Pedagogy as Social Practice and Teachers' Pedagogic Choices in Tanzanian Primary Schools

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Pedagogy as Social Practice and Teachers' Pedagogic Choices in Tanzanian Primary Schools

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Amidst the current push for improving the quality of education in Sub-Saharan Africa, a technicist approach to pedagogy, which focuses on inputs and technical teacher training, has come to predominate international aid to education and much of the related literature. In this dissertation, I argue that considering the intertwinement and simultaneity of multiple sociocultural aspects of classroom encounters can lead to deeper understanding of why teachers choose particular pedagogical practices. Sociocultural aspects include how classrooms and interactions are organized, teachers’ conceptions of knowledge, and moral aspects, such as what is considered good and proper behavior. I set out to understand from teachers’ perspectives, why they preferred certain pedagogical practices. I specifically analyzed how the availability and organization of resources, the competing discourses found in the curriculum and examinations, and moral norms and ideals influenced teachers’ practices, using the conceptual framework of pedagogy as a nexus of practice. I drew on ethnographic data gathered through intensive participant observation, informal discussions, semi-structured interviews, demographic surveys and review of curricular, policy and teaching materials in two Tanzanian public primary schools to understand teachers’ perspectives and identify key influences on their pedagogic choices. I found that the concepts of competence-based curriculum and learner-centered practices driving school quality reforms are largely tangential to teachers’ frames of reference. The teachers’ decisions are based on ensuring that students pass terminal exams and that they learn to live with/in the community’s norms for obedience, respect and cooperation. Their choices are further constrained by the material conditions in which they work, and by the degree to which teachers felt empowered to flexibly use available resources to meet student needs. These findings have implications for the feasibility of and approaches toward changing teachers’ pedagogic practices and systemic approaches to educational change.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. January 2020. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Frances Vavrus. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 274 pages.

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Chachage, Kristeen. (2020). Pedagogy as Social Practice and Teachers' Pedagogic Choices in Tanzanian Primary Schools. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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