Winds from Manchester (2)

PART 2 (brief, too brief, a summary)

In the line of Education for All, Professor Harry Kuchah delivered a plenary session in IATEFL 2015 which can be food for thought in Latin American ELT communities. Large classes, rural areas difficult to reach, lack of resources, multiple pedagogic innovations in the last years, are some of the challenges teachers face in Cameroon. In similar conditions as in Uruguay, teachers have become tired of having been introduced with so many changes in pedagogical approaches in the last decade which proved inefficient, farfetched and far from the teachers and students’ interests and beliefs. In this context, Kuchah explored the educational reality in Cameroon and found out that, although teachers seem to follow the authorities “innovations” in terms of methodology and curriculum, their actual everyday practice is different :

  • Teachers tend to accept new pedagogies when they come form peers endorsement
  • Teachers tend to use methodologies when they have a sense of ownership of these methodologies

An immediate conclusion Kuchah draws is that we need to create the right enabling environment for teachers to be able to create, shape up, evaluate, keep or discard the methodologies they come up with.

Apart from this, he highlights that both students and teachers’ perspectives need to be incorporated in the analysis and change of curriculum and that the convergence between students and teachers’ perspectives need to be consolidated. In this framework, divergences must be negotiated through critical reflection, always focusing on the positive.

I was moved by Kuchah’s reflections and findings, both intellectually and emotionally. Instinctively and through some informal research I’ve been doing in the field of education, I always defended the bottom-up approach to curriculum and pedagogy construction. In a country where methodologies are imported and are always dictated by some kind of “authority” which is usually far away from the teachers and the students, Kuchah’s work line sounds more than attractive to me: contextualization of practice, listening to the teachers and students’ (and I would add families’) voices should be considered a MUST if we want to make a long lasting change in educational practice and instruction in Uruguay.

People say that listening is selective: one listens what one wants to listen. Whether this is true or not, Manchester keeps on echoing, again and again, that LISTENING to what teachers and students have to say, CONNECTING to their emotions and beliefs, and CONTEXTUALIZING instruction are the key ingredients any reflective practitioner, researcher, educational manager, or any project leader in education should consider when innovating and introducing “better” pedagogies. It is in our hands to dispel the myth of “we cannot do it without the help of … you name it”. It is high time we revisited simple basic questions for simple basic instructional growth:

What teachers? What students? What context? What pedagogy?

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By adrianadelossantos

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