Innovative methodologies and new perspectives are empowering Nigerian educators
Ayodele Adetayo, is an ICT teacher and Training and Staff Development Coordinator at Grace High School in Lagos. Our interview happens during his final lesson for the day, and seeing his calm demeanour in a classroom full of energetic, and loud youngsters is impressive. He’s giving us this time because we’re talking about doing things differently in the classroom, and the benefits that come from a modernised teaching approach, a topic that he is passionate about.
In 2021, in the midst of hybrid teaching due to the Covid pandemic, Ayodele graduated from the HP IDEA Fellowship program, a one-year course attended by a select group of innovative educational practitioners and instructional leaders.
“When I heard about the invitation to attend the HP IDEA program, I thought about the challenges that many of our teachers are having with online learning. I recommended to my principal that we send a team to participate, and I selected the teachers from the maths, science and ICT departments in both the junior and high school,” says Ayodele.
“Our first goal was to learn new ways of doing things, things that were different and unexpected. Of course, some of the things we had been taught before, but because of the peculiarity of the pandemic, we are facing a totally different ballgame now.”
Ayodele explains that he got much more from the program than he expected. “One of the biggest learnings was about the importance of data and data visualization. What I noted was that not every piece of information is important, but every piece of information is relevant. It doesn’t matter whether the data point is positive or negative, because if it is positive, there is a reason, and if it is negative, there is also a reason. Typically, when it comes to schools in Nigeria, we aren’t keeping data but there is so much value in keeping and analyzing data. I’ve come to realize that data is life. It is very important for schools, teachers, and students, to keep data because we need to implement projects and activities within budgets, fiscal events and we need to do it within certain timelines, for example.”
The impact of approaching things differently
“Now that I’m keeping data, I can explore and use it to see what I am doing right, and what am I doing wrong. I cannot express how this experience has helped me – it’s massive. If I use data, for example to keep track of student performance in a test, I can see ‘oh, okay the learner got this wrong’. Then I go back to previous test scores, and I can see that the same questions are being answered incorrectly. If I can identify the problem, I can put it right. You can give extra attention in areas where you can see historically that something is not quite right. In addition, you can identify what is working and therefore, commend learners for consistently doing well, and you know that the way you are teaching that particular information is correct.”
Ayodele says that the changes in methodologies that his team were exposed to, especially when it comes to the different domains of teaching, were really impactful. “In Nigeria, when it comes to learning to be a teacher, things are kept ‘old school’. With the involvement of HP, I have been exposed to varied and current methodologies from international colleges such as Harvard Graduate School of Education, University of Michigan, and others. As a team, we have taken these new methodologies, explored them, and then began to implement them in our classrooms. The students are also very happy, because it has made learning interesting.”
One of the methodologies encourages teachers to move away from the linear style of teaching, which results in a more one-to-one scenario, where students work alone on projects after school. “Now we have the students sit in groups and discuss topics, and we assist them. They are learning to collaborate and work in teams, as you would when you’re employed after school. This is important because you don’t work on your own after school, so you need to learn to work in teams.”
Three big challenges facing educators in Nigeria
There are many challenges faced by educators across the African continent; many are the same, but others are specific to individual countries. When asked about what he felt were the three major challenges facing teachers in Nigeria, Ayodele highlighted several that need to be addressed.
“One of the reasons we have challenges in Nigeria is that we are not used to applying critical thinking to find solutions when particular problems arise. In addition, the internet connection is a major issue as it is constantly dropping. It has been very challenging for online teaching.” To prove his point, he explained all the things he had to go through to ensure we had a connection stable enough for the MS Teams video interview.
“Another big challenge in Nigeria is that the curriculum and syllabus used to teach trainee teachers in schools, colleges, and universities are out of date. It is challenging to teach in the classrooms because the youth of today are a lot more advanced, so we really need 21st Century teaching methodologies. Unfortunately, most schools don’t have that. That’s another thing that I learned from HP: I need to create my own additions to the syllabus, such as my online physics class. I can decide to have the class online today, and tomorrow to have it in the classroom. But even when we are in class, we can incorporate lessons from the internet. For me that’s a big thing, and most teachers can’t do that. Changing mindsets around new methodologies takes time though, you can’t force it, or it won’t work.”
Ayodele has worn the biggest smile throughout the interview, and you can see how passionate he is about teaching, about doing things differently, and the love he has for his students. He even asked permission to pause the interview to answer a call from a parent.
Approaching teaching from a different perspective
Ayodele says the HP IDEA course has helped him to see teaching with a completely different outlook, and it has inspired him to continue to learn more and implement what he has learned. It has had an impact not only on his teaching style, but on the more administrative role he holds at the school, “As the Training and Staff Development Coordinator at our school, being on this course has helped me to identify areas of further training for our teachers. I have a better understanding of the methodologies that we want our teachers to implement in the classroom.”
It has also made him think more about his future. “I had initially wanted to do something here in Nigeria, do a further diploma, but now I’ve decided I want to go overseas, to study in the United Kingdom, or America. I feel if I do it here in Nigeria, I’d almost be going back, whereas I want to move forward. I want to learn the latest methodologies and then bring it back here. It will allow me to share this knowledge and be a mentor to others, particularly for new teachers just starting out.”
Empowering educators across the continent
While it isn’t easy to change perceptions, or syllabi overnight, there are ways to support our teachers in the classroom. HP IDEA is a part of HP’s commitment to enable better learning outcomes for 100 million people globally by 2025. The program has been launched in 15 countries across Africa, Middle East, and Central Asia: Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Morocco, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Egypt, UAE, Oman, KSA, Qatar, and Kazakhstan.
For more information on the HP Innovation and Digital Education Academy, please click here.