An effective School Experience (SE) ensures that student teachers are well-equipped to transition into full-time teaching and perform effectively in the classroom.
As a requirement for the successful completion of the Primary Teacher Diploma (PTD) program, all students must complete a SE, in which they spend from 6 to 12 weeks assigned to a primary school. One of the goals of the USAID Transforming Teacher Education (TTE) program is to enhance the SE and thus improve the instructional and institutional capacity of the targeted COE and universities that offer the primary teaching diploma and degrees. Following a SE rapid situation analysis conducted by the USAID Transformation Teacher Education activity in early 2021, it became evident that the PTD program lacked a structure and clear responsibilities for all parties involved including the Ministry district and provincial levels, the mentor and class teachers and the headteachers. The SE has not been serving its intended purpose in Zambian pre-service teacher training programs.
Based on the study findings, Transforming Teacher Education in collaboration with the Ministry of Education identified three Colleges of Education (COE) for a pilot and developed a new SE model as an attempt to create a structure for the effective delivery of the SE program. Key to the model is strengthening the coaching and mentoring of students throughout the duration of the SE program. School Experience Guidelines and the Coaching and Mentoring guides, and the observation tool were also developed. The coaching and mentoring guide give guidance to mentor teachers, class teachers and supervising lecturers on how to mentor student teachers while the school experience guidelines spells out the roles and responsibilities of the parties involved in the SE program.
Following the materials development workshop, Transforming Education activity held a joint training for the Ministry of Education officials and the college level staff. In total, 50 officials participated in the training. Participants included: senior officials from the Directorates of Teacher Education and Specialised Services and Standards and Curriculum from Headquarters, Provincial Education Standards Officers (PESOs), Provincial Resource Coordinators (PRCC), Education Standards Officers General (ESO GI), District Resource Coordinators (DRCCs), Language and Literacy Lecturers and the Principals of colleges from three pilot colleges, namely Charles Lwanga, Chipata and Mansa Colleges of Education.
The main objective of the joint training was to train participants on the new school experience model and provide guidance to stakeholders involved in the preparation of STs before and during the SE on their roles and responsibilities and how to conduct mentoring and coaching sessions after the lesson delivery.
The joint training took place in Lusaka from 4th to 6th May 2022 in Lusaka and was hosted by the USAID Transforming Teacher Education Activity, with support from the Ministry of Education headquarters and the University of Zambia. The training was officially opened and closed by the Director of Teacher Education and Specialised Services, Mr Ngosa Kotati. The Director emphasized the need for commitment by all stakeholders involved in the SE pilot so that successful lessons from the pilot may be replicated to other colleges during the rollout. Among the facilitators during the training were Dr. Ana Marty from Florida State University, Prof. Gift Masaiti from the University of Zambia, Dr. Audrey Mwansa from TTE and Ms. Kristina Solum, the Acting Chief of Party of the activity.
Each of the facilitators took turns and engaged participants through group work and other interactive approaches throughout the training. On the second day, participants watched a recorded literacy class and were provided an opportunity to use the observation tool to grade the lesson. The facilitators also demonstrated how to conduct a mentoring and coaching session and allowed the participants to provide feedback on their observations.
A session was devoted to discussing the use of technology – such as mobile phones by student teachers and supervising lecturers without physically going to the school – a cost-effective approach to conducting lesson observation. A half-day practical school visit was facilitated by TTE in collaboration with the Ministry of Education on the final day of the training. Participants were provided an opportunity to observe experienced teachers teach Chinyanja literacy lessons to grades 2, 3 learners and an English language lesson to 4 learners. The aim of observing lessons was to provide participants an opportunity to practice using the observation tool and practice scoring each of the categories of items in the tool.
On the third day of the training, participants developed joint action plans on the rollout of the orientations of district and school-based orientations in their respective provinces and colleges on the materials. At the end of the training, participants were provided with materials for use in the orientation of student teachers, class teachers, mentor teachers, school in-service coordinators and headteachers. Materials were also provided for student teachers, headteachers, mentor teachers and class teachers.
Feedback from the training was overwhelmingly positive, as exemplified by the comments from the participants below:
The most important issue is the inclusion of standards officers in the implementation of this program. For a long time, the colleges have been working in isolation as such there has been a gap between the colleges and the standards section in the Ministry. Well done team. (PESO, May 2022)
This is the first time we have truly reflected on our practice. We have not known how to provide feedback and mentor students after observing lessons. …. we have been very harsh.
The demonstration on how to mentor a student came has made us think about how we do it and when we get back, we will improve. (Head of Section, May 2022)
This is the best model because it brings together the Ministry provincial and district level officers and the colleges to support the students. It will definitely change the way our student teachers are trained. (DRCC, May 2022)
I liked the demonstration by Ana and Kristina on how to conduct a coaching and mentoring session, it was very insightful, and we learnt a lot on how to do provide feedback to the students. (PRCCs, May 2022)
Coaching and mentoring opened my understanding of what I should do as a teacher educator. (Lecturer, May 2022
We never thought of using technology to observe our student teachers. This is a wonderful break through particularly in the situation of low funding to undertake physical monitoring visits. (Ministry of Education official, May 2022)
I often go to trainings where people start dozing off. During these three days the activities kept the participants engaged all the time. (Principal pre-service, Ministry HQ, May 2022)
The session on coaching and mentoring was very clear and demonstration how to do a coaching session is something that I have not seen in the training before. (Principal pre-service, Ministry HQ, May 2022)
The Director of Teacher Education and Specialised Services Mr. Ngosa Kotati, gave the official closing remarks by thanking all the organisers, facilitators, and the participants.