Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA)

About the Project

This project is one of the 2011 WISE Awards winners.

TESSA has been successfully creating and disseminating Open Educational Resources (OER) to support teacher education across Sub-Saharan Africa since 2005. It is a network of institutions and organizations collaborating to improve the quality of teacher education.

The importance of high-quality teaching in shaping pupils’ educational experiences is increasingly being recognized and TESSA was conceptualized in response to this need to pay attention to teacher education.

The TESSA community has harnessed the affordances of the web and OER and teacher educators’ intellectual capital to collaboratively develop teacher education materials which are conceptually strong but sufficiently flexible to be used successfully at scale across numerous cultural and linguistic contexts whilst retaining their purpose and integrity. Thus TESSA OER have been adapted for different country contexts in four languages – English, French, Arabic and Kiswahili. All are available in multiple formats from the TESSA online environment.

TESSA OER are structured around professional classroom activities which aim to improve the effectiveness of teacher–pupil interactions. They provide building blocks for new courses or enhance existing programs. Most education systems in Africa are attempting to embrace more active approaches to teaching and learning and TESSA provides an exemplification of this.

Context and Issue

TESSA addresses the issue of quality of teaching and learning with the focus on curriculum design and delivery of teacher education. Sub-Saharan Africa is in urgent need of new and better qualified teachers. There are millions of children without a teacher and many existing primary teachers are in urgent need of professional learning opportunities to raise levels of pupil achievement – large numbers of children leave school without learning the basics of literacy and numeracy. Teacher education is thus a major cause for concern and there is an urgent need to re-model existing programs to improve their focus on classroom practice and to develop new modes of teacher training to increase the supply of trained teachers, particularly in rural areas.

Solution and Impact

TESSA OER focuses on classroom teaching practices and its project model is strongly characterized by the following aspects:

  • Collaborative creation and adaptation of multilingual OER
  • Contextually relevant resources which model active pedagogy for teachers and teacher educators, bridging theory and practice
  • Flexibility of resources allowing for customization and different user pathways in a tremendous variety of contexts and programs

The flexibility of the TESSA OER has supported locally managed pedagogic change in a wide range of teacher education programs including those in universities, colleges and community organizations. Integration and use of the TESSA OER has improved understanding of the value of “practice” within these programs and how it links with theory – mediating the theory/practice divide experienced by many teachers. In terms of impact, teachers on these programs show improved classroom skills and greater understanding of “learner-centered” approaches within their classrooms – recognizing the knowledge and skills of their learners and engaging in joint construction of knowledge.

Future Developments

The next steps and developments for TESSA include: 

  • A MOOC for teacher educators to support them in using digital technologies to enact more participatory pedagogy with trainee teachers
  • Development of a Badged Open Course to support early reading (with the African Storybook initiative)
  • Supporting capacity building to embed the use of the TESSA OER
  • Development of OER resources to support teachers and teacher educators to move towards more inclusive classrooms.

The above-mentioned objectives will be achieved through a number of funded project grants. For example, funding from the  William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is enabling TESSA to pilot the use of tablet computers containing TESSA OER and the TESSA Teaching Practice toolkit in three states in Nigeria. In Ghana a successful model of use of TESSA OER at one college of education is being extended to further colleges.

May 26, 2011 (last update 12-22-2020)