In Senegal, inspectors and school principals engage in self-analysis to better support teachers.
Listening and showing interest in the difficulties teachers face: Senegal aims to provide better support for its educators. With the support of IIEP-UNESCO, Senegalese school inspectors and principals, responsible for supervising teachers, are learning to analyze and improve their own practices. This is a concrete way to influence student results.
Listening, training, and support are three essential conditions for genuine teacher engagement in their work. However, when teachers rarely have access to mentors or continuous training that truly meets their needs, it inevitably affects the quality of their students' learning. Pedagogical support is essential as it serves as a catalyst for teachers' professional development. It helps teachers break free from isolation and enables them to address their challenges and improve the effectiveness of their actions.
However, the lack of financial and human resources makes this support almost non-existent or ineffective. In Senegal, the support for education quality management program of the International Institute for Educational Planning of UNESCO (IIEP-UNESCO) has identified the need to strengthen teacher support as a top priority. Despite numerous efforts in the country to ensure that every child has access to quality education, the results have been mixed, especially concerning teacher support.
In Senegal, the Ministry of Education supervision staff is expected to support teachers in two ways: either inspectors conduct classroom visits, or they convene groups of teachers in Pedagogical support units. However, after the few meetings that do take place, teachers often feel controlled rather than supported, and the initial goal of improving their skills is not achieved. Emilie Martin, an educational policy analyst at IIEP-UNESCO, describes the situation, saying, "Teachers perceive a disconnect between the aspects assessed by the inspector, who sometimes acts like a law enforcer, and their unaddressed needs."
But dissatisfaction is just as great among inspectors who are overwhelmed with work, too few in number, and burdened with diverse and sometimes vaguely defined responsibilities. Patrick Nkengne, program manager and quality management expert, notes, "On average, each inspector is responsible for 250 teachers, and they don't have time to conduct all the classroom Inspections. They also have to manage schools, organize teachers' professional examinations, resolve conflicts within institutions, and the list goes on." Senegal, aware of the problem, has found a partial solution by involving school principals in teacher support. However, these principals are not trained for these new roles and already have a full schedule.
Self analyzing while doing
IIEP-UNESCO has worked with the Senegal government on a pilot project that encourages supervisors to reflect on their working methods, fostering a more active listening approach to teachers. This project is called "Professional Practice Analysis and Support Approach." About twenty inspectors and school principals from the Thiès Academy Inspection (in the west part of the country) participated in this experiment. This provided education officials the opportunity to discuss their professional challenges and share workplace experiences, sometimes revealing common situations.
Inspectors and principals also recorded themselves during classroom inspections or pedagogical support group meetings. The footage was then viewed and analyzed by their peers, first spontaneously and then more thoroughly using observation and analysis grids. Emilie Martin recalls, "In these videos, it was clear that there was a trend of not giving teachers a chance to explain, and the inspectors themselves noticed the importance of this approach." Participants were then guided through a structured and thoughtful approach, following these steps: i) factual observation by describing what was observed; ii) analysis to make sense and understand the observed facts, and iii) evaluation by providing an assessment of how to improve the observed practices.
This self-analysis exercise, through storytelling and video, allowed supervisors to question themselves and consider changes in their practices independently. They could offer each other advice and test solutions in their workplace. For example, they seized the opportunity to co-create new support techniques aimed at building trust with teachers during classroom visits, moving away from their usual authoritative practices. As a result: interactions with teachers became more horizontal, collaborative, and constructive. There has already been a significant impact on the participants, as Kaita Diarra, an elementary school principal in Thiès, attests: "We, principals and directors, received no training to assume this role. Reflecting on our professional practice and on the best ways to support those we are assisting is undoubtedly interesting."
Better supporting teachers across Senegal
Now, the focus is on integrating the professional practice analysis and support approach into the daily work routine of inspectors and school principals in the Senegalese educational system. How can this approach be extended throughout the system? What are the necessary conditions and resources? This will require planning and budgeting scenarios to enable the ministry to make informed decisions about potentially implementing this approach on a wider scale.
Through this experiment, possible action strategies have been identified, with a priority being the need to reorganize the workloads of inspectors and school principals to free up time for teacher support. These supervisors are overwhelmed by routine administrative tasks, some of which deviate from their official job descriptions. Consequently, the time they dedicate to pedagogical support is limited, or even non-existent.
Another proposal is to incorporate the professional practice analysis and support approach into the initial training of inspectors and the ongoing training of school principals. This training would include a blend of theory and practice, placing supervisors in the role of conducting interviews and pedagogical support group meetings with teachers, fostering a support-oriented posture that they may not be accustomed to.
The results and proposals are expected to be presented to policymakers shortly, with the aim of potentially expanding the approach across the entire education system for better-quality schools.