Maseno University, School of Development and Strategic Studies (KENYA)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN15 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 4829-4835
ISBN: 978-84-606-8243-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 7th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2015
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Previous work shows that the teaching in Kenya tends to be traditional, due to a number of structural factors like the lack of academic recognition for good teaching, heavy workloads and institutional resistance to change. Like many other subjects, the teaching of development economics rely mainly on sources like textbooks often outdated and in most cases developed by outsider scholars. As a result, students have only limited interactions in class, are not prompted to discuss critically around the topics they learn and are not able to contextualize information. This has a major impact on the effectiveness of their learning process, i.e. their ability to use what they learn in the analysis of real-world situations and to solve real-world problems.

This paper describes the use of innovative methods to teach development-related subjects to undergraduate students in Maseno University, Kenya, where previous initiatives have been successfully implemented to use technology in statistics education. Such methods aim at contextualizing knowledge giving to students a practical, hands-in approach to learning, and strengthening their analysis and communication skills. Innovations include tools that provide additional sources of knowledge and supporting evidence, namely an open source data visualization software (Gapminder) and media (TED Talks). Students’ self-recorded video presentations have been introduced to enable students developing communication skills while also providing effective methods of assessment, particularly in large classes. Following the experience, students declare to have increased the use of personal computers, laptops, internet, emails and Dropbox by the end of the term. Overall, satisfaction with the teaching and overall satisfaction with the course are strongly correlated with the use of new learning methods and the technology.

We argue that in a resource poor environment like Kenya, where relatively few students have access to laptops or computers and the internet connectivity is relatively low, innovative teaching methods and tools can be conveniently introduced at a low cost for students and lecturers, and with much benefit to students. Lecturers should therefore develop skills on preparation and presentation of new course materials, using innovative methods and tools; this will make the teaching of development studies more effective and successful in creating the set of skills needed by development researchers and practitioners.