A Tanzanian teaching experience

first_img John Irving is director of LPC training and development at BPP Law School One of the greatest rewards for any coach, mentor or trainer in the development process is to be able to help individuals and teams realise their potential and develop their talent. The ‘dream’ scenario is that, before your eyes, skills are gradually mastered, performance improved and confidence built and sustained, especially when challenged by the inevitable uncertainties, challenges and difficulties that can arise. One of the most satisfying parts of my role has always been the coaching, mentoring and development of new and existing tutors. For many years I have been designing and delivering a comprehensive five-day teacher training and ‘train the trainer’ course for tutors, which I aim to gear to the specific needs of the participants. I was incredibly excited when I was asked by the International Lawyers Project (ILP) to transport our course to Tanzania to provide training for the Tanzanian Law School’s part-time staff. At this early stage of the evolution of the school the tutors were keen to share best practice on teaching law students on the Tanzanian equivalent of our Legal Practice Course. In particular, the Tanzanian tutors were interested to receive detailed training on the facilitation of ‘learning by doing’ (LBD) to enhance student application, analysis and levels of learning. An additional challenge for the tutors was to adapt such interactive training skills to working at certain times with classes of up to 50 or even 100. We spent a truly special week with an incredibly friendly and talented group of Tanzanian tutors. We were based in excellent conference facilities at the White Sands Hotel, about 30 minutes north of the centre of Dar Es Salaam, or three times that if you got caught in the horrendous Dar traffic. It was extraordinary to be extolling such topics as the virtues of student-centred learning and the most effective techniques for facilitating group work alongside shimmering white sands and the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean crashing onto the shore. It soon became clear to us that the tutors had a rich mix of talent and creative potential and were strongly committed to extending the use of LBD in their teaching. However, many of them needed the confidence to move from traditional didactic methods which they had experienced in their own education and which they used in their own teaching, to the more unpredictable, but much more effective student-centred approach. Much careful planning was needed by our team to reflect the Tanzanian legal training system, and some harsh teaching practicalities, plus Tanzanian customs, attitudes, interests and beliefs. Evenings by the beach were not as lazy as you might first think as we worked nightly on revising and even creating new materials, particularly on confidence development – luckily one of our great interests. However, we were inspired by the energy, commitment and inherent creative ability of the Tanzanian tutors. Unlocking the potential and growing tutor confidence was also helped by constantly working on the creation and maintenance of rapport and motivation. This was always achieved by physical activity, sporting analogies (no one believed me when I said England would win the World Cup), laughter and even singing. The fact that all of the tutors avidly followed at least one of England’s top Premier League teams also gave us plenty of ideas for innovative sessions in the course. It is wonderful to reflect now on the great bond we developed with the group. We found we had so much to share and learn from them, something that we had definitely underestimated. For example, Dr Ringo Tenga’s innovative teaching of airspace ownership will live long in our memories and would be a useful addition to the explanatory skills of any property solicitor, tutor or trainer. However, our most precious memory was to watch and feed back on individual tutor presentations on the final day of the course. Each tutor was asked to design and run an interactive activity, which had to include a mix of auditory, kinaesthetic and visual learning. We were thrilled to see the higher level of performance, creativity and increased confidence within the group. We were hugely impressed and feel sure that the Tanzanian tutors can approach their LBD revolution with confidence. There is no question that this was one of the most rewarding projects that any of us have ever been involved in. We were also touched at the excellent feedback we received from the group and especially by the kind words of Dr Fauz Twaib, one of the most experienced tutors, at the end of the course. Dr Twaib has been appointed a High Court judge since the course. I am certain that the course and his appointment were not connected! The administration and support given to us by the ILP and Tanzanian Law School, particularly from acting principal Dr Gerald Ndika, were superb. We also had thanks for the other members of our training team for their creativity, skills, resilience, good humour and commitment which led to such a memorable experience. I know that I speak for all of us by saying that we would be keen to share again in the development journey of the law school tutors, and are grateful to the ILP for giving us this wonderful opportunity.last_img