The Empowering the Teachers (ETT) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) strives to foster innovation in science and engineering education in tertiary academic institutions in Africa through an intense engagement with faculty members from African universities.
What is the problem?
The approach to science and engineering education in African universities is yet to adopt a focus on problem solving, innovation and creativity. Furthermore standards in these tertiary institutions have retrogressed due to severe neglect and lack of investment. Curricular and assessment methods have not adopted practices that encourage critical thinking, open ended problem solving and creativity, rather they are still built around teacher-centered lecture rooms that focus on information acquisition, memorization and regurgitation at closed book examination. Consequently, these academic institutions have not produced science and engineering graduates needed by industry to add value.
The overarching goal of ETT is to facilitate the development of young African faculty leadership in science and engineering education who will introduce innovation and creativity into science and engineering curricular. There are two main objectives of the ETT program: to provide young African professors with exposure to cutting-edge pedagogical methods in the highest-rated engineering and science departments in the U.S. and to provide American faculty who have a deep interest in connecting with those in their disciplines in emerging economies a concrete means of engagement.
In an attempt to address the problems articulated above, MIT established the Empowering the Teachers (ETT) Program lead by Professor Akintunde Ibitayo Akinwande (EECS). The program invites young, brilliant and upcoming African academics, who recently completed their doctoral degree, to spend an intensive and inclusive semester at MIT in a bid to understudy the mode (& dynamics) of curricula development and content delivery at MIT. The aim is to facilitate in African institutions improved teaching content development that is geared towards (1) students-centered content delivery (2) problem solving and (3) creativity. This amongst other things will result in the development new courses and the modification of existing curricula to ones that are geared towards critical thinking, open ended problem solving and hands-on design but also promote innovation and creativity. While at MIT, these African academics developed new course content for their home universities which are consistent with the objectives of developing these skills in their students.
During their semester at MIT, Fellows do the following:
- observe instruction in their own disciplines & subjects
- interact with MIT faculty teaching in their own disciplines & subjects
- develop courses based on problem-solving approach inspired by equivalent course at MIT
- discuss & explore curricular enrichment & reform through both formal and informal interaction with the MIT community
The ultimate goal is to reform their current curricular using new materials, approaches and methods that exemplify the best of MIT’s practices: problem-solving, student-centered, innovation and bringing knowledge to bear on the world’s greatest challenges.
Fall 2014 MIT-ETT Fellows
The MIT-ETT fellowship is a life changing experience with insights on how to improve my teaching and research. My teaching will now be student-centered with emphasis on problem-solving and hands-on tasks.The program has transformed my philosophy of how to teach. My teaching now must clearly set out the course intended learning outcomes and ensure that hands-on work and design projects are incorporated where possible.”
Dr. Ibrahim ADEYANJU, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Oyo State, Nigeria
The uniqueness of the MIT-ETT program is derived from the fact that exposure of faculty from Africa to the problem solving approach used in MIT in teaching and research can be translated back to their respective universities. This result will be an increase in the quality of graduates who will be problem solvers and entrepreneurial which will positively impact the economies of their home countries.
Dr. Michael Lubwama, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
This program is important because it empowers faculty to adapt teaching strategies that will enable graduates from African countries to be competitive at the World stage, impact the economies of this countries in the long run and subsequently empower Africans solve their own problems as a result of the problem solving approach adoption in Universities.
Dr. Fred Kiwanuka, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
My main take away message from MIT is “developing intuitive ability, critical thinking and problem solving skills in my students.”
Dr. Idehai Ohijeagbon, University of Ilorin, Nigeria