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Using TESS-India materials to motivate teachers

1 February 2018

“In my career of 16 years, I have undergone a number of training programmes, along with other colleagues. In these trainings they always try to teach something or other to teachers. These trainings do not appear to be very aligned with ground realities and are therefore difficult to implement, thereby losing their significance, once teachers are out from the training hall. Teachers just continue attending training after training.”

Although these words were spoken by Seema, a primary school teacher from Kanpur Nagar, India, they could just as easily have been spoken by a teacher from Kampala, Kent or Kuala Lumpur. All over the world, teachers spend hours and hours each year in training sessions that do not lead to any actual change in their classroom practice. No matter how interesting the training, or how charismatic the trainer, simply giving teachers new knowledge is unlikely to lead to a change in practice.

That’s why, at STIR Education, we partner with government education systems in India and Uganda to reignite and sustain teacher intrinsic motivation. We focus not just on what teachers need to know, but on how best to motivate them to actually change their classroom practice. Seema’s observation that knowledge without a connection to “ground realities” will be “difficult to implement” chimes strongly with our overall experience at STIR. Thousands of teachers have told us that what really motivates them to improve are the ‘lightbulb moments’ when they see their children learn and they feel effective as educators.

Harvard professor and leading authority on behaviour change John P Kotter explains that a process of ‘Analyse, Think and Change’ will very rarely motivate people to change. A training programme in which teachers simply listen to a lecture about a particular aspect of pedagogy and then consider its merits is unlikely to lead to their teaching differently on Monday morning. Instead, Kotter recommends a process of ‘See, Feel and Change’ in which the need for or possibility of change is made to feel real and important.

Through STIR’s partnership with TESS-India, we have been working to build the ‘See, Feel and Change’ approach into our teacher networks. We now – wherever possible – show TESS-India films of teachers demonstrating particular classroom practices as a starting point when introducing new techniques to teachers. For teachers such as Seema, seeing films of teachers – speaking her language and in classrooms that look like her own – demonstrating new and different ways of working is both inspiring and real.

After watching the films, teachers try out – feel – the new practices in their own classrooms and then reflect together on the experience at the next network meeting. The shared experience of trying something new and (at least some of the time) of seeing and feeling an impact on their children’s learning, leads to a virtuous cycle of trying something new, seeing change and feeling motivated. As Seema says, compared to simply attending “training after training”, after our training sessions she told us she could feel the difference. And feeling is what counts in creating change and improving learning.

James Townsend, Chief Programme Officer, STIR Education

STIR’s vision is a world where every child has an intrinsically motivated teacher.
In partnership with governments, we aim to increase teacher intrinsic motivation and improve classroom practice for 1.5 million teachers and accelerate learning for 60 million children by 2022.

This blog is also available in Hindi.

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