A post on some of the work I have been doing at the Aga Khan University – Institute for Educational Development during my posting.

You’ve been hearing a lot about Dar es Salaam the city and my experience of her. But I am of course not just here to take in the sights and sounds of this city but to also work. As you might know, I’m in TZ on a fellowship through the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, a program that’s been operating for decades and has been sending Canadians from throughout the country to different parts of the developing world. This year, 26 individuals including myself have been sent to far flung parts of the globe in countries like Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, and Madagascar to name a few. Each Fellow is paired with a partner agency either belonging to the larger AKDN network or other agencies like CARE. I’ve been paired with the Aga Khan University – Institute for Educational Development, a university that offers East Africa one of the most competitive M.Ed programs in the region along with providing workshops and training programs for already existing in-service teachers and conducting some interesting research in the areas of gender equity, math and science education and early childhood education.

The AKU-IED belongs within the larger umbrella of the AKDN. One of 30 AKU campuses around the world, it is staffed by very competent, devoted and professional faculty. Along with me are 3 interns working at the IED, Mimi, Shemine and Tracy, who are all here contributing to the research capacity of the university and assisting in the AKU in various ways.

I am specifically doing impact research. Using a narrative enquiry-based research approach, I’m responsible for communicating to our partners, donors, and prospective students the achievements of the IED and its graduates. I have a great job. I get to talk to people. My first interview with an alumni took place in Morogoro. Euphrasia Buchuma is a great educator. After having completed her undergraduate degree in education, she was a teacher who eventually became a District Education Officer. After graduating from the IED, she went on to become the Regional Education Officer for a very large region of Tanzania. She is now responsible for 500+ primary schools, close to a hundred secondary schools and the education of thousands of students. Those numbers, while impressive, and her promotion still don’t tell us much about the impact that her time at the IED had. But the improvement in grades, teaching methods, pedagogies used to teach math and science, and the professional development of teachers and head teachers under the IED’s outreach programs, paint a much more vivid picture. Where Euphrasia went, school improvement followed. In her own words, the IED “really wanted us to be someone and to be change agents back home. And they succeeded.”

It’s great being able to hear stories like this. Before the end of 2013, I will be going to Uganda to continue interviewing other graduates from our program and to hear their narratives and stories about their experience at the IED. Besides doing this research, I’m also busy crunching numbers, churning out quantitative data that backs up and supports the narratives that we’re harnessing.

Most recently, the director of the IED, my direct supervisor, has asked me to embark on a completely new project after seeing my work on this impact research. More broadly, she would like to apply this methodology of analyzing impact on our programs, interventions and research. I’ve now been tasked to come up with a document that allows us to measure and determine metrics and indicators that we can utilize to pinpoint other areas of successes, and yes, even shortcomings, so that we can continue to improve our programs and attract donors. This is important for the university as such donors allow a great many students to pursue their studies on scholarship and also funds lecturers and researchers at the IED to undertake some regionally and contextually important research around education.

While this is an area that I have familiarity with through my own action-based research utilized in my Master of Teaching at the Institute of Education, the skills that I am gaining here at the IED around data collection, triangulation of data sets, the use of qualitative and quantitative data, and the analysis of such data, reinforce past strengths in research. With a stack of research textbooks and papers on program evaluation and literature on monitoring & evaluation, I’m deepening a knowledge set that I know will not only be of use to the IED but to my own long term career goals.

 

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