Nine Lessons in Implementing Teacher Continuous Professional Development in Tanzania

Credit: EdTech Hub

We are pleased to share experiences and lessons from the activities carried out as part of the Government of Tanzania’s efforts to operationalise its National Framework for Teacher Continuous Professional Development (TCPD), which shifts TCPD from discreet workshops to cost-effective, ongoing, school-based professional development programmes. Our collaborative work with Tanzanian government education bodies, including Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE), Ministry of Education, Science and Technology(MOEST), and the President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG) in Tanzania has highlighted critical lessons regarding Teacher Continuous Professional Development. Here we present nine lessons that provide valuable insights that can inform the design and implementation of TCPD programmes not only in Tanzania but also in other educational contexts.

Our work involved provision of technical assistance (TA) through an adaptive TA delivery model and sandbox approach. It highlights valuable insights into the design and implementation of a technology-enhanced, school-based, national teacher continuous professional development system. 

This TA focused on three key activities:

  1. Technical assistance for TCPD design and implementation: Working closely with government counterparts to develop seven deliverables during the bridging period. This included supporting the design of teacher needs assessment processes, cost estimation for TCPD activities, mapping existing TCPD materials, and creating/adapting implementation tools. These tools aimed to facilitate the implementation of communities of learning (CoLs) and monitor TCPD progress.
  2. User research: EdTech Hub, in partnership with TIE and a community-based organisation working with schools, established a sandbox to test government TCPD plans and policies. Three rapid research and analysis cycles (sprints) were conducted between September 2021 and March 2022. User studies ran concurrently with TCPD design sprints to gather detailed feedback on technology usage and the Learning Management System (LMS) interface. 
  3. LMS design and deployment: A part of the TA team collaborated directly with TIE to customise a Moodle-based LMS to support TCPD based on teacher needs in Tanzania. This involved creating a prototype LMS for testing via web browsers and mobile applications, including a sample digital TCPD module. 

Lessons Learnt

Lesson 1: Most teachers are interested in engaging in TCPD

Surveys conducted revealed that teachers expressed a strong desire to participate in professional learning opportunities. Motivated to improve their subject knowledge and teaching abilities, teachers also indicated great interest in learning together in CoLs.

Lesson 2: Teachers may find It challenging to engage in TCPD during the existing school schedules

The timing of TCPD can be a significant barrier. In some cases, the frequency and timing of CoL sessions, where TCPD often takes place, posed challenges for teacher’ engagement. Allowing schools to determine the best timing for CoL sessions within their weekly schedules can be more effective than disrupting regular classes or lunch periods. 

Lesson 3: Peer Facilitators require more support

In the Tanzania TCPD model, teachers play a crucial role as Peer Facilitators, leading CoL sessions. However, these Peer Facilitators face various challenges, including difficulties in transitioning from traditional teaching methods to collaborative and interactive learning, scepticism from peers, and time constraints. To support Peer Facilitators effectively, the selection process should be based on explicit criteria and transparent processes. Emphasis should be placed on developing Peer Facilitators’ facilitation skills. In addition, ongoing coaching or mentoring may be needed to follow up the initial orientation of facilitators to assist in developing the new skills and habits required for leading collaborative learning among peers. Providing semi-structured or structured CoL materials with suggested activities and facilitation tips could support new facilitators, particularly when in-person coaching is not feasible. Moreover, in addition to monitoring and evaluation processes that track if CoLs meet and teachers participate as planned, supportive quality assurance processes and / or explicit coaching and mentoring could provide feedback to further guide Peer Facilitators in effectively leading TCPD. .

Lesson 4: Coordination and harmonisation among stakeholders is vital

Effective engagement across various stakeholders, including government agencies and development partners, is essential. Regular forums for coordination and information sharing are crucial to ensure consistency and alignment among TCPD implementers. 

Lesson 5: Building a shared understanding among all implementers is key

It is essential to build a common understanding of approaches, roles, terminology, and modalities among all involved parties. Paying attention to terminology and including a glossary of terms in guidelines and manuals can help align stakeholders’ understanding. 

Lesson 6: Ensure access to digital TCPD resources is affordable

Access can be a significant challenge if the cost of internet bundles is prohibitive. To make online resources accessible, it is crucial to explore options for cost reduction or zero-rating through regulatory and partnership mechanisms. Collaborative efforts involving country regulations and public-private partnerships can create opportunities for making digital resources more affordable. 

Lesson 7: Digital TCPD resources need to be tailored to teachers and their contexts

Teachers’ preferences and practical considerations should guide the development of digital TCPD resources. This includes considerations like the use of smartphones, preferences for video content over text, and the capacity of devices for offline access. 

Lesson 8: Sustainable and timely funding is required for TCPD

Preparing and implementing TCPD programmes is an ongoing process that requires sustainable funding sources. A recurrent budget for TCPD activities at various levels is crucial for successful implementation.

Lesson 9: Consider the complexity of teacher management institutions

In many educational systems, multiple ministries and institutions are involved in teacher management. Navigating this complexity requires coordination, a shared understanding of roles and responsibilities, and technical reviews among all implementers. 
The combination of EdTech Hub’s technical assistance, sandbox sprints, and iterative user studies, carried out through close partnerships with Tanzania government institutions and wider stakeholders, provided a resilient, robust, and collaborative space. These lessons could be identified and acted upon in order to continue strengthening the TCPD system throughout the process.

This research forms part of a wider study on: The Impact of a Tech-Supported, School-Based Teacher Professional Development Model on Learning Outcomes in Tanzania. To learn more about this study, click here.

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