How professional learning communities of head teachers drive teacher intrinsic motivation in Rwanda
By: Jean Pierre Mugiraneza and Alex Mahe Mukizwa, VVOB Rwanda
Motivated and competent teachers are fundamental for learning to take place. Head teachers play a powerful part in this. By applying core leadership practices they create an enabling working environment, and they support and motivate teachers, who, in turn, improve teaching and learning outcomes (Leithwood et al.,2010).
But how do head teachers acquire these practices and become effective teacher motivators? In Rwanda, professional learning communities (PLCs) of head teachers are proving to be a successful tool. VVOB Rwanda has a new paper that provides insight.
How are Rwanda’s teachers motivated?
In 2007 the government of Rwanda agreed on a Teacher Development and Management Policy that articulates the need to “develop and install a framework for motivation that will enhance the socio-economic and professional status of teachers” (MINEDUC, 2007). Important reforms were implemented in the last decade, such as improved teacher management (recruitment, deployment, transfer), better working and living conditions, etc. But it has not been easy to address the fact that Rwandan teachers earn considerably less than other similarly qualified civil servants. The introduction of a teaching profession career structure has also met with some delays.
Research shows that Rwandan head teachers play a crucial role in bringing about improvements in teacher motivation and performance: 68% of the teachers surveyed by Muvunyi (2016) report that the quality of school leadership was an important work environment motivating factor.
Why a study?
VVOB Rwanda has been a strong supporter of school leadership development, which is why we wanted to know more about how head teachers make their influence felt. We were also curious to find out whether participation in the professional learning communities of head teachers that we had piloted and rolled out had a positive effect on teacher motivation. As Rwandan head teachers have little authority over typical “carrots and sticks” (salaries, promotion, etc.) our attention quickly turned to teacher intrinsic motivation. Our understanding of this concept is shaped by self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000) – a theory that focuses primarily on people’s innate psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness.
What difference do professional learning communities of head teachers make?
Professional learning communities provide head teachers with an environment where they can share and create knowledge with trusted colleagues. In Rwanda, these PLCs are facilitated by sector education officers (SEO). The SEOs’ role is to stimulate professional inquiry and growth in an atmosphere of collaboration, keep the discussions focused around improving student learning outcomes, hold the PLC members accountable and distribute leadership.
Our study adopted a qualitative approach using focus group discussions in which a total of 39 head teachers and 64 teachers participated. Six sectors were purposively selected – the sampling criterion being that the last PLC session took place less than 100 days prior (“active PLC”). The research opted for open ended questions. This allowed the relevance of the self-determination theory to be tested without projecting the theory onto participants. Interestingly, head teachers’ own improved intrinsic motivation emanated as an important conduit for improving teacher motivation. Because they themselves received support from colleagues and engaged in more collaborative relations with their supervisors, head teachers felt encouraged to make positive changes in their behavior that, in turn, have a positive effect on teacher intrinsic motivation.
Head teachers as teacher motivators: What are the key drivers?
Six key drivers emerged from the analysis :
- Encouraging head teachers to foster caring working environments.
- Changing dynamics and focus of relationships between headteachers, schools, staff and communities to make these more professionally targeted, less hierarchical, more open to challenge and support.
- Fostering collaborative environments for head teachers and teachers to work in and the opportunities for learning that this provided.
- Head teachers giving teachers more responsibility and subject ownership through devolving more powers to departments, creating departments where there previously weren’t any, and allocating heads of departments.
- Greater distribution of workload within and between schools, for example through shared responsibility of examinations. This allowed teachers to learn from other schools through working together.
- Head teachers taking more responsibility for developing teachers, through increased observation and effective feedback.
About the Authors:
Jean Pierre Mugiraneza Bio (Speaker)
Jean Pierre joined VVOB Rwanda this year as MEAL advisor. He worked in a similar capacity at Save the Children in Rwanda and participated in the design, data collection and implementation of programs funded by DFID, USAID, JIKA and the IKEA Foundation. Jean Pierre also worked as a lecturer at the University of Rwanda College of Education (URCE), specializing in quantitative and qualitative research methods. He co-published a book on “Concise statistics: An illustrative approach to problem solving”. He is completing a PhD on Economics of Education at Kenyatta University.
Alex Mahe Mukizwa Bio (Speaker)
Alex is an Education Advisor for VVOB Rwanda. For the past 3 years, he has coordinated VVOB’s work on professional learning communities of head teachers, which has been realized with support from DFID and the Belgian government. Before joining VVOB, he taught nursery and primary classes and worked with the Rwanda National Youth Council as the Coordinator of Huye Youth Friendly Centre. Alex has a BA from the University of Rwanda College of Education (URCE) and is currently pursuing an MA in Educational Planning and Management at Mount Kenya University.
Read the full report here: