​Tech-enhanced Continuous Professional Development​

Tech- enhanced TCPD

Tech-enhanced Continuous Professional Development (TCPD) is one of the education reforms taking place in Tanzania – led by the government with support from donors such as the World Bank and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). The government has developed a Learning Management System (LMS) to support the implementation of this reform. This system will be used to facilitate access to TCPD material for teachers, facilitator guides for Communities of Learning, and for data collection for ongoing teacher needs assessments at the local government authority (LGA) level. The LMS is accessible via mobile smartphones and tablets, and the government is exploring options for offline access to the LMS.

The Government plans to roll out a technology-supported communities of learning (CoL) model for continuous professional development across primary schools in Tanzania, thereby addressing the biggest needs that teachers have in relation to teaching, some of which include skills for teaching with technology (including technology integration and uses of digital material), as well as general pedagogy/teaching methods.

The Aga Khan University – Institute for Educational Development, East Africa (AKU-IED,EA) in partnership with Education Technology (EdTech) Hub, Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) and Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE) are undertaking a research project to test the model within the Tanzanian context to understand its effectiveness and the role that technology can play. The objective of this project is to understand how this school-based TCPD model can impact learning outcomes in 8 rural primary schools in Mtama district, Lindi region, Tanzania. 

Phases of the study

  • Phase 1: Design-based implementation research (DBIR) approach

  • Phase 2: Cluster randomised control trial (RCT) assessing the added value of technology, comparing the same school-based TCPD model with and without mediation by tech provided at the school level and against business-as-usual, including measuring cost-effectiveness and learning outcomes for learners in rural primary schools in Tanzania

Outcomes from Phase one of the Project​​

Historic TCPD:  According to the data collected from the baseline study eight one percent (81%) of teachers had engaged in TCPD programs before. This TCPD mostly focused on giving feedback to colleagues twenty seven percent (27%), subject-specific activities twenty six percent (26%), and the well-being of the participants  twenty percent (20%). The historic TCPD rarely used technology and often made use of printed materials at centralised locations. More than two thirds of the teachers found TCPD relevant,  three quarters said they were motivated to participate and ninety six percent (96%) of teachers said they enjoyed the TCPD whereas, seventy percent (70%) of teachers said the TCPD had improved their teaching practice.

Technology: Sixty five percent (65%) of teachers we visited, they said that they use technology to access TCPD whereas fifty two percent (52%) said technology supports their professional development “a lot”. While eighty five percent (85%) of teachers own a basic mobile phone, eighty one percent (81%) of these use a basic phone for TCPD. Most use it for peer communication too; about  seventy one percent (71%) said they used their phone to give and receive feedback to colleagues and only sixteen percent (16%) of the phones could access 3G internet.

Additionally, seventy three percent (73%) of teachers own a smartphone and eighty three percent (83%) of these used it for TCPD. More than half of the teachers, over sixty seven percent (67%) with a smartphone used it for a range of TCPD activities, the most common being discussing pedagogical practices and techniques. Twenty five percent (25%) only said their smartphone had 3G internet access (A nine percent ( 9%) increase on basic mobile phones). The study shows that phones are prevalent;  twenty four percent (24%) of teachers said they used basic phones and/or smartphones regularly at school. Between twenty four percent (24%) and thirty percent (30%) of teachers said they didn’t use any school-level technology for their TCPD. 

Furthermore study also showed that other devices such as tablets, laptops, and desktop computers were much less common both in terms of personal ownership and at the school level. Sixty five percent (65%) of teachers don’t own a tablet and twenty one percent (21%) of teachers said they had access to a shared tablet in schools, with  thirty percent (30%) saying they used the school tablet for TCPD. 

 Infrastructural challenges reported:

  • The inability to afford technology meaning limited device provision in schools

  • Large class sizes

  • Ineffective teacher assessment and individual student follow-up

  • Lack of adequate digital teaching and learning materials for either teachers or learners

Digital literacy skills: It was discovered that teachers’ current digital literacy is concentrated around phone use for communicating and sharing via sending messages, photos or documents rather than using larger-screen computing devices such as tablets/laptops/desktops for document creation. Use of email was relatively low but this may reflect need rather than capability (given that messaging is prevalent). Most teachers can complete tasks at an ‘Advanced’ level: Seventy seven percent (77%) of teachers can send a text message; Seventy three percent (73%) of teachers can send a message on instant messaging, and ​sixty nine percent (69%) of teachers can send a photo. Less than fifty percent (50%) of teachers can share a document, send an email, or create a document. 

Classroom practice: Some of the lessons and practises observed in teachers’ classrooms were generally categorized as “medium” across the three pedagogic categories of interest. Some good practice is clearly already in place across the eight schools, but there is also some scope for development. 

Concerns

With regard to the self-reported TCPD activities, teachers appear to think that their current TCPD is of good quality and that they are already engaging in a number of effective TCPD practices. This is unlikely given that the schools do not have frequent or continuous TCPD sessions. At best, teachers may have been referring to self-organised sessions or informal discussions with their colleagues, but more information is needed here. 

Similarly, teachers reported engaging with the Learning Management System (LMS), yet the LMS had not been implemented at the time of the baseline data collection. Some teachers were involved in LMS piloting and thus could have been referring to this. Alternatively, teachers could be misunderstanding the questions or might be trying to give answers they think researchers want to hear. Further data collection should address this concern around data validity.

Research implications

Research instruments: To continue updating and improving the research tools following this initial baseline and pilot exercise. The tools will be open and available for reuse and adaptation over the course of this research. 

Tech devices:  Given the amoun​t of school-level technological devices differed across the eight schools, as did general school infrastructure, technology device will be taken into account during the DBIR by purposive sampling when schools are assigned to technology profiles. ​

Implications for the government implementation

  •  Mobile phones: Both basic mobile phones and smartphones were prevalent. The relative availability of these devices could be leveraged by the government. It will also be interesting to assess their respective effectiveness when compared to other tech devices used in the DBIR. 

  • Time: Ensuring time to engage in TCPD is protected for teachers was a commonly reported need. Continuing to communicate to schools, wards and districts that TCPD is mandatory, and that teachers need protected time to engage in TCPD. It will also be key to follow up on this issue during qualitative research. 

  • Inclusion: TCPD materials must be developed with inclusion in mind, particularly for teachers with disabilities or specific needs. 

  • Programme adaptation: Teachers' views should be gathered to continually improve the TCPD; this was reported by several schools. It is expected that  qualitative research will hopefully capture some of these views over the two cycles. 

Location ​
Southern Tanzania

Implementing organisations 

The Aga Khan University (AKU)
Education Technology (EdTech) Hub​
Aga Khan Foundation (AKF)
Tanzania Institute for Education (TIE)
President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government PO-RALG​