Teaching in Action (TIA) teacher training program

Congratulations! This Entry has been selected as a winner.

Teaching in Action (TIA) teacher training program

Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The purpose of the Teaching in Action Program is to provide the venue for Tanzanian teachers to modify their teaching methods from techniques that involve rote memorization to the more participatory and student-centered methods now required by the Tanzanian government. In addition to intensive, week-long experiential teacher training workshops, the project includes a rigorous evaluation component that will ensure that the approach AfricAid is taking is effective, and that will also provide sound empirical data to the Tanzanian Ministry of Education. Because each participating teacher will be expected to train 2-3 of their home school colleagues in the techniques learned at the workshop, hundreds of teachers and thousands of students will be reached by the 2009 program alone. The primary anticipated outcome of the program is that these new teaching methods will lead to better learning outcomes and increased critical thinking capacities among students, which will in turn allow them to matriculate to higher levels of education and more effectively participate in the workforce. Additionally, it is expected that the Teaching in Action program will ultimately become the model for a national teacher training program carried out by the Tanzanian Ministry of Education.

About You
Project Street Address

Mwenge University College of Education

Project City


Project Province/State

Kilimanjaro Region

Project Postal/Zip Code


Project Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on:


What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1-5 years

YouTube Upload
What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?


Describe your idea in fewer than 50 words.

TIA aims to improve the educational outcome for the 75% of Tanzanian students who fail their national examinations by conducting an annual professional development workshop for secondary school teachers in which they concretely learn how to utilize more student-centered, participatory teaching methods that engage students’ critical thinking abilities.

What makes your idea unique?

Tanzania has long had one of the world’s lowest transition rates from primary to secondary school—below 20%—and one of the most outmoded teacher education programs. Teachers have generally not been taught how to use active, student-centered methods, but rather are prepared to teach primarily through lecturing. As a result, most students learn strictly through rote memorization, rarely taught critical thinking skills or truly understanding the material. But, the past five years have witnessed two radical changes: first, a secondary education program was initiated in 2004 by the Tanzanian government to address the low transition rates between primary and secondary school. Since then, over 1,000 new secondary schools have been built across Tanzania, with 50% of eligible children now able to attend high school. Second, the national syllabi were revised to require the use of participatory, student-centered teaching methods. However, there is a huge deficit in the number of teachers qualified to teach in this significantly-expanded secondary sector, and few current teachers understand the new teaching methods now required of them. Through basic, short “crash course” programs, the government is trying to expand the teaching pool by training new teachers, but there is no accompanying program to train these, or current, teachers in the use of the new, student-centered methods. The TIA program is, thus, the only country-wide program in Tanzania offering training to secondary school teachers in these methods, and preparing them to become mentor teachers for their colleagues and heads of school back at their home schools.

What is your area of work? (Please check as many as apply.)

Children & Youth , Boys' development , Education , Education reform , Girls' development , Mentorship , Youth development , Youth leadership , Adult education , Mentorship , Women's issues , Youth leadership.

What impact have you had?

The TIA program builds upon a successful two-year pilot project carried out in June 2007 and June 2008 at Tanzania’s Mwenge University College of Education (MWUCE). During the first two years of the pilot project, MWUCE faculty members worked closely with the program’s author to successfully design and implement a week-long workshop for secondary school teachers across the country. The third year of the program will be held in July 2009, with teachers drawn from as many as 21 regions of Tanzania. By the conclusion of the third workshop, as many as 600 teachers will have been directly trained through the TIA program or will have been mentored by graduates of the course. As a result, this effort could ultimately impact as many as 20,000 Tanzanian secondary schools students in 2009 alone. The program’s positive impact was underscored by a recently-concluded on-site evaluation of the pilot project, including classroom observations, that provided evidence of noteworthy differences between TIA and non-TIA participants in both teaching methods and behavior management techniques. In focus group discussions during the evaluation, TIA participants described how these new teaching techniques were contributing to better student performance. One participant proudly shared that, on the recent national exam, his students performed second in the country in English and that, over the course of the year, all of the students had improved their English by at least a full letter grade -- all because he was challenging them to participate in a greater way in their own educations.

Describe the primary problem(s) that your project is addressing.

Tanzania requires all fourth-year secondary school students to take a rigorous national examination before being allowed to go on to higher learning. But 75% of students fail the exam, in part due to the outmoded, rote-teaching techniques used by their teachers. Unable to continue their schooling, and without specific skills or vocational training, they then face an economy with an unemployment rate of up to 40 percent. The goal of the program is, thus, to train secondary school teachers in student-centered, participatory methods of teaching that will help students to improve their critical thinking abilities. With greater capacity to think analytically, students will be better prepared for success on their national examinations and will be better equipped to compete in a scarce job market. Likewise, those that cannot continue their education after secondary school will have been equipped with the critical thinking skills that will, importantly, help them become self-sufficient.

Describe the steps that your organization is taking to make your project successful.

In 2009, AfricAid conducted an in-depth evaluation of the 2007 and 2008 TIA workshops, which included classroom observations of TIA and non-TIA participants, interviews with teachers and heads of school, and focus group discussions with students. Based on the findings of this evaluation, improvements have been made to the 2009 workshop. In July of 2009, MWUCE faculty will lead this third TIA workshop, instructing approximately 60 teachers from around Tanzania, who will return to their home schools to mentor their colleagues in the student-centered teaching techniques learned during the workshop. Based upon a 2010 evaluation of this modified workshop, the program will again be improved for expanded, regionally-based workshops. It is expected that these regional workshops will eventually serve as the model for student-centered teacher instruction in Tanzania, with the Ministry of Education incorporating the program into its teacher training initiatives by 2013.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Success in Year 1:

In 2009, the TIA project will be successful when the improvements suggested by the recent evaluation are incorporated and implemented into the July workshop, as measured by a subsequent evaluation planned for 2010. An essential criteria for success is that TIA participants mentor at least two colleagues in their home schools, in order that AfricAid’s investment in the workshop creates a multiplier effect. To achieve this end, modifications have been made to the 2009 workshop which will effectively equip teachers with the tools they need to train other teachers, and which will empower heads of school to oversee this mentorship.

Success in Year 2:

In 2010, the success of TIA project will be defined by the extent to which it expands to reach a greater number of teachers. In 2010, AfricAid plans to seek funding for two 60-person workshops, effectively doubling the total number of participants and teachers mentored at home schools. Additionally, AfricAid will train 10 TIA “master teachers” in 2010, who will be the individuals empowered to carry out regionally based workshops starting in 2011. To achieve these ends, AfricAid plans to demonstrate the success of the program through a second, in-depth evaluation planned for early 2010 and to apply for foundation funding.

Success in Year 3:

In 2011, AfricAid will seek funding for an expanded, regionally based series of workshops which are organized and led by the 10 TIA “master teachers” trained in 2010. These workshops will be informed by the 2007-2010 workshops, but will be designed with the goal that they become the model for the Ministry of Education’s teacher training initiatives by 2013. In this way, the TIA program will ultimately be taken on by the Tanzanian Ministry of Education and incorporated into its larger efforts to encourage student-centered instruction in the country’s secondary schools.

Do you have a business plan or strategic plan? (yes/no)

Yes, we have a TIA business plan and an AfricAid strategic plan.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 1:

First, AfricAid will conduct a successful third year of the TIA workshop, based upon the outcomes and lessons learned through the first two pilot years of the program. Through a 2010 evaluation, AfricAid will demonstrate that the model is continuing to improve student learning outcomes, and that teachers have been equipped to share what they learn in the workshop with colleagues in their home schools.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 2:

Second, AfricAid will seek funding for an expanded TIA workshop in 2010, which will double the number of teachers trained and mentors, and will provide training for 10 TIA “master teachers.” AfricAid will continue to seek funding from individual donors in order to fund the basic costs of the workshop, but it will seek foundation funding in order to cover the costs of the expanded workshop and subsequent evaluation.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 3:

Third, AfricAid will conduct rigorous evaluation of each TIA workshop, so that the success and effectiveness of the model is demonstrated. The evaluations will present findings on the impact of TIA on teaching techniques in Tanzanian classrooms, and also on student outcomes and critical thinking capacities. It is expected that, based upon these evaluations, the Tanzanian Ministry of Education will take on the program by 2013 and incorporate it into its own teacher training initiatives.

Describe the expected results of these actions.

It is expected that, in 2009, approximately 60 teachers from across Tanzania will participate in TIA, and will return to their home schools to mentor at least two of their colleagues. As a result, up to 20,000 Tanzanian students will be reached through the 2009 workshop alone. Through an expanded TIA program, and through an expanded and rigorous evaluation process, the relative success of the program will be demonstrated. This success will be measured both in terms of improved teaching techniques, and improved student learning outcomes and enhanced critical thinking skills. Ultimately, it is expected that, based upon these evaluations, the Tanzanian Ministry of Education will take on the program and incorporate it into its own teacher training initiatives. In this way, the TIA program will eventually impact the teaching techniques of every single teacher trained in Tanzanian colleges, and the hundreds of thousands of students they teach every year.

What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

AfricAid founder, Ashley Shuyler, has lived and taught in Tanzania for months at a time since 2005. Through focus group discussions with students and teachers, it became clear to her that Tanzanian students were learning primarily through rote memorization in the classroom, and that most of what they learned was not applicable to their future professional efforts. As a result, Ms. Shuyler initiated conversations with Professor Frances Vavrus from Columbia Teachers College, who had spent years conducting research in Tanzania, and who spent the 2006-2007 year as a Fulbright Scholar there. Dr. Vavrus’ extensive research with Tanzanian educators had led her to believe that reform within the Tanzanian education system must start with teachers. Dr. Vavrus therefore partnered with the faculty at Mwenge University College of Education, Tanzania’s most progressive teacher training college, in order to develop the materials needed to instruct Tanzanian teachers in the use of student-centered methods – methods that would ultimately lead students to develop vital critical thinking skills. Together, they developed concrete case studies, activities, and methods that would help teachers understand how to use a balance of student-centered and lecture-based methods in the context of Tanzanian classrooms – classrooms that are often overcrowded and without teaching and learning resources. Through a subsequent partnership with AfricAid, Dr. Vavrus and the Mwenge facultly were able to successfully implement the first year of the TIA program in 2007.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

There are three true social innovators behind this idea. The first is Professor Frances Vavrus, who served as a faculty member at Teachers College, Columbia University for eight years and recently joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Educational Policy and Administration. Dr. Vavrus’ longitudinal ethnographic research focuses on the Kilimanjaro Region of northern Tanzania, where she has intermittently lived, taught, and studied since 1992. During the 2006-2007 school year, Dr. Vavrus was a Fulbright Scholar at Mwenge University College of Education (MWUCE) in Tanzania. She has written dozens of articles and chapters, and is the author of the book, Desire and Decline: Schooling amid crisis in Tanzania.

The second social innovator behind TIA is Joachim Msaki, former Principal of MWUCE. While at MWUCE, Dr. Msaki expanded the student body from just a few dozen students to over 200 students, while maintaining MWUCE’s reputation as a center for excellence in teacher training. Dr. Msaki worked with Dr. Vavrus to design and implement the first TIA workshop, and has ensured the program’s continuation at MWUCE in subsequent years.

The third social innovator in this project is Ashley Shuyler, founder of AfricAid. After a trip to Tanzania in 1996 at age 11, Ms. Shuyler founded AfricAid five years later in order to support girls’ education there. Because of her extensive research in Tanzania, Ms. Shuyler has led AfricAid to support those educational initiatives such as TIA that work to improve the quality of education offered to students on the continent.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Through a meeting with Ken Weil, who was formerly involved with Ashoka and Youth Venture.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

The TIA program will not be able to successfully expand without a sizeable grant with which to take it to the next level and train a corps of “master teachers” to conduct workshops at the regional level. Without such expansion – and without the associated opportunity to demonstrate the model’s success – it is unlikely that the Tanzanian Ministry of Education will take on the program. Likewise, the Ministry of Education will not incorporate the program into its own teacher training initiatives unless thorough evaluations are conducted, demonstrating the program’s relative success and effectiveness in improving student learning outcomes. For these reasons, AfricAid will work hard to identify additional funding for TIA’s expansion, and will ensure that proper and thorough evaluations are conducted on an ongoing basis.

Financing source


If yes, provide organization name.

TIA is being conducted in partnership with AfricAid, Inc. and Mwenge University College of Education in Tanzania, and through faculty members and graduate students from Columbia University and the University of Minnesota.

How long has this organization been operating? (i.e. less than a year; 1-5 years; more than 5 years)

Over five years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?

AfricAid has a 14-person Board of Directors and an Advisory Board.

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs? (yes/no)


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses? (yes/no)


The Story
Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government? (yes/no)


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

AfricAid works with several NGO partners as part of its ongoing work to support educational efforts in East Africa; these partnerships are vital in helping us to leverage our work and minimize service redundancy and overhead expenses. In order to support the TIA program, specifically, AfricAid has partnered with Mwenge University college of Education (MWUCE) in Moshi, Tanzania, and with the University of Minnesota. Mwenge has provided the venue in which the workshop can occur but, more importantly, the Mwenge faculty work to develop and lead the workshop, helping to tailor the program to best fit the Tanzanian context. Finally, the faculty and graduate teams from the University of Minnesota help to ground the program in the body of research about teacher training in the developing world, assist in evaluation design and analysis, and partner with Mwenge faculty in order to design and modify the workshop each year.

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the total number of employees and total number of volunteers at your organization?

Two contract employees and four interns at AfricAid

What is your organization's business classification?

Non-profit/NGO/citizen sector organization

Have you received funding from any of the following groups? (Please check as many as apply.)

None of the above.