Students' Research Projects - Summer 2019

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George Clement Bond Center for African Education

Teachers College, Columbia University

OCTOBER 2019: Students' Research Projects

School Leaders and Teacher Professional Development in Learner-Centered Pedagogy: A Case Study in Tanzania

Alyssa Baylor

This past summer, I spent six weeks in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. With support from the CAE Travel Grant, I conducted a research study and facilitated a teacher training series for 15 primary school teachers. My research aims to understand the relationship between school leadership and teachers’ adoption of learning-centered pedagogy (LCP) in low-resourced contexts. In recent years, many African countries have reformed their curriculum to align with “international standards,” and through my coursework, I learned that LCP is very much a part of this trend. As a former teacher, I was interested in looking at how trends in global education policy impact the everyday experiences of teachers and school leaders. Further, I was curious about the differences between how LCP is articulated versus how it is enacted by both school leaders and teachers. The data I collected includes ten in-depth interviews, classroom lesson observations and participant observations. For those interested in conducting their own empirical research study for their IP I suggest getting as much feedback and guidance on your research design as possible and taking at least two research methods courses before writing your proposal. It will save you time in the latter phases of the research process.

Alyssa is an M.A. student studying International Educational Development with a specialization in African Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Teacher Professional Development in Crisis Contexts: Supporting Educators Working with Refugees in Uganda

Jamie Bowen

Uganda currently hosts more than 1.15 million refugees, over 60% of whom are children. Given the protracted nature of displacement in the region, many of these children attend school in Uganda for their entire educational careers, while the Ministry of Education and Sport struggles to supply and support the teachers needed for the influx of students. My research aims to examine the ways in which teachers are supported through professional development within this context. Through classroom observations and semi-structured interviews in Kampala and Imvepi, a refugee settlement in the West Nile region, I examined teacher professional development structures, the extent to which new knowledge and practices are transferred to the classroom, and teachers’ perceptions of effective professional development. The study aims to further analyze the ways in which these perceptions align or diverge from policy.

Conducting research in Uganda, and particularly in Imvepi, has been immensely rewarding. I was impressed by teachers’ dedication and ingenuity in creating informal processes to share knowledge and best practices. For those considering research in similar contexts, my advice is to ensure enough time in the field to navigate the inconsistent bureaucracies that may impede your study. The learning opportunities are worth the challenge.

Catherine has taught science at Old Kampala Primary School for more than 15 years. Working with Ugandan and refugee children in Uganda's capital city, Catherine is passionate about making science accessible to all students through hands-on activities, song and movement, and a positive learning environment.

Catherine (right photo) has taught science at Old Kampala Primary School for more than 15 years. Working with Ugandan and refugee children in Uganda's capital city, Catherine is passionate about making science accessible to all students through hands-on activities, song and movement, and a positive learning environment.

Jamie is an M.A. student studying International Educational Development at Teachers College, Columbia University. 

Bilingual Education Research in Senegal

Erina Iwasaki

An innovative “simultaneous” biliteracy program in Wolof or Pulaar alongside French has recently been piloted in Senegal by Associates in Research and Education for Development (ARED), a Senegalese NGO, in partnership with the Ministry of National Education (MEN). This program has influenced the country to consider adopting a “harmonized bilingual model” as national language-in-education policy.

M.A. student Jemima Douyon and I accompanied Professor Carol Benson to Dakar in July and August 2019 to collect further data, following up on Erina and Carol’s evaluation conducted in November 2018 in collaboration with Professor Mbacké Diagne from Université Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD). We focused on three aspects: the current state of language-in-education policy in the country; the design and functioning of the “simultaneous” biliteracy approach, which is uniquely in line with current research on multilingual education; and the historical work of advocates of bilingual education in Senegal. The TC team also explored collaborative research possibilities with UCAD and ARED and designed three internships for TC students. Over the course of ten days in the country, we held 14 meetings with stakeholders, including linguists, civil society organization leaders, university professors, bilingually trained teachers and inspectors, government officials and international organization representatives.

Left photo: Jemima Douyon, Erina Iwasaki, ARED director Mamadou Ly and Carol Benson 

Right photo: Jemima Douyon, Erina Iwasaki, Carol Benson in front of Université de Cheikh Anta Diop

Erina is a Doctoral Fellow in Comparative and International Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Kubana N’bandi (To live together): A Mixed Methods Study of Self-Reported Feelings of Belonging in Rwandan Orphaned and Vulnerable Children and their Perceptions of Peacebuilding

Darren Rabinowitz 

This past summer, with support from the CAE Travel Grant, I conducted a mixed-methods study in Rwanda of orphaned and vulnerable children's (OVC’s) self-reported feelings of belonging. Central to my research was better understanding the relationship between OVC feelings of belonging and peace-building in the post-conflict context. Rwandans who supported the research shared with me that in Kinyarwanda, the mother tongue of Rwanda, there are words in English that require many words in Kinyarwanda to describe. For example, belonging was best translated as kubana n'bandi which translates to “living together.” Constantly requiring an explanation of belonging only deepened my own understanding of what belonging means for Rwandan OVCs. For others who are interested in conducting research in the African context, I would suggest engaging with as many local partners as possible in the research process, even if it is simply having a short conversation about one of the ideas or terms you seek to investigate. When I shared with Rwandans why I had come and why their stories were important to me, it deepened my own personal definition of belonging and what belonging means when one accepts the responsibility to carry someone else's personal story and ideas. 

 

Darren is an M.A. student studying International Educational Development at Teachers College, Columbia University.

What Was Once Public is Now Private: Understanding the Emergence of Education Public-Private Partnerships in Higher Education in Guyana 

Katrina Webster

This past summer, I collected data for my mixed methods study on education public-private partnerships (ePPPs) in Guyana, a developing country on the brink of becoming a major oil-producer in 2020. I became interested in learning more about private actors’ contributions to the education sector after taking a class on education privatization, which helped me develop my IP. Although current scholarship discusses the impacts of ePPPs and government rationales for their adoption, less is known about the emergence of the partnerships themselves — how and why private actors become involved and how their motivations shape these partnerships. My study seeks to shed light on the motivations of multinational corporations and the public sector for establishing ePPPs by examining ExxonMobil’s corporate and foundation funding of two partnerships at the University of Guyana. I interviewed partnership stakeholders and representatives from government ministries, and my study includes a survey of undergraduate freshman students at the university to gauge how the goals of the ePPPs are aligned with students’ educational goals. Guyana is a very small country and everyone is connected, so if you are thinking about doing research there, I recommend making the time to get to know people outside of your research.

Katrina is an M.A. student studying International Educational Development with a specialization in International Policy & Planning at Teachers College, Columbia University.