Preparing new teachers for teachers

17 February 2015

When we ran an electronics course in Ghana in September 2013 we discussed the lack of electronics in the Ghana teacher training syllabus despite the introduction of electronics to the Ghana school syllabus.

Ghana July 2014
Credit: David Swinscoe

The principal of the Ada College of Education was keen to address this issue and after we left Ghana there were discussions among educators about better preparing new teachers for teaching. When we planned the course in July 2014 we were persuaded to run the course for teacher trainers rather than teachers to help build capacity in teacher training colleges.

Colleagues in Ghana (Charles Appiah and William Ankora) recruited 20 people for the course and agreed to help deliver the course. The majority of attendees (13) were teacher trainers from across Ghana along with 3 post graduate students from the University of Ghana and the Institute of Mathematical Studies and four teachers from Ada secondary school, the host of the Ada Physics Centre.

The course was planned with Ghana colleagues by email over the weeks before travelling to Ghana including some activities which were self-contained and fun and could be repeated by the participants with their students. There were some requests for me to bring particular components with me that were not available in Ghana including Picaxe microcontrollers.

We arrived in Accra, Ghana late on Saturday night, were taken to Ada on the Sunday and started setting up as the course participants began to arrive from across Ghana. We were put up by the principal at the Ada College of Education who provided us with food, accommodation and a driver and supported the course by coming each day to see what we were doing and showing the backing of a principal.

Ghana July 2014
Credit: David Swinscoe

The course started on Monday morning assuming no prior practical experience of electronics, this turned out to be a sensible assumption as the level of knowledge and experience was very limited for most participants. The course was practical and hands on trying to build confidence through doing. Participants were enthusiastic but with differing levels of confidence and speeds of working and the participants quickly ended up on different tasks as some of them became independent and tried out different tasks and developed their own projects while others needed more support with the basics.

All participants worked in groups on the second day to complete their own projects with a practical use which they all presented to the class. On the evening of the second day the whole group took drinks together by the Volta and took a boat trip on the river, a fun evening out and an opportunity for teacher trainers to get to know each other better.

On Wednesday, the third and final day, some new construction techniques were introduced to produce some teaching aids. We finished with the presentation of certificates and evaluations which were both thoughtful and positive but with requests for a longer course or follow on course. During the course some of the participants took an interest in the microcontrollers we had brought out with us and tried out some of the activities, these teachers were keen to learn more and this seems an important topic for future courses as some teachers remained behind to spend more time on this topic.

Ghana July 2014
Credit: David Swinscoe

On the Thursday I spent a few hours with one of the teacher trainers at Ada College of Education to show him how to use a pc based oscilloscope we had taken for the college. This proved to be less than straightforward with difficulties with the laptops at the college, a lab still to be completed by the builders and poor internet connection making driver updates very, very slow. We found a work around but the experience illustrated the everyday problems of teachers and teacher trainers in Ghana trying to work with technology.

Whilst in Ada we took the opportunity to visit the town and met a local community worker who showed us round a very interesting women's project on the banks of the Volta processing oysters for food and building material to provide employment and income.