Collaborative problem-solving: Support for early grade reading teachers in Nepal

Debuting a new Tuesday Dialogue session format that is very much in line with CIE’s participatory approaches, faculty member Cristine Smith facilitated a problem-solving activity about an issue she has been facing in an early grade reading project in Nepal.


After a brief introduction to the project, Cris invited participants to help create a “problem tree” around how to provide ongoing support to Nepali primary school teachers, who had attended a five-day training event to introduce them to new materials for teaching early grade reading, and who were now back at school and expected to be using the new materials.


Research suggests that teachers need to be supported in their classrooms after and between training event to help them adapt and adopt new teaching strategies. Unfortunately, it is difficult to do this in rural Nepal, as schools are far apart, resources are scarce, and communication is limited. The session sought to identify strategies to support teachers after they have been trained, in contexts where it is difficult to reach them or bring them together.


During the session, CIE members applied their collective experience to identify root causes of the problem, then brainstormed strategies for addressing the difficulties, generating ideas which project staff in Nepal could experiment with over the next few years. Ideas included organizing groups with teachers who were close to each other, providing awards and recognition for district staff who made regular visits to schools, finding existing ways that people from different communities meet regularly such as at bazaars, and coordinating with other sectors such as health to distribute newsletters and information. 


It was a productive discussion which demonstrated the power of multiple perspectives. A Master’s student present commented that “It was interesting to see the participatory technique used, and also because some of the ideas brought forward could be applicable in other contexts as well.”


Problem-solving was a format that had been suggested by CIE members at the beginning of the semester—using a Tuesday Dialogue to work on an actual project or research problem, rather than just having a presentation. “It was a lot more engaging,” commented one doctoral student afterward, “I appreciate having a variety of formats.”