Imagine you’re teaching the letters of the alphabet to a class of first graders. Some students are learning quickly while others are struggling. Now, imagine that you’re teaching 60 students at a time. Or maybe 100, or even 180. Sound daunting?
Teachers in Tanzania are faced with conditions like these every day.
This work is completed as part of School-to-School International’s integrated approach to education, the Whole Child Model. Learn more about our work in the Arusha District of Tanzania.
This fall, STS and local partner Joshua Foundation conducted a workshop to help teachers with part of that challenge: how to reach the struggling students. The approach we used introduced teachers and principals to a method of grouping students that can be used in large classes.
- First, the teacher teaches the whole class.
- Then, she organizes students into groups of six, where students continue to teach one another.
- Next, one of the students in each group assesses the others.
- Finally, based on these assessments, the teacher groups the students so the stronger ones can work together while the teacher spends more time with groups of struggling students.
Does this also seem like a daunting task? It is. But the teachers who attended the workshop were eager to try a new approach, and district education officials were eager to see it implemented.
Following the workshop, our team visited local schools—and the results were promising. All teachers are using ability grouping, although some with greater success than others. (One teacher quickly learned that giving four tomatoes to each child to cut in half is not the best way to teach fractions!)
How will this method work over the longer term? We’re trying to find out by visiting the schools, providing follow-up support, and asking several questions: What challenges do teachers have when using this method? Do even larger classes mean teachers apply it differently? And most importantly, what differences does it make for students’ learning?