Friday, January 7, 2011

Teaching Style in Uganda

The workshop was held in a small, quaint building called the President’s Hall attached to the main seminary building. A few people were there when I arrived to begin testing the AV equipment. I took the opportunity to introduce myself and to create an open atmosphere of conversation and communication in anticipation of the traditionally reserved approach taken by many Ugandans in formal situations.

The beautiful hall was lined with chairs, which participants were promptly asked to rearrange in favor of small group exercises and assignments. The term lecturer was frequently used to refer to the teachers, which signaled the teaching style traditionally employed by the university. I knew in advance that my teaching style would challenge the long-held paradigm, but pressed on despite that fact—not with an attitude of American superiority but with a hope of adding value to their workshop experience. Armed with adult learning theory principles, I explained and demonstrated the benefits of the teaching style employed in the workshop and the number of faculty who made favorable observations about the approach was surprisingly high.

A question and answer session was built into the program and I had my reservations. Ongoing interactive participation was the goal. Holding questions until the end might challenge faculty-students and me to remember the topic. As the sessions progressed there was no holding back. These participants were actively engaged in the material and questions flew whenever they arose. At times it was difficult to keep order – a real switch from the typical behaviors that I’ve observed in Uganda.

As I contemplated whether or not facilitating a workshop like this one fit into my ministry mission, I wondered in what way I was actually doing ministry work. Yet when evaluating the quality of education between the U.S. and Uganda, I could easily see the value of coming alongside these faculty members to offer a workshop that they could otherwise not afford. By offering such a workshop, these faculty members will become better teachers infused with better information and thus transfer this learning to their students. Faculty simply needed to be exposed to alternative methods and information. As a matter of fact, I believe U.S. institutions could use this kind of seminar as well. Educational support is definitely part of my ministry and even though these are adults, they’re no less in need than primary or secondary students – their needs are just different. I thank God for using my gifts in this unique way to serve in his Kingdom.