The Executive director of the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR), Professor Tade Aina, and the director of Higher Education as well as team leader for Pedagogical Leadership in Africa (PedaL), Dr Beatrice Muganda, recently led a team of 59 resource persons from different parts of the world to Nigeria to deliver a training workshop in pedagogy at the University of Ibadan. Dr Muganda speaks to MODUPE GEORGE, who caught up with her at the event on the activities of PASGR and the systemic change PedaL is catalysing in teaching and learning in African universities and other issues in education. Excerpts:
What is PASGR all about?
PASGR is an independent, non-partisan pan African non-governmental organisation that was established nine years ago in Nairobi, Kenya. We work with intricately with academics and researchers, higher education institutions, research think tanks, civil society organisations, business and policy communities both in the region and internationally to enhance research excellence for public policy. We also offer training in pedagogy and research methods. Like now, I’m around for a training in pedagogy at the University of Ibadan (UI) through an initiative known as Pedagogical Leadership in Africa (PedaL). Basically PASGR has three programmes. The first programme is research. Here, we work with researchers to produce evidence that involves public policy. We hold forums based on the Utafiti Sera (a Swahili word for research policy community) model.Through this platform, we bring a multitude of stakeholders together to discuss research evidence from fresh undertakings or a synthesis of existing research. We have achieved a lot ofsuccess in generating appropriate and negotiated policy actions and uptake, for example, under employment creation in agriculture and agribusiness as well as action for empowerment and accountability in Nigeria; in turning urban cities around in Rwanda; and, in social protection in Kenya. The second programme is professional development and training. This one offers research methods training to tool and retool researchers. So far we have trained 1600 researchers, someare very fresh in the field such as doctorate candidates while others are more experienced but need to renew their skills or broaden exposure to mixed methods. The third programme is the higher education programme which I direct.
Tel us more about the higher education programme of PASGR?
Here, we do a number of things. We mainly collaborate with universities to enhance the quality of education and training in different forms. We rolled out the collaborative Master of Research and Public Policy (MRPP) programme in 2014. The programme was jointly designed by 13 universities in seven African countries and it is being offered in these universities:In Nigeria -University of Jos, University of Ibadan and University of Lagos; University of Serria Leone; University of Ghana; University of Dar es Salaam and Mzumbe in Tanzania; Uganda Martyrs University and Uganda Christian University in Uganda; University of Nairobi, Maseno and Egerton University in Kenya; and, University of Botswana. These universities came together, discussed and agreed on issues, tools and practices that could be integrated in a programme of public policy and taught to student in a broadly similar way across the continent. So, it is the same programme, awarded by each university and we at PASGR provide intellectual and strategic guidance in programme development; facilitate the network to share ideas, resources and expertise. We also link our local partners to international knowledge, technology and research networks. So far, we have graduatedfour cohorts and we will be launching a collaborative Doctoral programme in Public Policy from September 2019 in distinctive hubs.
What about the Pedagogical Leadership in Africa (PedaL) project?
Pedagogical leadership in Africa (PedaL) is one of the nine partnerships supported by the Strategic Partnership for Higher Education Innovation and Reform (SPHEIR), a grant scheme established by the Department for International Development (DFID), UK. PedaL is a partnership of eight institutions led by PASGR. The others are: Africa Research Universities Alliance (ARUA); Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK; University of Ibadan; University of Ghana; University of Dar es Salaam; Egerton and Uganda Martyrs University. We jointly designed a training programme that enables us to work with university teaching staff to unleash their intrinsic capacity to innovate in their teaching and learning practices. We challenge academics to create exceptional learning moments for their students so as to maximize learning outcomes. In one year, we have trained 650 teaching staff in 30 universities and there is growing demand for the training. Everybody who participates in our training is networked on a virtual platform to interact, share material and ideas. More so, they have access to our resource persons who can answer their questions and scaffold their innovative efforts.
You have a pool of resource persons from all over the world, under PedaL, how does that come about?
PASGR works with resource persons from within the continent and beyond in all its programmes. We have drawn on global perspectives, expertise and innovations from: University of Minnesota (US); The Open University (UK); IDS, University of Sussex (UK); Queens University (Canada); Hertie School of Governance and Free University Berlin, Global Public Policy Network (GPPN) and Global Business Schools Network (GBSN) among others. All through, our vision remains clear: to create a reasonable pool of resource persons within the continent and in each of the participating universities. We are getting there and remain confident that the capacity embedded in each university will offer PedaL trainings to colleagues on a sustainable basis with very little support from outside. We have grown the resource pool gradually by spotting and nurturing talent in each of the PedaL trainingspeople who are excited, curious and highly motivated and with innate capacity to deliver. They are identified; mentored, given an opportunity to co-teach with more experienced teaching staff, and thereafter assigned a leadership role.
Why the need for pedagogical leadership in teaching at the university level?
First of all, we need to professionalise teaching at the universities. The norm has been to recruit academics with mastery of disciplinary content in Physics, Political Science or whatever other discipline at a Master’s or doctorate level to teach at the university. Yes, they are good in their contents, but they are not really conversant with the art of teaching and learning which must be acquired and constantly practised.Teaching and learning has its own contents, skills and competences, bolts and nuts, so to say.In PedaL, university academics are provoked to question their own beliefs about teaching and learning based on teaching philosophy a well as theories of learning. They are invited to understand the learning needs of students and how to turn around to be more responsive to these needs so as to engender deep learning as opposed to mere regurgitation of facts by students.When learning is developed around a variety of activities, it becomes interesting and is more likely to retain students and curtail the high dropout rates that dog graduate programmes. Fourth, part of the reasons that we are getting graduates who are not properly grounded in their work and who are not adaptive to changing economic conditions is that most of the university teaching staffs dwell on passing on knowledge at the expense of helping students to develop the right attitudes and values as well as 21st century skillssuch as social consciousness, critical thinking, leadership, teamwork, adaption, problem-solving and creativity. I am glad that this gap is drawing the attention of stakeholders and bilateral organisations. DFID, World Bank and even the European Union have started investing money into programmes for developing the teaching capacities of university teaching staff.
Does your training in pedagogical leadership in anyway enhance the curricula of the universities in which you have trained several cohorts?
As a matter of fact, PedaLtraining enriches curricula. For most teachers, what to teach (content) is at their fingertips. PedaL helps them to answer the question – how do I organise what I teach in the most interesting and memorable fashion? PedaL interventions in curricula will vary with context, discipline and even individual university norms. In the process of stretching their imagination, academics may explode some of the course descriptions into comprehensive course outlines. In other cases, they will refine the expected learning outcomes and design activities that lead to attainment of these outcomes. What we are saying to teachers is, take a second look at your course, and as we work through it, address any conspicuous gaps with regard to linking theory to practice, bringing issues that affect people in their daily lives in your content, using case studies of women and marginalised groups to draw attention to their plight, creating opportunities for projects and other learning activities that stimulate critical thinking and also enable students to develop a range of skills such as communication and presentation. Our interventions are at the level of the course, and will organically enrich the curriculum. Ultimately PedaL influenced courses will not only help students to know a lot of things, they will also develop the capacity to do a lot of things and to survive in the unpredictable knowledge economy.
It appears you only work with public universities; don’t you have plans to involve private institutions in your programmes since they are all working towards the same goal?
We started with five partner universities for purposes of managing the partnership effectively. However, the partnership provides many entry points into other universities in the host countries. Take ARUA for example, it has opened the door for 16 research-intensive universities to prioritise pedagogy taking cognisance of the fact that it takes good teaching and learning to produce effective researchers. So we are going through networks that we are already working with such as the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture to reach a critical number of universities on the continent. For PedaL, we want a systemic change, and the system includes the private, public, faith-based, small and big; we need to move forward together. Already, we are working with a number of private universities; Uganda Martyrs and Uganda Christian, The United State International University in Kenya, Kisubi,Africa Rural University of Uganda, and so forth. We are reaching out to other universities. However, to be able to do this, we need universities to put down some resources, to share the cost of the training. We can only reach the whole continent if we are able to mobilise domestic resources.
How has PedaL been bridging the gap between the older generation of teachers and the new when it comes to imparting pedagogical leadership training across nations?
We’ve had a lot of experience and positive vibes, especially when we started integrating technology into teaching and learning. When we started recording content videos, we were surprised that the more mature and experienced academics were eager to have their voices heard across the continent. Older cohorts of teaching staff are acknowledging the pedagogical transformation: “ I had never worked with technology, but now, I have created my website” said Nobert, an academic at the University of Nigeria. Given their rightful position and a valuable opportunity, the older academics are ready to work with us.The practice of co-teaching in most universities will also lead to rubbing of younger and older minds around innovations. We believe that when the older ones see the value of the transformation, they will come on board slowly. But also the push for accountability that may stem from students along the way. This will provide a powerful stimulus for transforming teaching and learning strategies. Then we have senior champions of the transformation complete with a strong voice andplatform: if Emeritus Professor Pai Obanya can do it, who can’t?
How accessible are you to upcoming universities, which are in dire need of PedaL, but do not have the wherewithal? How do you intend to reach out to them?
In every PedaL training mounted, we invite a few participants from such ends. Besides, every hub training organised at a university provides an opportunity for solidifying PedaL in the host country as a number of other universities are invited to participate and special places are reserved for the smaller universities because we want to be inclusive and equitable. For instance, in Uganda, we were able to train six other universities, which were not part of the partnership. These included a small university, the Africa Rural University as well as another university from a post conflict region, Gulu University. We care so much about the marginalised universities; we want them to get the right exposure. The next hub training is planned for Ghana in August 2019 and we will be replicating the same model.