MEWAKA (Mafunzo Endelevu kwa Walimu Kazini, or Teachers’ Continuous Professional Development (TCPD)) is a landmark teacher professional development programme being implemented by the Government of Tanzania. The programme is decentralised, with teacher learning based in schools and focused on semi-structured Communities of Learning (CoLs). CoLs are spaces where teachers can gather weekly to discuss and reflect on issues most relevant to their schools as well as learn and improve their pedagogical skills. Peer facilitators help teachers to collaboratively solve problems, learn new approaches to improve their practice, and generally create a culture of reflection and school improvement. 

One key aspect of the TCPD programme is its technology components. A learning management system (LMS), developed by Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE) with support from the University of Dar es salaam’s College of Information and Communication Technologies (CoICT), houses CoL modules, self-learning modules, and peer facilitator guides and manuals. These materials provide some structure to the teacher-led conversations. 

To contribute to the evaluation of the programme, EdTech Hub, Aga Khan University, and the TIE, are currently conducting design-based implementation research (DBIR). This applied research intends to then feed into an iterative improvement of the programme during its initial phases. 

Through this blog, we offer insights into some emerging findings from the first cycle of the DBIR. The first cycle involved both classroom and CoL observations and focus group discussions in four schools in the Lindi region. Key informant interviews at different levels of the government system (ward, district, regional) were also conducted. 

Here, we discuss two key emerging findings that stood out to our research team while conducting this process evaluation. 

Teachers’ understanding of CoLs has improved 

During the baseline data collection in March 2022, some teachers had reservations regarding the benefits of CoLs. Some perceived them to be time-consuming and others suggested CoL sessions would be conducted simply to please their administrators. Other teachers were unaware of what CoLs entailed. However, as time goes by, we are observing that teachers are slowly transforming their attitudes towards CoLs and beginning to understand that the activities are for their professional and career growth. Hence, teachers are becoming responsible for their own learning. In the schools involved in DBIR Cycle 1, teachers are now aware and conscious of CoL practices. The organisation and planning of the CoL session activities are well scheduled and followed voluntarily by all teachers.

CoLs are crucial for teachers and other stakeholders. Firstly, CoLs enable teachers to solve teaching and learning challenges with colleagues. Secondly, CoLs can support teachers to grow professionally and become equipped with knowledge and skills related to ongoing developments in education. The improvement of teachers’ understanding of the CoL and its practices means teachers are learning how to engage in professional development discussions in schools, through the use of technology. This also minimises implementation costs, as previously teachers would travel to centralised locations for professional development opportunities. 

Despite these incremental improvements in understanding, it was observed that both peer facilitators and teachers need additional mentorship and coaching programmes to support them to grow and develop further in their learning and teaching practices. In some schools, both facilitators and teachers are still lecturing too much, which reduces opportunities for peer collaboration. It takes time to change the practice of course, and our observations show that participants are using some new approaches already. Further support would enhance the overall impact of CoLs. To alleviate this problem, TIE has developed and digitised a peer facilitators’ handbook.  

Figure 1. Research team reflecting on a video-recorded CoL session.
Inclusive design of the LMS can support teachers with special needs

The LMS was designed to meet the needs of all teachers, including those with special needs. The ongoing research aims to provide insights into how the LMS can be further adapted to support teachers with special needs. The challenges that teachers with special needs experienced during observations included difficulties accessing parts of the self-learning modules and other specific activities related to the use of technology during CoLs. For example, further training is required on tablet screen readers for the visually impaired. 

Figure 2. A focus group discussion with teachers at a school which has special provisions for teachers and students with specific needs and disabilities. 

The good news is that since the completion of data collection, TIE has further adapted the LMS to ensure it is more inclusive.  We are looking forward to testing these adaptations in DBIR Cycle 2. This will provide vital scaffolding that will include teachers with special needs in CoLs and the wider TCPD programme. Inclusion of these teachers, as well as taking into account teachers’ varied learning needs, is critical to ensuring that the LMS is widely accessible. More generally, beyond teachers with special needs, incorporating learning and adaptation into the design of the LMS and its materials via user research with teachers is an essential component for sustained teacher motivation and overall outcomes.


The research team has outlined two emerging findings from our DBIR so far in order to “learn out loud” and share live insights from the research.

“We are looking forward to this research further informing MEWAKA and improving teaching and learning in Tanzania”. – TIE’s Director General

More detailed, rigorous outputs related to these findings will be published in due course. However, we hope our blog provokes thought on the successes and challenges teachers are experiencing in relation to MEWAKA and the recommendations teachers have themselves suggested to improve the programme.

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