Teacher Professional Learning in Tanzania: Experiences of Mathematics Teacher Leaders

  • Author / Creator
    Swai, Calvin
  • A multisite case study, grounded within constructivist philosophical stance, was undertaken to explore experiences of mathematics teacher leaders (MTLs) in leading the professional learning of mathematics teachers in rural and remote communities in Tanzania. Shaped by notions of symbolic interactionism, perspective consciousness, and Dewey’s theory of experience, this study drew eight participants who were working as leaders of teacher professional learning in eight districts located in central and eastern regions of Tanzania mainland. The participants shared their experiences of influencing mathematics teachers to engage in promoting their professional growth for them to become successful in their mathematics classrooms. Research data were collected through open-ended questionnaire, open-ended interviews, focused interviews, metaphors, and vignettes. Thick descriptions of the MTLs’ experiences were carefully generated from within- and cross-case analyses. The study has revealed a series of activities that a mathematics teacher leader can undertake when charged with the responsibility of leading the professional learning of other teachers. Such activities include those that are assumed before, during, and after professional learning sessions. Activities that the MTLs reported undertaking before the sessions involve designing professional learning plans along with mobilizing resources and creating materials for facilitating learning during the sessions. In-session activities included greeting teachers, introducing self, others, and big ideas, distributing learning tasks and engaging teachers, motivating teachers, collecting information about teacher learning, and moderating discussions. Post-session activities that the MTLs accomplished include networking with mathematics teachers and (re)designing professional learning plans for next sessions. As such, the MTLs engaged teachers in a series of activities that regard teacher professional learning a cyclical, long-term in nature, and an ongoing practice; not a onetime event of gathering teachers. The study has raised a number of professional learning outcomes that include improvement of pedagogical knowledge and skills among mathematics teachers, development of teacher confidence, the establishment of teacher collaboration and networking, and development of awareness of gender-sensitive pedagogy. They attributed such success to long-term collaborative preparations, availability of resources, ongoing collaboration, and freedom of ideas and opinions. They also considered wise teacher leadership, teacher leader availability and accessibility, and use of respectful language to have contributed to the success of the professional learning of mathematics teachers in their districts. The most significant implication of this study is that the education system of Tanzania needs to encourage and empower mathematics teachers to become teacher leaders capable of taking charge of their own professional learning. As emerged in this study, the MTLs are essential in schools as they could sustainably engage mathematics teachers in the process of promoting their professional growth, thereby, revitalizing mathematics teaching and learning in schools. Even more, situating teacher learning to the hearts, minds, hands, and bodies of mathematics teachers not just permits ongoing teacher professional learning in schools but also allows consideration of teacher’s voice in a broader debate on what can be done to improve mathematics teaching and learning in primary schools in Tanzania and elsewhere.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2018
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.