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IATEFL Conference Selections 2021 - Cover

Building principled ELT development projects in Algeria, Ethiopia, Senegal & Cote d'Ivoire

Sarah Mount and Alan Pulverness, Transform ELT

In the four years since we set up TransformELT, together with Alan Mackenzie, we have worked on development projects in nearly 30 countries. This talk presented case studies of three projects – in Algeria, Ethiopia and Senegal / Côte d’Ivoire – to exemplify our approach to context-sensitive project design and capacity building in different contexts.

As part of a large-scale project, Supporting School Reform in Algeria (SSRA), we trained 180 middle and secondary school inspectors in a 4-year trainer training programme that included frameworks for CPD, coaching and mentoring, and approaches to developing spoken and written English with a focus on genres for STEM subjects. In Ethiopia, in partnership with NILE, we managed a coaching project – Building a Coaching Culture in Ethiopian Primary Schools (BCCEPS) – building capacity for a cohort of 150 Master Coaches, each of whom formed triads with a school principal and a classroom teacher. And in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire, within the British Council’s ‘English Connects’ programme, we piloted and developed ‘English Clubs’ support toolkits, to help club leaders increase learners’ confidence and ability to use English by providing them with additional resources for club activities.

For a development initiative to be context-appropriate and meet the needs of multiple stakeholders, planning must be informed by a view of what ‘success’ will look like. The most successful projects begin with an initial phase of needs analysis, based on data collected on the ground, to formulate clear outcome statements and develop a plan of action designed to achieve the changed state. Plans are based on a thorough understanding of context that identifies affordances for building capacity but at the same time acknowledges a range of realities on the ground. In Algeria this included focus group discussions with inspectors to gain insights into the geographical and organisational challenges they face, as well as their dual roles as inspectors and teacher trainers. For BCCEPS in Ethiopia the team leaders spent two weeks in schools, meeting students, teachers, principals, supervisors and regional leaders, which prompted the formation of triads for training described above. The English Clubs toolkits in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire developed organically through an inception visit involving club leaders and participants, followed by a series of workshops where the eventual toolkits were co-created with participants.

Educational change is a gradual process, often accomplished over an extended period of time. But it does not follow that monitoring and evaluation should be deferred until long-term change can be observed. Throughout the life of a project, we remain responsive to evolving needs by constantly monitoring change as it happens, and repeatedly examining short- and medium-term impact. It is essential, therefore, for project design to remain flexible enough for participants to have a sense of agency and take an active role in the process. Each of the projects involved recursive design that allowed for cycles of micro-training, peer observation and trialling of training and/or learning materials.

Underpinning this iterative process of training and professional development in all the projects described here was a combination of modelling good practice and experiential learning. Training courses were practical and always informed by contextual considerations, and participants were engaged through a dialogic approach in a creative partnership. Carefully scaffolded guidance enabled the Algerian inspectors, the Ethiopian coaches and the Senegalese / Ivoirian English Club leaders to take on ownership of their project through collaboration in drafting, revising and refining their own plans and materials.

All projects are time-bound, even when as in the case of SSRA in Algeria they extend over several years. Change therefore requires a vision for the dissemination of new learning that will embed the change and make it sustainable. The cascade model is a strategy frequently applied as a way of spreading new practices to very large numbers. Conscious of the ever-present risk of dilution as the training is reproduced at successive levels of the cascade, we have tried to preserve the quality and consistency of our interventions through the medium of cascade training manuals in Algeria and the toolkits distributed on SD cards across Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire. But materials alone do not guarantee uptake – systemic change depends on mutually supportive adjustment throughout the educational ecosystem.

Physical resources are further supported by school-based or municipality-based development cells (Algeria and Ethiopia) and by the viral spread of new ideas via teachers’ associations, learning management systems and online forums, which paradoxically produced more professional dialogue in 2020/21 when training and development were forced online.

Link to IATEFL presentation recording https://youtu.be/4Gr3cKCwWOk

Sarah Mount & Alan Pulverness

2021

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