Since 2014, the Practical Education Network (PEN) has equipped over 3000 teachers from remote communities across Ghana, with skills to engage their students in hands-on science learning.
In 2020, however, the COVID-19 pandemic brought an indefinite pause to the workshops. And while the switch to virtual learning became the obvious alternative for most people and organisations, PEN, however, had to grapple with reaching teachers in communities with limited connectivity while also, re-tooling their primarily in-person curriculum into digital modules.
“The fact that PEN’s approach is highly experiential meant that online training did not appear anywhere in PEN’s 5-year strategic plan,” shared PEN CEO and founder Dr. Heather Beem. “But COVID-19 pushed us to bold action. We managed to pivot to online training, developed new content, and mobilized stakeholders to deploy our modules.”
Through working with organizations like the Education Collaborative, PEN developed models for online workshops including, a train-the-trainer program for high school teachers. The program not only provided the teachers with skills to engage students online but also, to train fellow teachers with the skills they had picked up.
“Going through this training has broadened my knowledge on how practical science lessons should be conducted, even online,” shared Abdul-Rauf Salifu, head of the Science Department of the EP Agric Senior High School, in Ghana’s Northern Region, and also one of the five teachers who participated in the pilot train-the-trainer workshop.
Following the training sessions, the teachers were tasked to train at least ten others within their schools and local communities. This way, teachers in the most remote of areas could still benefit from the training modules.
“Most science topics are taught abstractly though the subject requires engaging students in activities and experiments that allow them to understand easily,” shared Abdul-Rauf. “The hands-on science modules will help teachers make science relatable to students through using basic elements within our environment. On a whole, there was great feedback from the teachers during the workshops.”
By the end of 2021, PEN and Education Collaborative hope to train over 100 teachers through this model, one that has already started paying dividends through the community.
“The impact of working with PEN and the Education Collaborative has been very positive for our community,” shared Abdul Rauf. “On a visit by the team from the Ministry of Education, they were impressed with how we were using local local materials and offered to donate science equipment to meet the department’s needs.”
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