International Panel: Bridging Policy and Practice
A Focus on Teacher Preparation
Presentation 3: Some Experiences in Pre-service and In-service Teacher Education in Egypt
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Fayez Mina describes an experiment in teacher education reform conducted at Ain Shams University by himself and two of his colleagues-the late Professor Roshdy Labib, and Dr. Faisal Hashem Shams El-Din in 1982. Jean Michel Hanna then discusses an in-service program for primary school mathematics teachers and inspectors.
The experiment at Ain Shams University was based on teacher education reforms for prospective science teachers implemented in 1982. The reform aimed to integrate the theoretical and practical aspects of mathematics, promoting interdisciplinary study, eliminating repetitive content, achieving the maximum consistency among the components of the program, and selecting, orienting, and supervising teachers' trainers (in teaching practice) to support the experience as a whole. One important feature of the program was that it encouraged prospective teachers to think about schools as whole places, or societies-with facilities, activities, capacities, etc.-that they could play a role in developing. Other important features related to the desire to promote reasoning, independent learning, and active participation among teachers and students, and the need to know how to select teaching approaches, connect theories to their applications, and connect classroom activities to the real world.
One of the activities prospective teachers complete in the program is an assignment related to planning to teach an educational unit. Students were asked to critique one of the ten available textbooks or one of the five available teacher's guides for any semester or academic year of primary education in Egypt. Students worked in groups to develop a flexible framework of criteria for analyzing the content of textbooks and teacher guides. They were then required to present and discuss the findings, focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of the material and how a teacher could capitalize on the strengths and overcome the weaknesses. Presentations and discussions of relevant reports constituted a regular part of class time, and the assignment was worth 20 percent of the course total. This was a short-term experiment that was not repeated, but there is some evidence that the experience had a long-term effect on the students.
Jean Michel Hanna
Jean Michel Hanna described an activity designed to promote teacher change. The activity can be considered an attempt to produce a practical solution to the problem of changing teachers' practice. Principal features of the program involved a group of teachers and inspectors working together over the course of three school years. Each school year represented a phase in the training. In the first phase, teachers studied mathematics using non-traditional methods. In the second phase, they observed, analyzed, and critiqued the classroom practice of some other teachers. In the third phase, they observed, analyzed, and critiqued their own classroom practice. The paragraphs below describe these phases in more detail.
The main purpose of the first phase was to encourage the trainees to modify their "model of teaching." To achieve this goal, the instructor tried to foster a new relationship between trainees and mathematics through studying mathematics "differently" for enough time. Assuming that the trainees' way of teaching is primarily influenced by the way they have been taught, the instructor paid special attention to the choice of content and used non-classical methods of treating this content, combining mathematics and pedagogy. Examples of the type of content used during this phase included working open problems, games and activities, and creating new problems and exercises. Examples of the teaching methods used included working in small groups, self-learning, and analyzing and evaluating the work that is done. At the end of this first stage (140 hours), trainees were expected to have new conceptions of learning and teaching mathematics. This is a necessary condition for the required modification but not a sufficient one.
In the second phase, the work focused on teachers' practice. In each session the trainees were shown a recorded classroom lesson, and then each analyzed this lesson according to some given questions, and individually wrote down comments. Afterwards, individual presentations took place, followed by a general discussion. This format allowed everyone express ideas and conceptions explicitly, compare analyses, and hear and discuss the viewpoint of specialists in mathematics education according to the results of research in this domain. At the end of this second phase (100 hours) trainees were expected to have new criteria for judging the quality of mathematics teaching.
The third phase was mainly directed at teachers and based on their self-image of their practice in classrooms, while inspectors participated in the common discussion using the same agreed criteria. Each teacher was asked to prepare a classroom lesson, discuss his or her preparation in front of the group, make any necessary modifications, and teach the lesson in a classroom in the instructor's presence. Each the lessons was videotaped. After each lesson the instructor and the individual trainees watched the video and discussed the comments and self- evaluations, especially any differences between the previously prepared plan and what actually happened in class.
The participation of inspectors with the teachers made situations more realistic and helped each side to understand the point of view of the other side. Individual differences between trainees' backgrounds were observed during the different phases of the program (especially the second phase). These differences made discussions much richer. During the training program, no particular type of teaching had been recommended. Each teacher started with what he or she thought was promising.
At the conclusion of the third phase, approximately 70 percent of the teachers made radical changes in their teaching practice. These modifications consisted mainly of changes in the nature of their questions to pupils and their way of responding to students' answers. They were also more likely to adapt their methods to the pupils' activities, make more imaginative choices regarding extension problems, and pay more attention to observing and interpreting pupils' errors and behavior.
However, there were also some difficulties. For example, sometimes more experienced colleagues working in the same school opposed the changes and hindered their practice in classrooms. Also, the rigid programs and centralized system of education in Egypt made it difficult for teachers to be as responsive as encouraged in the training program. Parents' expectations of teachers were also problematic at times due to an emphasis on helping their children to obtain higher grades on exams. In addition, the individual meetings with teachers in the third phase took a great deal of time-about 150 hours for 24 trainees.
Promises and Challenges Related to the Approach in Egypt
Seminar participants appreciated the description of a successful effort to promote teacher change. The goal of this program was similar to that in the in-service programs of most of the other nations. All agreed that teacher change is one of the more difficult elements of reform. They recognized the roles that realistic situations, self-critical inquiry, expert guidance, and collaboration with school administrators played in the process.
Because this training program is so time intensive, some participants expressed concern about how well it would work at the national level. Others worried about how to pay for the necessary recording equipment (i.e. video cameras and media) and how to adapt the approach in schools without electricity.
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