Sustaining and Scaling Pedagogic Innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Grounded Insights For Teacher Professional Development


  • Bjoern Hassler University of Cambridge
  • Sara Hennessy University of Cambridge
  • Riikka Hofmann University of Cambridge



Teacher Professional Development, Sustainable Development Goal 4, sub-Saharan Africa, Open Educational Resources, peer-facilitation, school-based active learning


Developing sustainable and scalable educational initiatives is a key challenge in low-income countries where donor-funded short-term projects are limited by both contextual factors and programme design. In this concept paper we examine some of the issues related to in-service teacher development in the context of sub-Saharan Africa, grounded predominantly in our experiences of over 5 years of iteratively developing, refining and evaluating an intensive school-based professional learning programme for primary school teachers. “OER4Schools” integrates interactive pedagogy, Open Educational Resources (OER) and use of mobile devices (where available). The focus of this paper is on identifying what the main factors are perceived to be in sustaining and scaling up such a programme, from the perspectives of participating teachers, workshop facilitators and the research team. Synthesising our previous research and drawing on recent work in the field, we identify the key characteristics of effective and sustainable professional learning in low-resourced contexts. Such characteristics include effective peer facilitation, school-based active learning, explicit programme structure, appropriate scheduling and resourcing, and mitigating resource constraints through use of OER. Our conclusions thereby offer insights concerning the importance and impact of wider influences on participation and engagement of stakeholders and lead to recommendations for programme design and implementation, that should be taken on board by future initiatives.

Author Biographies

Bjoern Hassler, University of Cambridge

Associate Member, REAL Centre, Faculty of Education

Sara Hennessy, University of Cambridge

Reader, Faculty of Education

Riikka Hofmann, University of Cambridge

University Lecturer, Faculty of Education


(This list of references is also available via Zotero here:

Adam, T. (2015). Visions for the Sustainable Implementation of the One Laptop per Child Project (Master of Philosophy). University of Cambridge.

Alcott, B., & Rose, P. (2016). Does private schooling narrow wealth inequalities in learning outcomes? Evidence from East Africa. Oxford Review of Education, 42(5), 495–510.

Bett, H. K. (2016). The cascade model of teachers’ continuing professional development in Kenya: A time for change? Cogent Education, 3(1), 1139439.

Borko, H., Jacobs, J., & Koellner, K. (2010). Contemporary Approaches to Teacher Professional Development. In International Encyclopedia of Education (pp. 548–556). Elsevier. Retrieved from

Feiman-Nemser, S. (2001). From preparation to practice: Designing a continuum to strengthen and sustain teaching. The Teachers College Record, 103(6), 1013–1055. Retrieved from this URL.

Frost, D. (Ed.). (2014). Transforming education through teacher leadership. Leadership for Learning: The Cambridge Network.

Harber, C., & Mncube, V. (2012). Education, Democracy and Development: does education contribute to democratisation in developing countries? Symposium Books Ltd.

Hardman, F. (2015). Making pedagogical practices visible in discussions of educational quality. Retrieved from

Hardman, F., Abd-Kadir, J., & Smith, F. (2008). Pedagogical renewal: Improving the quality of classroom interaction in Nigerian primary schools. International Journal of Educational Development, 28(1), 55–69.

Hardman, F., Ackers, J., Abrishamian, N., & O’Sullivan, M. (2011). Developing a systemic approach to teacher education in sub-Saharan Africa: emerging lessons from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 41(5), 669–683.

Hassler, B. (2009). Access to Open Educational Resources: Report of a UNESCO OER Community Discussion. Paris: UNESCO-IIEP.

Hassler, B., Hennessy, S., & Cross, A. (2014). School-based professional development in a developing context: Lessons learnt from a case study in Zambia. Professional Development in Education, 1–20.

Hassler, B., Hennessy, S., & Hofmann, R. (forthcoming). OER4Schools: Outcomes of a sustained professional development intervention In Sub-Saharan Africa.

Hassler, B., Major, L., & Hennessy, S. (2015). Tablet use in schools: A critical review of the evidence for learning outcomes. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 32(2).

Hassler, B., Major, L., Warwick, P., Watson, S., Hennessy, S., & Nichol, B. (2016). Perspectives on technology, resources and learning - Productive classroom practices, effective teacher professional development. Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Retrieved from

Hassler, B., & Mays, T. (2015). Open Content. In P. Hwa Ang & R. Mansell (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Digital Communication and Society. Wiley-Blackwell. Retrieved from

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.

Hayes, D. (2000). Cascade training and teachers’ professional development. ELT Journal, 54(2), 135–145. Retrieved from

Hennessy, S., Hassler, B., & Hofmann, R. (2015A). Pedagogic change by Zambian primary school teachers participating in the OER4Schools professional development programme for one year. Research Papers in Education.

Hennessy, S., Hassler, B., & Hofmann, R. (2015B). Challenges and opportunities for teacher professional development in interactive use of technology in African schools. Technology pedagogy and education: Special Issue “Capacity Building for 21st Century Learning in Africa: A Focus on ICT Integration in Education.”

Hennessy, S., Onguko, B., Ang’ondi, E. K., Harrison, D., Namalefe, S., Naseem, A., & Wamakote, L. (2010). Developing use of ICT to enhance teaching and learning in East African schools: A review of the literature (No. 1) (p. 121). Cambridge, UK and Dar es Salaam, TZ: Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge and Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development - Eastern Africa. Retrieved from

Hewlett Foundation. (2014). Learning to improve learning: Lessons from early primary interventions and evaluations in India and Sub-Saharan Africa. Retrieved from

Hill, H. C., Beisiegel, M., & Jacob, R. (2013). Professional Development Research Consensus, Crossroads, and Challenges. Educational Researcher, 42(9), 476–487.

Hopkins, D., Stringfield, S., Harris, A., Stoll, L., & Mackay, T. (2014). School and system improvement: A narrative state-of-the-art review. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 25(2), 257–281.

King, F. (2014). Evaluating the impact of teacher professional development: an evidence-based framework. Professional Development in Education, 40(1), 89–111.

Lane, A. (2017). Open education and the sustainable development goals: Making change happen. Journal of Learning for Development - JL4D, 4(3). Retrieved from

Lange, S. (2014). Learner orientation through professional development of teachers? Empirical results from cascade training in Anglophone Cameroon. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 44(4), 587–612.

Leu, E. (2004). The patterns and purposes of school-based and cluster teacher professional development programs. Issues Brief, 1. Retrieved from

Leu, E., Hays, F., LeCzel, D. K., & O’Grady, B. (2005). Quality Teaching: Building a Flexible and Dynamic Approach. GEC Working Paper Series. Number 2. (GEC Working paper series). Washington, DC: Academy for Educational Development (AED). Retrieved from

Liyanagunawardena, T., Williams, S., & Adams, A. (2013). The impact and reach of MOOCs: a developing countries’ perspective. ELearning Papers, 33(33). Retrieved from

Mitchell, R. (2015). The implications of school improvement and school effectiveness research for primary school principals in Ethiopia. Educational Review, 67(3), 328–342.

Moon, B. (2007). School-based teacher development in Sub-Saharan Africa: Building a new research agenda. The Curriculum Journal, 18(3), 355–371.

Moon, B., Dladla, N., Bird, L. S., A. Nordstrum, L. Hanbing, Y. McCormick, B. Banks, F. Dheram, P. Ibn Junaid, M. Wolfenden, F. Buckler, A. Gafar, A. Tao, S., Kirk, J., Azlam, M., Kingdon, G., … Umar, A. (2013). Teacher education and the challenge of development: A global analysis. (B. Moon, Ed.). New York: Routledge.

Mubanga, R. (2012). School Program of In-service Training for the Term (SPRINT) Programme in Zambia - A case of collaboration towards self-reliant education development. In Collaboration toward greater autonomy in educational development. Tokyo, Japan. Retrieved from

Mukeredzi, T. G. (2016). Teacher professional development outside the lecture room: Voices of professionally unqualified practicing teachers in rural Zimbabwe secondary schools. Global Education Review, 3(4). Retrieved from

Muyoya, C., Brugha, M., & Hollow, D. (2016). Education Technology Map: Guidance Document. United Kingdom: Jigsaw Consult.

Nag, S., Chiat, S., Torgerson, C., & Snowling, M. J. (2014). Literacy, foundation learning and assessment in developing countries. Retrieved from

Ngalawa, A. A., Simmt, E., & Glanfield, F. (2015). Exploring the emergence of community support for school and encouragement of innovation for improving rural school performance: Lessons learned at Kitamburo in Tanzania. Global Education Review, 2(4). Retrieved from

Orr, D., Westbrook, J., Pryor, J., Durrani, N., Sebba, J., Adu-Yeboah, C., et al (2013). What are the impacts and cost-effectiveness of strategies to improve performance of untrained and under-trained teachers in the classroom in developing countries?: Systematic review. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London. Retrieved from

Penuel, W. R., Fishman, B. J., Haugan Cheng, B., & Sabelli, N. (2011). Organizing research and development at the intersection of learning, implementation, and design. Educational Researcher, 40(7), 331–337.

Piper, B., & Zuilkowski, S. S. (2015). Teacher coaching in Kenya: Examining instructional support in public and nonformal schools. Teaching and Teacher Education, 47, 173–183.

Power, T. (2014). Educational Technology Topic Guide. Retrieved from

Schweisfurth, M. (2011). Learner-centred education in developing country contexts: From solution to problem? International Journal of Educational Development, 31(5), 425–432.

Schweisfurth, M. (2015). Learner-centred pedagogy: Towards a post-2015 agenda for teaching and learning. International Journal of Educational Development, 40, 259–266.

Schwille, J., & Dembélé, M. (2007). Global perspectives on teacher learning: improving policy and practice (Fundamentals of Educational Planning Series). Paris: International Institute for Educational Planning.

Smith, M. L. (2013). Open development: Networked innovations in international development. Cambridge, Mass.: Mit Press.

Tikly, L. (2011). Towards a framework for researching the quality of education in low‐income countries. Comparative Education, 47(1), 1–23.

Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar, H., & Fung, I. (2007). Teacher professional learning and development: Best evidence synthesis iteration. Wellington: Ministry of Education Retrieved from

Twining, P., Raffaghelli, J., Albion, P., & Knezek, D. (2013). Moving education into the digital age: The contribution of teachers’ professional development. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29(5), 426–437.

UNESCO. (2014). Teaching and learning: achieving quality for all. (P. Rose, Ed.). UNESCO Publishing. Retrieved from

UNESCO. (2015). World Education Forum 2015, Final Report. Retrieved from

USAID. (2014). Mobiles for reading: A landscape research review. Retrieved from

Walsh, C., & Power, T. (2011). Going digital on low-cost mobile phones in Bangladesh. In Proceedings of the Annual International Conference on Education & e-Learning (EeL), 7-8 November 2011, Singapore (pp. 151–156). Retrieved from,Power-2011-Going_digital_on_low-cost_mobile_phones_in_Bangladesh.pdf

Wedell, M. (2009). Planning for educational change: Putting people and their contexts first. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Westbrook, J., Durrani, N., Brown, R., Orr, D., Pryor, J., Boddy, J., & Salvi, F. (2013). Pedagogy, curriculum, teaching practices and teacher education in developing countries: Final report. (No. 2110). Retrieved from



How to Cite

Hassler, B., Hennessy, S., & Hofmann, R. (2018). Sustaining and Scaling Pedagogic Innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Grounded Insights For Teacher Professional Development. Journal of Learning for Development, 5(1).



Received 2017-10-21
Accepted 2018-02-07
Published 2018-03-17