May 5, 2021

Researchers at Luigi Giussani Institute for Higher Education in Uganda Showcase Findings at CIES21 Conference

During panel discussions, LGIHE researchers John Mitana, Mauro Giacomazzi and Gillian Atuheire presented various experiences on how school leaders and teachers are themselves empowered to become critical thinkers and problem solvers

COVID-19 has not slowed the need to improve educational outcomes in East Africa. If anything, the global emergency has thrown a spotlight on learning disparities in developing nations. The educational professionals and researchers at Luigi Giussani Institute for Higher Education in Uganda (LGIHE) – an AVSI-USA long-term partner – have been working for over a decade to promote teaching methods that unlock the full potential of each learner. 

“School leaders and teachers are the linchpin to the radical change needed to ignite self-awareness and critical thinking in learners.”

LGIHE staff participated in the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) conference, the premier event for more than 3,000 international education researchers, analysts, practitioners, and students from over 1,000 universities and research institutes. This year’s conference was held virtually on account of COVID-19 restrictions from April 25 – May 2. Nonetheless, educational professionals were able to present their work to a wide audience. 

During a panel discussion entitled Enhancing Teacher Critical Thinking Dispositions and Skills for Improving Learner Outcomes, researchers including Giacomazzi and his colleague Gillian Atuheire presented various experiences from Uganda on how teachers themselves are empowered to become critical thinkers and problem solvers. Without these skills, teachers won’t be able to pass on critical thinking competencies to students. The panelists were all part of the Regional Educational Learning Initiative (RELI), a collaboration which includes over 70 organizations working to bring inclusive learning to all children in East Africa. All panelists agreed that implementing the new lower school curriculum in Uganda represents a unique opportunity to shift teaching practices to more effective learner-centered approaches. 

“We find that teachers are worried about the new curriculum,” said Joseph Lample, Executive Director of Kimanya Ngeyo Foundation for Science and Education, “When they take our trainings, they see how to apply and practice the new approaches in the classroom, and they become very enthusiastic.”

Research also shows that school leaders play a crucial role as change-makers in school systems. Leadership is especially important during times of crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted schooling globally. John Mary Vianney Mitana, LGIHE’s Principal, saw the COVID crisis as an opportunity to help school administrators lead differently, more effectively.  LGIHE offered school leaders the chance to engage in systematic reflection about their practice during the crisis and provided mentorship on three major aspects: preparation for schools reopening; technology for learning and school management and; emergency remote and blended teaching. Mitana presented his findings at CIES in a paper called Uncovering the Role of School Leaders during the Covid-19 Pandemic: Lessons from An Action Research Project in Uganda. 

Preliminary results indicate that when school leaders are supported, they are able to better support their teachers and reach out to learners and their families in effective ways. It also indicates that teachers and learners need more than technical support, they also need emotional support to navigate the effects of Covid-19. 

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