The effect of continuing professional education on science teachers’ competence at secondary schools in Tanzania
Nkurlu, Susana J.
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In Tanzania, the number of students dropping science subjects has risen greatly, and their interest in science is very low. As a result, students perceive science subjects to be more difficult, unappealing, and irrelevant. One of the key factors in this decline is an unsuitable and outdated approach to the teaching of science in schools that ultimately inhibits students’ learning. One of the solutions to this dilemma is to allow teachers to participate in professional development programs. Research has shown that participating in professional development activities is one way teachers develop the expertise necessary to enact inquiry-based practices in their classrooms. Thus, this study sought to (a) understand how the professional development learning experiences of Tanzanian secondary school science teachers influenced their instructional practices and (b) examine the approaches that science teachers utilized in the classroom, specifically the inquiry-based approach. This study was conducted with 13 participants who are secondary school science teachers, and it used semi-structured interviews, observations and document analysis. The three research questions guiding the study were: (1) What kinds of professional development opportunities do science teachers receive? (2) What methods do Tanzanian secondary school teachers use to teach science to their students? (3) How do science teachers come to understand and make sense of what an inquiry-based approach means in teaching science? The findings resulted in four main conclusions for the study: (1) the professional development for teachers was limited, inconsistent, and uneven and did not meet the modern standards of science education; (2) quality teaching was hindered by government policies that limited access to resources and infrastructure; (3) the Tanzanian science curriculum does not incorporate the inquiry-based approach; and (4) the encumbrance of teaching science to meet the requirement of the curriculum significantly affected the quality of the instruction.