Impact Story

Strengthening leadership through pedagogical reform in Africa

Published on 5 July 2021

A case study on inclusive, transformative attributes of female leadership shone a light on the wide-scale success of the Pedagogical Leadership in Africa (PedaL) partnership for higher education reform. IDS is a partner, alongside universities in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

PedaL focuses on transforming social sciences teaching in African universities. Its student-centred pedagogical training for educators encourages the use of participatory, gender-sensitive, teaching methods that are orientated towards developing skills of real world problem-solving and that move away from approaches where the lecturer tells the class what they need to know.

Since it began in 2018, PedaL has enhanced the teaching and facilitation skills of 2,000 educators from more than 80 universities across ten African countries. It has as a result influenced the learning experience for literally thousands of students across the continent.

The partnership is led by Dr Beatrice Muganda of the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) in Nairobi. Her insights on female leadership – and those of IDS’ Director of Teaching and Learning – became the basis for a revealing recent case study into the leadership attributes required in contexts where gender inequality is systemic, and where complex gender dynamics need to be navigated at multiple levels.

A ‘power reversal’

Dr Muganda’s insights stem from her own approach to PedaL and its work. She describes her leadership role with PedaL as being the person who ‘shares the direction, and who carries others along’. She makes herself available to others, achieves buy-in from others, and prompts ‘a subtlety of thought’ to grow her team and trainers.

The case study set out to highlight that female leadership attributes – such as those embodied by Dr Muganda – can lead to inclusive, transformative change, precisely because female leadership approaches often have to contend with power from a position of disadvantage. The case study challenges assumptions about what to expect from women in leadership.

The PedaL approach is having an impact both for women and men, and, at an institutional level in terms of how the partnership is led – with IDS taking a more backseat role. ‘There is this sense of power reversal. Black women are being heard, they are leading, the room is predominantly black. It’s amazing!’ Dr Waldman, IDS Director of Teaching and Learning, said in the case study.

Impact at scale

The PedaL model fosters capacity-building at scale, notably through its ‘training of trainers’ approach. Core resource people lead workshops and support promising participants to become trainers themselves. They then teach others beyond their country of residence. From an original proposal to train staff at five universities, the model has now reached staff in more than 90 universities. Those staff have also redesigned course modules, influencing the learning of an estimated 200,000 students across Africa.

With many African universities moving to distance learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in June 2020 PedaL also successfully launched a series of month-long online courses for educators on strategies for planning, designing, facilitating and assessing learning online. This aligned with the programme’s overall efforts to promote access to and use of open education resources, tools and technologies such as Moodle.

PedaL’s wide-ranging impact is attributed to its structure, reputable members, African values and transformational leadership. IDS’s role is to support PedaL’s pedagogical approach and to help maintain quality and rigour in activities.

According to Dr Muganda, ‘the partnership stands out as one with a deep level of shared values, including resilience, patience, appreciation, selflessness and working within constraints’.

PedaL is part of the UK-Aid-funded Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform (SPHEIR) programme.



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