Human-centred design for better learning outcomes in Tanzania

© Hussein Simba/Photo of Grade 1 learners, Toangoma Primary school in Temeke, Tanzania

In March 2022, EdTech Hub’s executive director Verna Lalbeharie joined partners from the Aga Khan Foundation’s (AKF) Schools2030 programme for a school visit in Tanzania’s Temeke district. The visit coincided with the Utafiti Elimu Tanzania conference, of which AKF and EdTech Hub were co-sponsors, as well as data-collection for one the studies in the EdTech Hub research portfolio. 

Toangoma primary school is located some 40 km from Dar es Salaam city and is one of the 100 schools in Tanzania with which the Schools2030 programme is working. All told, Schools2030 is operating in 10 countries spread across East Africa, East and Southeast Asia, Brazil, and Portugal where the programme is working with 1,000 schools to implement human-centered design learning innovations. 

The Schools2030 Human-Centred Design Toolkit was released to provide teachers with the tools they need to identify impediments to their students’ learning and collaborate with the community and other stakeholders to design, create, and test innovations and see how they work in practice.

At Toangoma primary school, the EdTech Hub and AKF teams were exploring and testing some of the learning management systems (LMSs) that have been designed by teachers and learners. 

“A focus of our work is to empower people by providing the evidence they need to make decisions about technology in education,” said Lalbeharie. “We want to ensure that teachers have the professional development, resources, support, and coaching they need to support our children.” 

The team also reviewed and tested the teacher continuous professional development (TCPD) training tool. This tool has been designed by the Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE) and is about to launch. 

Testing of learning management systems

Toangoma primary school serves 4,000 children from preschool to Class / Grade Seven. The school has 70 teachers including seven who attend to learners with special needs, and each class has between 150–200 learners attended to by one teacher. 

© Hussein Simba/Toangoma teacher demonstrates the HCD learning model

The visit included sitting in on a preschool class running through their vowel sounds, while the teachers ran through user testing of LMSs in lower grade classes and the TCPD application. 

Salome Maro, a lecturer from the University of Dar es Salaam working closely with the EdTech Hub research team, was on-site to test the platform with eight teachers from Toangoma School who were key in leading the school-based testing. She has been supportive in guiding teachers on the navigation of the TCPD platform that is about to launch. 

“We have a few devices that we use for school-based testing of LMS,” said Maro. “At any time we work with eight devices per school to help teachers access and familiarise with the learning management system.”  

© JohnPaul Barretto / Testing of LMS

TIE has been working hard to introduce the TCPD prototypes. Currently, testing of the tool is ongoing in schools across the country. The training moves teachers through 12 chapters with topics such as the concepts and processes of setting exams questions, and it provides opportunities for one-on-one interaction where teachers can learn and discuss different chapters together. The TCPD tool can be administered both online and offline and teachers can use their own devices to go through the training.

Teachers have indicated they like aspects of the tool, like its ability to provide instant feedback whereby they can identify knowledge gaps. Many believe it will enhance their skills and help them interact better with learners, but there are still challenges.

“The system is really good,” said one of the Toangoma primary teachers. “The only challenge is that when working on it offline, it can only broadcast eight devices when connected to a local area network as compared to connection through a URL which hosts more devices.” 

Once the platform is launched, TIE will monitor the progress of teachers and upload all the teachers’ learning materials.

The bigger picture 

“My learners have been using the tailored HCD tools for four months now and I can report that all of them are interested, eager to learn and class attendance has also improved”– Wande Mkonyi, Headteacher – Toangoma Primary School

The human-centred design learning tools/innovations for learners have been developed and tailored by teachers and learners together, making it possible for children to interact with each other, engage in learning and find learning interesting. These tools are made from locally available materials, like wood, manila paper, and cardboard.

This no-tech intervention will evolve in low- and even high-tech variations. The larger plan is to convert the prototypes to online personalised learning tools which will facilitate close monitoring, easy teacher–learner interaction, and generate competitive learning among learners.  

The reception of LMSs for learners in Toangoma has been positive. Children are eager to participate. Teachers are also keen to develop learning tools that are tailored to the children based on their understanding of what the children need.

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