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Critical Reflection on the Pedagogical Science Training for Higher Education Institution Teachers Program in Ethiopia: Successes, Failures, and Prospects

Written By

Robsan Margo Egne

Submitted: November 13th, 2021 Reviewed: December 1st, 2021 Published: March 15th, 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.101857

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Pedagogy - Challenges, Recent Advances, New Perspectives, and Applications Edited by Hülya Şenol

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Pedagogy - Challenges, Recent Advances, New Perspectives, and Applications [Working Title]

Dr. Hülya Şenol

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Abstract

The core intention of this study was to critically reflect on the successes, failures, and prospects of the Higher Diploma Program or the Pedagogical Science Training for Ethiopian Higher Education Institutions’ Teachers program. This program was designed mainly to introduce concepts such as being reflective teacher, active learning, continuous assessment, action research, and higher education institution-industry linkage to instructors who are teaching in the country’s higher education institutions. This means public and private higher learning institutions’ instructors are expected to pursue this training to deliver quality education through identifying the learning needs of their students. Hence, this research was committed to figure out the successes, failures, and prospects of the program in terms of enhancing teachers’ continuous professional development in Ethiopian higher education institutions. To this end, discursive qualitative content analysis was used in the study. Results of the study revealed that although the Pedagogical Science Training for Higher Education Institutions’ Teachers program was introduced since 2003, effective continuous professional development practices have been hardly reflected in the higher education system of the country. Implications, which are assumed to enhance the instructors’ effective engagement in the Pedagogical Science Training for Higher Education Institutions’ Teachers program, are forwarded in the paper.

Keywords

  • higher education
  • pedagogical science training
  • prospect
  • reflection
  • success

1. Introduction

1.1 Background of the study

The performance of employees is critical to the survival of organizations. Likewise, the performance of teachers is one of the key factors determining school effectiveness and efficiency in terms of ensuring students’ learning outcomes [1]. It can be argued that teachers are the backbone of any education system implying that educational resources and some other school-related activities are useless in the absence of well-educated and committed teachers [2, 3]. Teachers can make or break a nation, as they are the backbone of the education system. Nothing can substitute the role of good teachers in building a nation as they are at the forefront in ensuring the quality of education.

Therefore, for quality of education to be realized in any education system, great attention should be given to teacher education i.e., teachers’ recruitment, training, assignment, and engagement in on-job-training or continuous professional development. Teachers’ performance is the most crucial input in the education sector [4, 5, 6, 7]. Therefore, for teachers to accomplish their responsibilities of assisting students to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and values, it is important to engage them in continuous professional development programs [8, 9, 10]. Hence, it is in light of the above argument that the government of Ethiopia has started offering the Higher Diploma Program or the Pedagogical Science Training for Higher Education Institutions’ Teachers program since 2003 in connection to the introduction of the Teacher Education System Overhaul (TESO).

The Pedagogical Science Training for Higher Education Institutions’ Teachers program has been launched believing that pedagogy is a cross-cutting issue in all disciplines to improve the quality of education. Therefore, all educational institutions should find means through which the teachers teaching there get an in-depth awareness about pedagogical science theories, principles, and practices. This, in turn, is important to apply active learning to enhance the learning outcomes of students via addressing their diverse learning styles [11].

To produce productive and happy citizens, teachers must be equipped with a keen knowledge of the subject matter(s) they teach and at the same time, they must have sound knowledge and skills of pedagogy [2]. In this venture, pedagogy has a great contribution to the holistic development or well-rounded development of a student i.e., it has a great contribution to the development of the head, hand, and heart of the learner in a balanced manner. This, in other words, means the proper application of interactive pedagogy enhances the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective development of the student.

Quality education is a basis for a well-rounded development of society [3]. In the efforts made to ensure the quality of education, pedagogy has immense contributions. Having in-depth knowledge and skills of pedagogy is very important for teachers to become reflective professionals who can identify their strengths and weaknesses and thereby improve their limitations [12]. Sound knowledge of pedagogy is also important for teachers to apply learner-centered teaching methods rather than applying the teacher-centered teaching methods [2]. In addition, having adequate knowledge of pedagogy is very important for teachers to use continuous assessment instead of using a single assessment technique in assessing their students’ learning outcomes.

Similarly, getting adequate awareness of pedagogy helps teachers to conduct relevant applied research in general and action research in particular that helps to solve immediate teaching and learning-related problems. Besides, keen knowledge of pedagogy helps teachers to create positive and sustainable linkages with students’ parents as well as with some other relevant stakeholders.

Pedagogy is also important for educational leaders to properly lead and/or guide the teaching and learning processes. In this regard, in-depth knowledge of pedagogy can help the leaders to understand the fact that education is a double-edged sword. This is because it is the most powerful tool to liberate and empower people [13, 14]. At the same time, unless, great care is taken, education can be used to dominate and exploit the disadvantaged group(s) in a convoluted manner.

Currently, the Ethiopian Ministry of Education has given great attention to pedagogical science training via the program called Higher Diploma Program. However, as can be understood from the nomenclature of the program, there is a mismatch between the contents incorporated into the training package and the nomenclature given to the program. Therefore, there is a need for adjusting the nomenclature to the contents it is meant to address. To this end, instead of calling the training package as ‘Higher Diploma Program,’ which is quite generic, it is better to designate it as ‘Pedagogical Science Training for Higher Education Institutions Teachers’ program. Moreover, to make improvements to the contents as well as the delivery of the ‘Higher Diploma Program,’ it is important to analyze its strengthens and weaknesses.

Realizing the above-intended improvements require research-based evidences. In other words, there is a need for conducting a study upon the degree to which the current Higher Diploma Program has brought improvements in terms of enhancing life-long learning, teachers’ professional development and success in Ethiopian higher education institutions. In doing so, it is necessary to identify the strengthen and the drawbacks of the program thereby suggesting ways through which the program could be improved. Nonetheless, although I have served as the coordinator as well as the facilitator of the Higher Diploma Program at Arsi University, Ethiopia since 2016, to the best of my knowledge, there is no rigorous study that looked into the effectiveness of the program in terms of fulfilling its intended purposes. Therefore, this curiosity-driven study intends to figure out the degree to which the program is effective in enhancing instructors’ continuous professional development and success in offering quality education to their respective students.

1.2 Statement of the problem

In Ethiopia, formal teacher education started for the first time in 1944 with the launching of a primary school teacher education and training program in the premise of Menelik II School in Addis Ababa through the assistance of the British Council [15]. Nevertheless, a fully-fledged teachers training institute was later inaugurated at Gulale in Addis Ababa in 1946/47 [16]. This particular time marks the beginning of a period of reform in the teacher education system of the country.

In Ethiopia, secondary education is expected to be taught by teachers who have a first degree in their respective disciplines [17]. When it comes to the secondary teacher education program, from 1994 to 2002, it was a four-year program. Nevertheless, with the introduction of a new teacher education policy called Teacher Education System Overhaul (TESO), which initiated a wide-ranging reform in the Ethiopian teacher education sector in 2003 [18], the secondary teacher education program was reduced from four to three years.

In TESO, it is argued that Ethiopian teacher education institutions have to play an initiating role in the teacher education paradigm shift. The reform proposals presented by TESO offer a direct challenge to the teacher education institutions, in the sense that it is argued to be necessary to redefine Ethiopian teachers’ roles as active change agents in the classrooms, within their communities, and ultimately within the Ethiopian society [18]. The competencies that Ethiopian teachers at all levels must exhibit are assumed to guide the nature, organization and management of all programs are clearly set to serve as indicators for measuring progress towards the paradigm shift. Under TESO, Ethiopian secondary teacher education was following the concurrent model where prospective teachers were pursuing their major area courses side by side with professional courses.

Nevertheless, in 2009 the Ethiopian Ministry of Education shifted from TESO to Post Graduate Diploma Teaching (hereafter PGDT). The ministry claimed that although TESO has planted very well the culture of partnerships between schools and teacher education institutions and the relevance of active learning and continuous assessment in the Ethiopian teacher education system, the notions seem to be abused due to misconception and resistance. Furthermore, the ministry asserted [19] that the core factors that hinder the successful implementation of TESO were: misunderstandings about the program by the teacher education institutions’ personnel; high level of enrolment in secondary teacher education programs which forced teacher education institutions to compromise on many useful issues of TESO; and the clash of the rhetoric of active learning and TESO’s practicum program with the use of plasma TV in secondary schools.

Hence, the Ethiopian Ministry of Education replaced TESO with a new secondary teacher education program entitled PGDT where prospective teachers undergo professional courses for one year after finishing their undergraduate studies in applied disciplines [19]. The changes promoted by PGDT implied that a consecutive model has been used where prospective secondary education teachers take intensive training in professional courses for one year after finishing their undergraduate studies in applied disciplines to be qualified as teachers. The teacher education curricula of this program entirely focus on professional courses instead of offering subject matter training in parallel with pedagogical science training.

When it comes to higher education institutions, one of the measures that have been taken by the Ethiopian Ministry of Education to enhance the quality of the teaching and learning process in higher education institutions of the country has been commencing the offering of the program called Higher Diploma Program since 2003. Thus, successful completion of the program has been considered as a requirement for all higher education institutions’ instructors of the country. This notion includes making the program compulsory for all higher learning institutions’ instructors, making constant follow up and improving the training and its actual implementation.

Apprehending the above-intended improvements require research-based evidences. Put differently, there is a need for conducting a study upon the degree to which the Higher Diploma Program has brought improvements in terms of enhancing teachers’ continuous professional development and success in Ethiopian higher education institutions is a worthwhile concern. Therefore, it is in light of the above arguments that this study is intended to critically reflect on the successes, drawbacks, and prospects of the program underway in the Ethiopian higher education institutions.

1.3 Research questions

This study aimed at answering the following basic research questions:

  • To what extent is the Higher Diploma Program effective in terms of enhancing instructors’ continuous professional development in Ethiopian higher education institutions?

  • What are the successes registered following the offering of the Higher Diploma Program in the Ethiopian higher education institutions?

  • What are the failures observed in the course of the implementation of the program in the Ethiopian higher education institutions?

  • What should be done to facilitate the effective implementation of the pedagogical science-training program in the country’s higher education institutions?

1.4 Analytical framework for the study

This section presents the analytical framework for the study as rooted in existing research on teachers’ professional development and the subsequent successes in terms of ensuring lifelong learning. Different scholars may see teachers’ engagement in the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) program and their successes in terms of enhancing students’ learning outcomes from different angles at different times. However, in this study, the effectiveness of CPD particularly the Pedagogical Science Training Program for Higher Education Institutions’ Teachers was seen from the five components incorporated into the program i.e., being reflective teacher, active learning, continuous assessment, action research, and higher education-industry linkage. In the following, I shall present each of the five training components turn by turn briefly.

Being reflective teacher. As it is known, teaching is a complex activity that requires making appropriate decisions [12, 20]. Even if teachers need to follow certain set ground rules to make the teaching and learning processes orderly and fruitful, only this practice may not make teachers effective and efficient. Hence, to be effective and efficient in their professional careers, teachers must develop reflective skills. Reflective action involves a series of logical rational steps that are based on a deeper understanding of the matter under consideration. This means rather than being guided by impulsive action, the teacher is guided by persistent and careful consideration of how a given activity should be accomplished [21]. This notion was interpreted in this study in terms of analyzing the degree to which Ethiopian higher learning institutions’ instructors show improvements in developing consistent reflective abilities and skills.

Active learning. A teaching method is not merely a device adopted for communicating certain concepts to students and it is not exclusively the concern of the teacher who is supposed to be at the ‘giving end’. This implies that a method must link up the teacher and his/her students into an organic relationship with constant mutual interaction [22, 23]. Taking the above notion as a backdrop, in this study, the extent to which Ethiopian higher learning institutions’ instructors brought a change in terms of implementing active learning in their respective lessons was studied.

Continuous assessment. It is a generally agreed-upon truth that a one-shot assessment cannot give a true impression of a student’s academic performance. This notion calls for the application of continuous assessment techniques. As asserted by Abejehu [24], continuous assessment is part and parcel of the instructional process that has to be taken as a key tool in educational quality assurance endeavor. These techniques are learner-centered, teacher-directed, mutually beneficial, formative, context-specific, and ongoing processes. Therefore, this claim is interpreted in this research in terms of exploring the degree to which Ethiopian higher learning institutions’ instructors brought improvement in applying different assessment techniques while assessing the performances of their students.

Action research. Action research is an exercise intended to bring about change in the teaching-learning process within a short period of time [25]. As such, it involves purposefulness, reflection, flexibility, practitioner empowerment and commitment to the teaching and learning process. It is a process of problem-solving intended to improve the teaching and learning processes.

Apart from teaching and rendering community services, university instructors must engage in research works that may solve teaching and learning problems, societal problems and beyond [26]. Therefore, this notion was applied in this research from the perspective of assessing the degree to which Ethiopian higher education institutions’ instructors become productive in conducting relevant action research works to solve the problems they encounter in their day-to-day teaching and learning practices.

Higher education institution-industry linkage. This kind of linkage is assumed to offer an array of benefits for the parties involved [27]. Nowadays, the Ethiopian government more than ever wants to increase the employability of the graduates of higher learning institutions of the country. To this end, it is important to familiarize the students with the real contexts of industries and/or enterprises that are the potential areas of employments for the graduates. This, in turn, suggests that it is important that university instructors must get first-hand experiences about the potential employers to prepare graduates that best fulfill the demands of the labour market [26]. Hence, this notion is conceived and interpreted in this study in terms of analyzing the extent to which Ethiopian higher learning institutions’ instructors brought significant improvements in terms of creating sustainable as well as relevant collaborations with the nearby industries and/or organizations to better prepare graduates who best fit to the demands of the labour market.

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2. Research methodology

In this study, qualitative content analysis particularly discursive content analysis was used as a core tool for data collection. This is because content analysis [28] is an accepted method of textual investigation. In other words, this content analysis concentrated on both the overt and latent contents of the documents analyzed [29]. Furthermore, qualitative content analysis helps a researcher to explore the meaning and realities beyond words and images [30].

In this respect, the research works made on the HDP program since its inception in the Ethiopian context, the action research works conducted on the program as the partial fulfillment of the requirements for the successful completion of the program, and reports organized on the program were critically analyzed. In addition, Focus Group Discussions, in which five key informants took part from all colleges of Arsi University, were used as tools of data collection.

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3. Results and discussions

This part of the study dwells on presenting the results of the study in thematic manners. In other words, the actual discursive qualitative content analysis was made by presenting the documents analyzed consecutively. As such, in the first place, the strengthens of the HDP program were reviewed and critically analyzed.

Then, this endeavor was followed by an exhaustive analysis of the drawbacks observed to the formulation as well as the implementation of the HDP program in the Ethiopian higher education institutions’ contexts. Last but not least, the way forwards are proposed. The details of each of the three thematic areas were reviewed and critically discussed, in turn, in the following sections.

3.1 Strengthens of the HDP program

The Ethiopian government promulgated a new education and training policy in 1994 to address the needs and interests of the citizens of the country through education. To materialize the changes intended by the education and training policy, various measures were taken including reforms of teacher education programs and curricula [5, 16]. One of the fundamental reforms was the introduction of the TESO program.

In TESO, it was argued that teacher education institutions have to play an initiating role in the teacher education paradigm shift. The reform proposals presented by TESO offer a direct challenge to the teacher education institutions, in the sense that it is argued to be necessary to redefine Ethiopian teachers’ roles as active change agents in the classrooms, within their communities, and ultimately within the Ethiopian society [18, 26]. The competencies that Ethiopian teachers at all levels must exhibit and that are assumed to guide the nature, organization and management of all programs are clearly set to serve as indicators for measuring progress towards the paradigm shift.

As part of the strategies to enhance the effective implementation of the TESO program, the Ethiopian Ministry of Education introduced HDP in 2003. The program was launched to enhance the quality of education in the higher education institutions of the country through the professional training of academic staff. Thus, successful completion of HDP has also been instituted as a requirement for all higher education institution teachers in public universities. A series of HDP training has been given so far and the vast majority of academic staff in public universities has already completed the program. The training was conducted using handbooks that have been revised from time to time with the view to make them increasingly more relevant and appropriate for academic staff at the higher education institution level of the country.

Therefore, some of the strong sides that have been observed in the course of the offering of this program are listed below.

  • Introducing the essence of being a reflective teacher, active learning, continuous assessment, action research, and higher education institution-industry linkage to all instructors who attended the program.

  • Delivering pedagogical science training across the colleges, faculties or schools housed under the public universities of the countries.

  • Delivering the pedagogical science training by the right professional facilitators i.e., giving the training using instructors from the College of Education or pedagogy instructors.

  • Attempting to change the mode of the delivery of the training to online learning (the case of health and agriculture trainees) or blended learning.

  • Managing to conduct the training without interruption or conducting the training year after year.

3.2 Limitations of HDP program

As noted above, one of the main objectives of this study was to examine the limitations of the program. Accordingly, the results of the study revealed the fact that the program has so many drawbacks and the main ones are presented below.

  • The absence of a baseline for evaluating the improvements was brought about because of the pedagogical science training.

  • Delay of the procurement of the necessary training materials due to the higher education institutions’ administrative bureaucracies.

  • Delivering the program only as on-job training or as an extended program i.e., not giving the training in the form of induction training.

  • Failure of the nomenclature of the program to represent the essence of the program and the components included in it.

  • Absence of a section or module that focuses on ‘English for Academic Purpose’. While command of the English language is a big concern among Ethiopian university instructors, HDP training is void of such issues.

  • Absence of a module that dwells on ICT.

  • Making the training one-time program. No possibility of retraining the instructors who already completed the training.

  • Absence of modest payment for coordinators, leaders, and tutors of the program in a uniform manner across the higher education institutions of the country.

  • Irregularities in the duration of the training across the different higher education institutions of the country.

  • Absence of a clear and uniform administrative structure that can effectively run the program.

  • Absence of tracer study or follow-up study on the impact of HDP training in terms of improving the teaching competencies of instructors who pursued and successfully completed the training.

  • Absence of fixed and well-furnished training rooms or centers for the training in the respective colleges housed in the public higher education institutions.

  • Existence of weak follow-ups during candidates’ placement in schools or industries.

  • Not addressing Bloom’s three taxonomies (cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains) in the right way in the training.

  • Not bringing the teaching loads of the HDP trainees to the minimum level i.e., six Cr. Hrs. per semester.

  • Not certifying those trainees who successfully completed their training on time.

  • Existence of many unnecessary repetitions in the current modules.

  • The reluctance of the administration of the higher education institutions to give the right attention to the training. For instance, not considering the certificate of HDP as a criterion for academic promotion, scholarship, assigning people to different positions, etc.,

  • Absence of a real reward system for the instructors who successfully complete the training.

It has been found that the HDP program has, for the first time, provided Ethiopian higher education institutions with a concrete framework that encompasses clear objectives, training guidelines, and profiles concerning being a reflective teacher, active learning, continuous assessment, action research, and higher education institution-industry linkage. However, the results of this study revealed that effective continuous professional development practices and successes have been hardly reflected in the higher education system of the country. Many researchers [31, 32, 33] have also found the fact that the higher diploma program has been ineffective in terms of ensuring the purposes it was intended for in the Ethiopian higher education institutions’ contexts.

3.3 The way forward

Based on the above research findings, the following recommendations are forwarded.

  • There is a need for changing the nomenclature ‘Higher Diploma Program’ to ‘Pedagogical Science Training for Higher Education Institutions Teachers Program’ to exactly match the name of the training program with its real intent.

  • There is a need for establishing a fully-fledged as well as a well-furnished pedagogical training center in each higher education institution.

  • The pedagogical training center should deliver well-organized induction trainings particularly for newly employed instructors before they start teaching.

  • The pedagogical science training should be delivered in the form of team teaching. Put differently, in addition to delivering the training using a pedagogy specialist, one assistant trainer who has a better track record in the pedagogical science training must be assigned from the respective college or faculty to customize the training components to the subject areas of concern.

  • Modest payment should be made for the coordinators, the leaders, and the tutors of the program in a uniform manner across the higher education institutions of the country.

  • The existing modules must be thoroughly revised with the full engagement of some teams from the respective colleges. The members of the revision team must be off the regular duties and responsibilities. In addition, the revision team must at least consist of a pedagogy expert, subject area expert, and English language expert.

  • Nationally agreed indicators against which the success or failure of the program could be evaluated should be developed.

  • Inter-universities experience sharing programs must be arranged for the coordinators, main trainers as well as assistant trainers.

  • Fully-fledged modules that focus on English for Academic Purpose and ICT should be included in the existing modules.

  • This academic staff development program should be divided into two parts: induction training and a pedagogical science training program that lasts for one academic year.

  • There should be possibilities of retraining instructors who already completed their training after five years of effective services in the teaching profession.

  • The administration of the higher education institutions should give the right attention to the training. This means, apart from fulfilling all the necessary facilities for the effective functioning of the program, the leaders should consider the certificate of the pedagogical science training as a criterion for academic promotion, scholarship, and assigning people at different positions in the higher education institutions of the country.

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Written By

Robsan Margo Egne

Submitted: November 13th, 2021 Reviewed: December 1st, 2021 Published: March 15th, 2022