Enhancing Teachers’ Capacity through In-Service Education and Training: a Reflection on Projects for Strengthening Mathematics and Science Education

Abstract:

The current reform e ff  orts in mathematics and science education recognize the crucial role that teachers play(Van Driel, Beijard and Verloop, 2001), and thus target them as curriculum innovators and implementersthrough In-service Education and Training (INSET). There is a growing consensus that improving students’learning depends on a teaching force with appropriate beliefs and attitudes towards teaching and learning;and who possess content and pedagogical knowledge quite distinct from the usual instructional practice inmost classrooms (Even, 1999; Zaslavsky and Leikin, 2004). While initial teacher training nurtures thesecharacteristics, it is insu ffi cient to prepare teachers for the greater challenges of everyday teaching, where,time constraints and pressure from summative assessments overwhelm both newly qualified and experiencedteachers. Besides, in rare cases where there are innovative practices, these are individual initiatives rarelysupported by others due to lack of opportunities for sharing, e ff  orts which consequently dampen with yearsof service.Whereas in-service teacher education complements initial teacher training, there is lack of adequateand appropriate opportunities for most practising teachers to enhance their skills and align their practice tothe reform visions in education (Britt, Irwin and Ritchie, 2001; Ottevanger, Macfarlane and Clegg, 2005).Moreover, professional development which focuses on practice alone without reflective lenses—in terms of theoretical perspectives (Krainer, 1999; Even, 1999) runs the risk of reinforcing traditional instruction orpromoting practices misaligned with changing trends in education. In order to uphold a dynamic approachto teachers’ professional development, this paper reflects on initiatives in some African countries that seek to enhance teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge and improve students understanding and motivation,particularly in science and mathematics. The rationale for this reflection is to first, reiterate the continuedrelevance of the existing projects and thus motivate other countries to initiate similar initiatives; and secondly,to highlight possible areas for improving quality of classroom practices