Tutored micro-teaching workshops: born in the classroom, this innovative Nigerien approach could become part of the official national curriculum
Some teachers in Niger have come up with the idea of forming small groups of students, supervised by a peer, to ensure that all students acquire basic knowledge. With the support of IIPE-UNESCO, this practice is well on its way to becoming a genuine method aimed at improving learning outcomes.
*This article concerns activities carried out before July 2023.
To enhance the quality of learning and students' academic performance, it is worthwhile to explore successful practices already in place in schools. Who better than teachers and school principals to devise solutions to the challenges faced in classrooms? Some educators have implemented unexpected practices rooted in their realities, which work well but often don't reach policymakers.
In Niger, teams from the Ministry of National Education, were trained to visit schools as part of the Support for quality education management program, implemented by IIPE-UNESCO Dakar and supported by the French development agency, discovered an innovative approach in several schools in the Zinder and Tahoua regions.
To ensure that all students grasp concepts already covered in class, teachers form small working groups of five or six students of the same age. These groups are led by student "tutors" chosen for their willingness to share knowledge and prepared by the teacher, motivating their peers through peer influence.
A Response to Local Needs
In a country with limited financial, human, and material resources like Niger, but conscious of its students' learning difficulties and of the need to enhance the quality of education, this initiative addresses several concrete problems: overcrowded classrooms, insufficient learning time, students in the same class with diverse ages and profiles, and, most importantly, the lack of attention given to struggling students - less likely to be left behind when working in small groups.
The approach has already proven successful locally, as described by Mrs. DIALLO FATI from the Ministry of National Education's Directorate of Initial and Continuing Training: "It's more fun, less solemn than when the teacher teaches the class, and more motivating for the students. For once, even the most difficult students are engaged in the work. The students enjoy these moments so much that some spontaneously form small groups when the teacher is absent."
An initiative that ticks many boxes for nationwide development. Moreover, in Niger, the offer of continuous training is often inadequate for the real challenges faced by teachers. "If this innovative approach was presented to teachers facing the same difficulties, it would certainly generate enthusiasm," says Mr. Idrissa Moussa, Director of Studies at the Niamey Teacher Training School.
Seeking National Impact
Although proven effective in practice, the method was not structured. For instance, student tutors were not adequately prepared for their mentoring role, and basic materials such as large slate boards were lacking. UNESCO's experiment therefore consisted in asking how this innovation could be transformed into a method that could be used throughout the country under the best possible conditions.
The first step was to introduce it to two teacher training colleges in Niger, which train future teachers. In collaboration with IIPE-UNESCO Dakar, they came up with an application for learning to read in the second grade class (CE1), which was tested in their local elementary school.
To establish a method for future teachers, they defined criteria for selecting student tutors, the size and profiles within groups, the teachers' intervention methods in the group, and ways to avoid chaotic situations.
In the end, it was decided that the groups would be made up of a mix of profiles, to encourage the inclusion of all, and that the groups would rotate from one workshop to another over a limited period of time. The approach was disseminated to all other teacher training institutions in the country. Technically, the innovation has been studied, validated, and must now be presented to decision-makers and planners.
But IIPE-UNESCO's support goes beyond just this innovation. "Our goal is to ensure that the Nigerien education system is informed of the existence of promising initiatives that can be integrated into the initial and continuous training of teachers," explains expert Moussa Hamani Ounteni. From parents organizing learning sessions to teachers bringing together students in difficulty, there is no shortage of practical and inspiring ideas for improving the quality of learning in schools across the country.