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Reforming teacher education in Lao People's Democratic Republic

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(Thesis) Ph.D.
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Western educators have emphasized the teacher’s command of subject matter in the context of interactive, learner-centered teaching that rests on student activities such as problem solving, inquiry, experimentation and use of hands-on activities. In this approach, teachers need not only to be familiar with the principles underlying a topic, but also to be prepared for the variety of ways in which learners can explore these principles. Teaching and learning are conducted in a manner that encourages students’ in-depth understanding. To foster students in gaining in-depth understanding of subject knowledge, teachers need to reinforce learning and development not only by using an interactive approach, but also through adapting curricular material and applying alternative assessment techniques. However, in Laos, covering the syllabus for the exams is the mainstay of traditional classroom instruction; in-depth understanding of the syllabus content receives little attention. Teachers who have tried to adapt or apply learner-centered teaching are faced with different challenges and tensions that influence their choices about instruction, curriculum and assessment practices. This research was conducted in Champasak University and Phonxay Secondary School in the Pakse, Champasak province of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. This study used a qualitative approach to exploring a small group of teachers’ experiences, ideas, insights and perspectives that helped to draw a detailed sketch of how teachers address challenges to improve their work in classrooms and school-community. The study took place over a 8 month-period from May to December, 2008. The participants were two teacher educators from the Faculty of Education, Champasak University and two teachers from Phonexay Secondary School. This research fills the gap concerning how Lao schools can be improved by reforming teacher education. The results show that to improve teachers’ practice inside and outside classrooms, teachers need to continuously improve their professionalism. To promote students’ in-depth learning, teachers have used a variety of strategies and techniques. They adapt their traditional ways of teaching with approaches designed to meet the needs of specific situations. They also focus on collaboration and reflection to help each other professionally improve and grow. Keywords: teacher-education reform; reflection; collaboration; pedagogical-reform; institutional-reform; classroom-practice improvement
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