Action-oriented research seeks to transform school leadership in Uganda

By Dr. John Mary Vianney Mitana, Principal, Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education

Students showcasing their innovations during a science congress

Action oriented research to help transform school leadership in Uganda

By Dr. John Mary Vianney Mitana, Principal, Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education.

The covid-19 pandemic has affected the education sector worldwide. Uganda is no different. And it has also seen a worrying increase in child marriages.

In Tororo district, 1833 girls aged between 10-19 years were reported to be pregnant within the first 90 days of the lockdown as reported by the Daily Monitor. Few return to school. These numbers could be even higher as the statistics only show those who accessed ante-natal services. Some girls became pregnant in relationships, but others were defiled by relatives and some parents accepted bride price for child-marriages.

“We need affirmative action to ensure these girls get back to school and actively participate in learning activities. Otherwise equity in education in Uganda will remain an illusion,” says Ms. Jean Mary Wendo, a researcher at LGIHE.

During the pandemic period, the education landscape has experienced a myriad of challenges. Lack of sufficient resources to implement online learning meant that school leaders needed to be innovative in their teaching methods for students to continue learning.

School leaders need planning tools to help them provide equity and quality education for all. Senior research staff of Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education (LGIHE) have spoken to school leaders about the importance of action research as a tool for engaging partners in the education sector to promote the holistic development of institutions, teachers and learners.

Researchers are working to provide action research as a tool to transform school leadership. Action research is a method of systematic enquiry that teachers undertake in the teaching practice. This draws on findings of other researchers to help in developing actions and interpreting consequence. These studies help to improve methods and approach of participants.

In their initial engagement, LGIHE sought to provide a framework to improve their teacher education programmes and explain how action research can be used in addressing context-specific educational challenges in Uganda. The research done between May 2017 to April 2018, provided tools for school leaders to independently search for context-relevant solutions to their local challenges.

School leaders examined the daily teaching methods in their profession. This processes also involved examining the school’s policy and how it had enhanced systemic improvement. The conclusion in the results showed that there is need for a comprehensive and critical appraisal of the teachers working context, environment, and resources in order to improve the teaching practice. These findings were published in a scientific paper in April 2021.

The LGIHE researchers also sought to understand how coaching and mentorship can be used to support teachers and school leaders to improve teaching.

“Our engagement was based on the premise that Sub-Saharan countries and in particular Uganda are grappling with poor learning outcomes at all levels. The ability of teachers and school leaders to respond to learners’ needs for better outcomes, still remains a great challenge,” added Ms. Wendo.

They believe that in order to tackle, the learning crisis, the teacher crisis has to be solved first. Using a self-study methodology, a section of teachers and school leaders were engaged to create learning communities and communities of practice.

The conclusion of the study showed that this methodology should be encouraged to promote collaborative learning and self-assessments as it has proven helpful in contextualising teacher education and empowerment. The results were published in a scientific paper in September 2021.

 “Action research and self-study still have a long way to go ” says Ms. Wendo, “but we have made a great start.

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