Tallahassee, FL – The Learning Systems Institute (LSI) at Florida State University (FSU) is conducting a major project in Zambia to improve pre-service teacher training. In partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Transforming Teacher Education (TTE) project works with School-to-School International and the University of Zambia.
While FSU faculty and staff are in Zambia conducting a range of training and professional development initiatives, a key component to the program’s long-term success is the residency of Zambian educational leaders at FSU. This spring, the two fellows from Zambia residing at Florida State as part of the TTE Project are Handili Jimaima and Joshua Zulu. Both Jimaima and Zulu teach at Chalimbana University in Chongwe, Zambia. Since mid-January, they have been at FSU learning, observing and training so they can influence generations of teachers and students when they return home in June.
“Many education capacity development projects are short—too short to have a lasting impact on knowledge and pedagogy,” said principal investigator Dr. Stephanie Zuilkowski of LSI. “This project aims to ensure that there is also deep investment in key individuals who can be leaders in their field long after the project has ended. The fellows are key to Transforming Teacher Education’s sustainability plans.”
For Jimaima and Zulu, a typical week during the residency involved most of their time spent in the classroom, interacting with Florida State professors and students and conducting research. The focus of their studies is literacy and methods with the goal of training their Zambian colleagues to more effectively help children learn how to read and provide safe learning environments.
“We came here to review the reading courses FSU offers to literacy teachers,” said Zulu. “We have been reviewing courses to explore ways of improving materials and teaching methods for teachers back home.”
“During the spring semester, we attended literacy classes to observe how lessons were managed, observing the methodology used,” said Jimaima. “I am also spending time reading through materials on literacy.”
The most important takeaways for the pair from the time at FSU were the teaching methods and the importance technology plays in reaching students. The fellows found the student-focused approach at FSU was a significant area of interest. They were also struck by the critical role technology played in the teaching process at FSU.
“One of the biggest differences is how the material is presented to students in the lectures,” said Zulu. “It is student-centered learning here. At home, we teach theoretically, and here at FSU, it is more practical.”
“The use of technology is excellent at FSU,” said Jimaima. “It made lesson delivery easier and allowed students an easy way to gain access to study materials before lessons and lectures. This enabled students to fully participate in class discussions. The use and type of technology helped students retain and apply what they discover on their own through reading. Basically, the use of technology made it possible to have learner-centered lessons.”
In relation to the greater TTE project, the residency program offers an opportunity for the fellows to influence generations of teachers and, in turn, students for decades to come. The lessons the pair learned in Tallahassee will be put into practice immediately upon their return to Zambia in June.
“I hope they take away with them a variety of types of knowledge, including current evidence on early grade reading and pre-service teacher training and greater knowledge of research methods,” said Dr. Zuilkowski. “They have developed international networks with literacy scholars, both at FSU and elsewhere, through participation in conferences. Also, they have had the opportunity to observe excellent pre-service teacher training at FSU, which we hope will support the broader changes that Transforming Teacher Education is promoting in the Zambian system.”
“I learned quite a lot,” said Jimaima. “First, I learned that my lessons must be learner-centered and practical. Second, I have learned not to take the Peer Teaching aspect for granted. I will ensure that every lecturer takes this seriously so that our students can gain confidence in methodologies before they can depart to serve. Third, I learned the importance of phonemic and phonological awareness in literacy development. I will also try to encourage the use of technology to make our teaching easier and more efficient.”
The Learning Systems Institute (LSI) at Florida State University is at the forefront of developing innovative solutions that bridge theory and practice in education. Our experts’ advanced research not only provides state-of-the-art methods but also a clear path for implementation. For more than 50 years, LSI has delivered systems that measurably improve the learning and performance of organizations and individuals here in Florida and across the world.
The U.S. Agency for International Development administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide.