23 January 2013

Rwanda: Teacher Instructors Learn New Methods

Up to 140 Teacher Training College (TTC) instructors, representing all 13 TTCs, participated in the first ever national TTC instructor training. The focus was a brand-new curriculum, designed to better prepare TTC students to effectively develop young learners' literacy and numeracy skills.

During last week's six-day training, held at TTC Save, instructors prepared to teach new and revised courses this academic year on English, math and language methods. The training was jointly facilitated by KIE, VSO, and TTC instructors as part of the USAID-funded Literacy, Language, and Learning (L3) Initiative.

"In order to effectively transition into a primary school teacher, it is imperative that quality teaching practices are modeled," said VSO volunteer Pam Connell, who is supporting curriculum implementation at TTC Save. "These new curriculum have been designed to effectively facilitate that."

Story reading techniques, used before, during, and after reading, are among such quality teaching practices included in the new curriculum. In a video viewed at the training, a teacher from Muhanga engaged her primary school students in the story with the use of props, actions, and songs, ensuring that the students comprehended the story. One TTC English instructor at the training remarked that seeing a teacher in a low-resource setting employ such techniques "can bring hope."

English instructors also practiced using expressive voice when reading stories. Nduhirahe Dieudonne, an English instructor at TTC Gacuba II in Gisenyi, said that when the instructors read stories, "we had to imitate the voices of these animals [in the story]." Nduhirahe noted that the use of voice, gestures, and facial expressions not only makes stories interesting for children, but also helps them to understand better.

Math instructors also engaged in new teaching methodologies. Instructors saw how simple and low-to-no-cost materials such as chalk, bottle tops, banana leaf balls, nails, string, paper, and cardboard could be easily used to support learners' understandings of abstract mathematical concepts. "The training was done to enable tutors in TTCs to support their students in teaching at primary schools, which is why we used locally developed materials available to everyone," said Dr. Alphonse Uworwabayeho, mathematics lecturer at Kigali Institute of Education (KIE).

In one activity, instructors used chalk to draw number lines, which can help students to see and compare fractions, on the floor of the classroom.

"Powerful representations of mental images enable learners to 'see in their heads,'" said VSO volunteer Linda Wilson, a math training facilitator. "This helps them to make the connections between objects, words, symbols, and diagrams that they need to develop a good understanding of mathematics."

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