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Leaders of Change

December 15, 2014 In Malawi Blog
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The Malawi graduate students have come to the end of their second term at Lakeland. The last few weeks have been a time of continued study, exams, papers, and planning ahead. What the students are most focused on now is how to leverage their knowledge to implement systemic changes in the way reading is taught to young learners in Malawi. They have identified who their different audiences will be when they return home, including everyone from officials in the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, to staff at the Teacher Training Colleges; from current teachers and parents to the learners themselves. In each instance, the students will need to craft persuasive arguments for change that are tailored to each audience. This is not an easy task, but the Lakeland students seem as passionate as ever and ready for the challenges ahead. Recently, I had a chance to speak with Bertha Singini and Phillip Nachonie about how the group’s thinking is evolving. Today’s post summarizes some of their latest strategizing.

The strategizing began in Professor Karl Elder’s fall course, “Means for Mastery of Reading Pedagogy.” Based on critical thinking methods presented by Tim Hurson in his book Think Better, the group created a list of 28 problems that need solving:

  1. How might we help learners who are not efficient in reading?
  2. Some things that cause inefficiency?
  3. How much time allocated to reading?
  4. How might we influence [government] to employ competent teachers?
  5. How to get rid of inefficient reading practices?
  6. Disadvantages of inefficient readers?
  7. How to get enough reading materials?
  8. How to make learners communicate in English effectively?
  9. How to use skills gained at LC?
  10. How to teach reading effectively in the TTCs and reach out to those in the field?
  11. How to know ineffective methods?
  12. How to develop better reading methods?
  13. Handling large classes for reading?
  14. How to change curriculum?
  15. How to motivate learners?
  16. How to motivate teachers to teach effectively?
  17. How to use effectively the resources?
  18. How to invest more to improve reading?
  19. How to use time effectively?
  20. How to help teachers accept change?
  21. How to come up with adequate classrooms?
  22. How to influence political will and stakeholders?
  23. How to use reading assessment methods?
  24. How to involve learners in reading activities?
  25. How to involve other teachers to help improve reading?
  26. How to increase reading time without going beyond the school hours?
  27. How to help learners have print-rich homes?
  28. How to reduce teacher-learner ratio (1:40)

Bertha and Phillip explained that the group took the 28 problems and organized them into five categories: Learners, Time, Stakeholder Involvement, Effective Methods, and Resources. The students then examined which things can be implemented through their direct sharing of information and skills with TTC teachers and teacher candidates individually and which things are larger in scope and will require the assistance of administrators and policy-makers in order to be implemented throughout the education sector.  

Informed by Hurson’s methodology for using innovation and problem solving as presented in his book, the students continue to identify “assisters” and “resisters” within the current system, in order to create the new outcomes they seek. By anticipating what the road to innovation and subsequent improvement in literacy levels in Malawi will look like for these agents of change, the students believe they will be able to assist in improving early grade reading instruction in Malawi for many years to come.

Theirs is a great undertaking. But, as Bertha remarked, “I can’t wait to go home and get started!”

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This post is written by Lisa Vihos, the Director of Sponsored Programs and Research at Lakeland College. The program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this blog are the responsibility of Lakeland College and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

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