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Improving the training of secondary teachers in National Teachers' College MUNI

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Practice Makes Perfect with the Continuous School Practice Pilot System in the National Teachers’ Colleges

Practice Makes Perfect with the Continuous School Practice System in the National Teachers’ Colleges

“My first experience as a teacher was not an easy one. I stood in front of the classroom filled with students and I trembled,” says 20-year-old Gasi Joseline. She is one of the many teacher trainees striving to join the teaching profession by studying a Diploma in Education Secondary (DES) at National Teachers’ College Muni. Today, as she takes her final Examination School Practice, she stands in front of a class of 50 students, confident and full of purpose as her lesson makes for one of the most engaging classes at St. Josephine’s College Ombachi secondary school.

When asked how she managed to transform herself from a timid teacher trainee to a more confident and skilled one, she explains, “experience is the best teacher!”  This experience came in the form of a pilot system known as Continuous School Practice.

While school practice is something that exists in the teaching profession, it is usually something that teacher trainees get very little or no experience of unless in the form of an examination scheduled in the study curriculum known as Examination School Practice. This version of the school practice happens at the end of each year and teacher trainees are graded on their practical teaching skills which they only get to rehearse for the very first time in an actual classroom. Something that the majority of the teacher trainees are not prepared for.

This is why Enabel’s Teacher Training Education (TTE) project has introduced a pilot system known as Continuous School Practice that provides teacher trainees with more opportunities to practice their teaching methods and improve their skills before they take on their final Examination School Practice.

Continuous School Practice (CSP) provides the much-needed hands-on experience teacher trainees need. This concept of school practice is conducted on a more regular basis and is constructed in a classroom setting where teachers get to interact with actual students and practice their teaching skills.

In order for this to work, National Teachers Colleges have incorporated the CSP pilot system into the first-year student’s curriculum and created a collaboration with a network of secondary schools surrounding the college. This allows the teacher trainees time and opportunity to get involved in regular school practice.

But that is not all. CSP is a progressive system and follows a number of different steps to fully equip teacher trainees with the best practice they can get. The first step is the theory phase which involves methods courses and takes place in the National Teachers’ College. Here, Teacher trainees are introduced to different teaching methodologies that involve positive discipline and learner-centered methodologies such as Active Teaching and Learning (ATL).

This is then followed by the observation phase. Teacher trainees at this point observe lessons illustrating the methods courses taught in phase one of CSP. This observation is conducted in both NTCs through demonstration lessons by lecturers and in surrounding secondary schools through classroom observations conducted by teachers. This gives the teacher trainees a chance to reflect on how learner methodologies are implemented in a classroom and from this they develop schemes of work, lesson plans and instructional materials for their lessons also known as teaching portfolios.

Once this has been achieved, the teacher trainees’ step into the micro-teaching phase. This phase encourages students to develop specific skills and behaviors by practicing within small groups of their peers at the college and small groups of students at secondary schools.  

And then comes the final step of CSP; the teaching practice. During this phase, the teacher trainee conducts a lesson in a surrounding secondary school. This is done in the presence of a few of his/her peers and the secondary school teacher in order to provide feedback to their practicing teacher trainee after the session. 

So far, approximately 2192 teacher trainees across the 5 National Teachers’ Colleges have undergone the Continuous School Practice system with many attesting to its benefits.

Fred Abel, a teacher trainee from NTC Mubende acknowledged that CSP has introduced him to the practical part of teaching and given him the courage to stand before a classroom and teach confidently.

Confidence is an important aspect that every teacher must have and this comes with regular teaching practice that the teacher trainees undergo during CSP. However, teacher trainees develop much more than confidence, they develop competence.

Joseline an English Teacher Trainee from NTC Muni shared a more about the skills she gained. “CSP gave me the chance to put into practice the Active Teaching and Learning methods that were introduced to us in the College. But you can’t know how these teaching methodologies are applied unless you have practiced it through CSP.” She noted.

A recent survey on the progress of this pilot system indicated an improvement in the skills of teacher trainees by evaluating their performance in the Final Examination School Practice that CSP helped prepare them for. More than 50% of the teacher trainees confirmed an improvement in their Final Examination School Practice results with the majority of students scoring a high pass mark between 70-90%.

However, CSP is doing much more than preparing teacher trainees for their profession, it is also improving the skills and workmanship of the current teachers. Both teachers and lecturers from partner secondary schools and the National Teachers’ Colleges respectively are adopting the use of teaching portfolios to improve their teaching skills.  

According to Okumu Benjamin, the Director of studies from Gulu Secondary School, teachers are being challenged to be better and do better. He adds, “There a certain thing I used not to do like keeping a well-organized teaching portfolio. I used to teach with my notes. But today, it feels improper if I have no work plan and my students are learning better because of it.”

A teaching portfolio is referred to as a collection of information on teaching responsibilities, goals and achievements and evidence of effective teaching. This portfolio basically acts as a work plan that guides a teacher on how to conduct their lesson in the most effective way.

While the goal here, is to improve secondary teacher education, it is worth noting that Continuous School Practice is the missing link in teacher training that helps make the move from theory to practical teaching. It has provided teacher trainees with hands-on experience to build on their teaching skills such as lesson preparation, classroom management, the practice of Active Teaching and Learning and lesson delivery, which are all key to effective teaching and learning. 

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