Texas Tech's HDFS Team Makes Global Impact on the Future of Ethiopian Educators
Executive Director of the Center for Early Head Start Stephanie Shine, Ph.D. led a team to Ethiopia this summer to share constructivist teaching skills with local educators.
Alongside Dr. Shine, Early Childhood (EC) undergraduate student Helen Jennings and Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) graduate and Director of Early Childhood Education in Midland ISD, Della Frye traveled to Ethiopia June 18–29 to deliver a course to over 60 early childhood professionals.
The team offered a two-week course of professional development in conjunction with Jigjiga University's Dean of Education and Behavioural Sciences Yigzaw Haile, Ph.D and Beide Melaku, Ph.D with courses on constructivist methods of teaching young children, supporting children in becoming divergent thinkers and learning to be problem solvers while actively involved in hands-on learning experiences. The training program was supported in part by a $2,000 seed grant from the Texas Tech University (TTU) Office of International Affairs and a $19,173 grant from Jigjiga University.
"The idea for the course was determined after the first visit to Ethiopia and a subsequent visit of the Ethiopian team to Texas Tech University where they observed the Child Development Research Center (CDRC), the Center for Early Head Start, and Alderson Elementary," Dr. Shine explains. "Dr. Yigzaw wrote that in Ethiopia, 'Young children are hungry for good programs, teachers are hungry for good training, classrooms are hungry for good practices.'"
The goal of the course was to introduce the constructivist approach to childhood education to teacher educators, in hopes that they would train future teachers who would ultimately apply this approach in their preschool classrooms.
"For the teacher educators, we aimed to model a participatory, interactive style of teaching that would encourage teacher educators to adapt the constructivist approach to their local needs, families, classroom environments, and cultures," Dr. Shine said. "Adapting the constructivist approach was an important part of the professional development because in most government preschool programs, there are few materials, many children, and traditional ways of interacting with children that differ from interactive conversations."
Helen Jennings describes her favorite part of the journey from a student perspective.
"We got to hear all the different perspectives from around the country and scaffold the development of new ideas specific to the needs of each region," Helen said. "It has sparked a hunger in me to continue aiding the development of my field in Ethiopia and other places I am needed."
The Ethiopian team of educators hopes to improve early childhood education using their new found knowledge in government-run schools by introducing active learning as a viable teaching method in preschool and kindergarten classrooms.
Future international collaborations to better the world of education is a priority for the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. The HDFS team looks forward to making a continued effort on a global scale and furthering the connections in Ethiopia.