most critical and one where governments</p><p>that such initiatives have achieved their aimsTeacher-centred practices appear particularly reand much recent research on African classroomdominantmode of teaching remains a teacher-ledin which pupil talk is restricted to short, often cclosed questions (Akyeampong, Pryor, &amp; Ampiah,2010; Heneveld, Ndiddle, Rajonhson, &amp; Swai, 201. Introduction</p><p>Across Sub-Saharan Africa enrolment is progressively rising in</p><p>pupil interactions in primary classrooms across Sub-Saharan Africa(Altinyelken, 2010; Barrett, 2007; Chisholm &amp; Leyendecker, 2008;OSullivan, 2006). However, to date there is little evidence e fromTeacher reectionReective photographySudan</p></li><li><p>d Tenot easily changed and that more extended collaborative activitiesare required to shift teachers from ideas of teaching they acquired aspupils and students (Clift &amp; Brady, 2005). Learner-centred ped-agogies demand complex classroom practices from teachers,involving greater uncertainty in the learning situation, increasedexibility and a variety of approaches to respond to learners needs(Darling-Hammond, 1990). Teachers development of this skilledexpertise over time is situated and embedded in their contexts ofpractice; they align their skills and personal characteristics to con-ditions afforded in their own context, both material and symbolic(Wenger, 1998). Teacher learning is thus engagement in new formsof practice e a movement deeper into practice e and occurs asteachers recongure elements of their existing practices by con-scious negotiation through activity. How, and the extent to which,teachers negotiate their engagementwith initiatives to develop newpracticeswill be framed and inuenced bynational, regional and thelocal context including national curricula, available resources, fundsof knowledge, community expectations and school priorities. Failureto consider sufciently the characteristics, opportunities and con-straints of the practice context inwhich teachers are working and toadapt programmes accordingly can result in little or highly restric-ted pedagogic change (Schweisfurth, 2011).</p><p>In this paper we explore whether the use of reective photog-raphy can deepen our understanding of the ways in which teachersmediate and engage in new practices; what Wenger describes astheir learning events and forms of participation (Wenger, 1998: p.155), to inform the future development of appropriate and sus-tainable forms of professional development. The project workedwith a small group of primary school teachers in Sudan who wereenrolled on a BEd programme through distance learning with theOpen University of Sudan (OUS). We were interested in exploringshifts in their approaches and behaviours as they engaged with theprogramme materials, these have a particular focus on teacherlearning through participation in classroom activities, utilisingmaterials from the TESSA (Teacher Education in Sub-SaharanAfrica) programme. The research was undertaken by academicsfrom the Open University, UK (OUUK) working in partnership withcolleagues from OUS. The paper also describes the sensitivities thatarose using a non-traditional research approach in very traditionalacademic and educational communities.</p><p>2. Context</p><p>2.1. Sudan: the social, political and educational context</p><p>The study reported in this paper was carried out in schools onthe outskirts of Khartoum e Sudans capital e in 2009 and 2010. Atthis time, prior to the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, Sudanwas geographically the largest country in Africa. It had a populationof 34 million, consisting of over 600 different ethnic groups anddivided between Arabic speaking Muslims in the north (whereKhartoum is located) and English speaking Christians in the south(World Bank, 2012). Sudan is ranked in the bottom 20 countries inthe UNDPs Human Development Index (UNDP, 2012) and is char-acterised in the media by conicts over religion, ethnicity, land andresources. However, country-level data on welfare and develop-ment (especially so soon after the secession) is hard to come by andmasks an uneven distribution of economic wealth and power thatare concentrated in Khartoum.</p><p>Politics, power and culture have been contested in Sudan sinceindependence in 1956 with nationalist and Islamic values in Sudanstrengthened following a military coup in 1989. The Ministry ofEducationmade Arabic the solemedium of instruction (including atuniversities which historically had taught in English) and the</p><p>F. Wolfenden, A. Buckler / Teaching an190ideological-religious principles of an Islamic state were embeddedin the school curriculum. Subsequent curriculum developments,including the new Primary Curriculum introduced in 2000, havealso foregrounded the need to encourage pupils to think critically,solve problems and take responsibility for their learning (SudanFederal Ministry of Education, 2004) in-line with the interna-tional rhetoric around learner-centred teaching.</p><p>Since 2001 basic education has consisted of eight years ofschooling, but data around pupil enrolment, retention and attain-ment is confounded by acute differences between education sys-tems in the north and south prior to secession. Due to political,cultural and linguistic differences, schools in the south were gen-erally run by NGOs or religious organisations and followed eitherindependent curricula or that of neighbouring Uganda. Althoughnationally pupil enrolment at the primary level was 67% in 2008this masked regional variations. More recent data from SouthSudan suggests that in this new country less than 40% of primaryage pupils attend school (Brown, 2012). The ratio of pupils toteachers with a professional teaching qualication in Sudan is 1:37(UIS, 2011) but as high as 1:201 in South Sudan where the highestqualication held by half of teachers is a primary school leaverscerticate (GRSS, 2011).</p><p>Until 1990 the minimum qualication for teaching at the basicor primary level was graduation from junior secondary schoolfollowed by a Diploma in Education. Most teachers acquired thisdiploma through a four-year, pre-service, college-based course. Asmaller number of teachers, who were unqualied but had at leasta year of teaching experience, obtained their diploma through atwo-year in-service programme (UKNARIC, 2007). In 1990 thegovernment, determined to improve the primary education system,raised the status of teaching to a graduate profession. Teachertraining colleges became afliated with universities to offer BEdcourses (UKNARIC, 2007). This shift set Sudan apart from othercountries in the region; twenty years later a certicate or diplomaremain the minimum qualication for teaching at the primary levelacross much of Sub-Saharan Africa.</p><p>But by 2002 it was estimated that less than 10% of the countrys130,000 primary school teachers held a BEd (Sudan FederalMinistry of Education, 2004) and the Open University of Sudanwas created in 2003 to become the main provider of the BEdqualication. OUS is a government-funded institution that providesin-service teacher education through distance-learning methodsthat enable teachers to study while remaining in their post. Basedin Khartoum it operates through 73 training centres and 350 sub-regional centres across the country. The BEd is a four-year pro-gramme; student teachers attend tutorials and receive studymaterials at sub-regional centres. Over the four years studentsundertake three phases of teaching practice each lasting 3e4months, assessed by OUS supervisors who visit up to 3 times dur-ing each teaching practice period. This is seen by OUS staff as a keycomponent of the programme: programme leaders believe rmlythat teaching skills are developed in practice rather than learnt inlecture halls (Wolfenden &amp; Buckler, 2012). In 2008 nearly two thirdsof Sudanese primary school teachers had studied with OUS. Over90% of these were based in what is now Sudan (TESSA, 2011a).</p><p>2.2. TESSA (teacher education in Sub-Saharan Africa) involvementin the OUS BEd programme</p><p>TESSA is a network of African and international institutionsengaged in teacher education which have been collaborating since2005 to improve the quality of pre- and in-service teacher educa-tion at scale in Sub-Saharan Africa (Moon, 2007). The consortium isled by the Open University, UK and has received funding from anumber of philanthropic trusts and government agencies. Con-</p><p>acher Education 34 (2013) 189e197sortium activity has focussed on collaborative production of an</p></li><li><p>nd Teextensive series of Open Educational Resources (OERs) to supportteacher development and pedagogical change. These OERs arefreely available from the TESSA website (www.tessafrica.net) in anumber of languages, formats and versions, appropriate for dif-ferent cultural and linguistic contexts and, in each case, matched tothe relevant pupil curriculum. In each country the OERs wereadapted to ensure congruence with the National Curriculum andappropriate cultural, historical, environmental and linguisticexamples and references e this process is described in detail inprevious accounts (Wolfenden &amp; Buckler, 2012).</p><p>TESSA OERs have a transparent pedagogy and discourse aboutlearning. They are distinctly interactive, moving teachers fromgeneralisation or principles of practice to highly specic authenticclassroom activities, designed to be carried out with their pupils(Putnam&amp;Borko, 2000). Activitieswithin theunits guide teachers toa more active participatory pedagogy, one which recognises pupilsperspectives in theprocess of learningandacknowledges that pupilsare able to reason and make sense of and hold theories aboutthemselves and their surroundings (Bruner, 1996). The materialsdetail the use of investigations, group work, problem solving,materials and resources from the local environment and communityand so on (Wolfenden, 2008) to help teachers develop authenticunderstandings of their practice and acquire skills to implementchanges in their practice. Augmenting the activities are case studiesoffering teachers the opportunity to see below the surface of theteaching and learning episodes and into the thinking of experiencedteachers, thus helping to make explicit teacher professionalknowledge (Wolfenden, Thakrar, &amp; Zinn, 2009). TESSA OERsencourage participation and experimentation in a manner which isin sympathy with the context in which teachers are working, offer-ing the potential for differentiated and contextualised professionaldevelopment for practitioners. They have been integrated intoteacher education programmes according to local needs and cul-tural, nancial and policy environments. Data from TESSA partnerinstitutions in 2010 shows TESSA OERs are included in 19 pro-grammes (including BEd, Diploma, Certicate andunaccredited CPDcourses) across 10 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA, 2011b).</p><p>As members of the TESSA consortium, colleagues from the OpenUniversity of Sudan were involved in the writing, translation intoArabic and adaptation of the TESSA OERs for the Sudanese context.During 2008 OUS undertook a pilot project using TESSA OERs withstudent teachers (TEAMS, 2007). Following evaluation of this trialOUS made a decision to produce a handbook of TESSA OERs for BEdstudents to use in their nal teaching practice. Each teaching prac-tice focuses on the teaching of progressively older pupils, corre-spondingwith the three cycles of the Sudanese primary curriculum.The third cycle teaching practice thus focuses on the teaching ofspecialist curriculum areas with pupils in the two nal years ofprimary school and, unlike the rst two cycles, there is no nationalset text for third cycle. The new TESSA handbook presents asequence of classroom strategies, mapped to the Sudanese curric-ulum for upper primary pupils, such a focussed approach on a spe-cic pedagogy has been shown to have the potential to inuence thepractices of teachers (Brouwer &amp; Korthagen, 2005). Teachers on theprogramme were introduced to the handbook at a local tutorialsession and then required to study it and try out the ideas from theactivities in their classrooms. Supervisors (visiting tutors employedby OUS) assess the teachers against a list of competences linked tothe teaching strategies presented in the handbook.</p><p>OUS evaluated the use of this TESSA handbook through a rangeof studies: a large-scale questionnaire for student teachers andtheir supervisors across the country; analysis of supervisor obser-vation notes and interviews with a sample of supervisors. Tocomplement these, a reective photography project with ten BEd</p><p>F. Wolfenden, A. Buckler / Teaching astudent teachers was undertaken in collaboration with researchersfrom the Open University UK. It is this last study we report here. Asset out above, the main focus of our paper is not the extent towhichteachers take up the strategies promoted in the TESSA OERs, butrather an exploring of whether reective photographywas useful inhelping us to understand the ways in which teachers take up thesepedagogica...</p></li></ul>