|The role of experiential learning during a DRUSSA Fellowship Programme|
|Monday, 08 August 2016 09:31|
As part of the DRUSSA Fellowship Programme Professor John Munene from Makerere University worked with the Ugandan Ministry of Education, Science and Sports (MoESTS) to strengthen/enhance the use of research evidence to inform its policy formulation, implementation and evaluation mandate. He explains the role of experiential learning in building government capacity to use evidence.
The broad objective of the Fellowship was the use of evidence within the on-going policy process and ultimately strengthening evidence-use capacity within the Department. The objective assumed that the Ministry was already actively engaged in a review of education policy and my role would be to facilitate the use of academic or rigorously assembled data to guide the review to address quality considerations in education service delivery in Uganda.
Context: Education Policy in Uganda
Despite the increasing evidence in Uganda that the universal education policy and its implementation is failing to deliver on the second millennium goal of providing quality basic education to all, stakeholders seem unable to find remedies to stem the downward spiral of deteriorating education outcomes, with special reference to learning outcomes. Having done extensive research in the area of Universal Primary Education (UPE) and having published my research in book format, my support to the Department focussed on this area of policy.
Theory of Change
The traditional public service context in which the DRUSSA Fellowship was embedded, the overall objective of the Fellowship, and the role of the Fellow, provided an opportunity to re-engage our emerging, individual-oriented theory of change. The local theory of change adopts contextualised but known concepts in organisational and individual learning such as reflection, situated learning and work based competences. Following the localised theory of change, I set out to develop a concept paper focusing on a number of key performance areas (KPAs) or key results areas (KRAs) that guided the Fellowship:
However this short exercise brought home an important fact namely that I would not be able to get results in at least half of the above areas unless I prioritised or redefined the opportunity by answering a question:
“what activities Ministry delegates/ trainees would need to perform in order to feel confident that they can undertake evidence based policy reviews and formulation after the Fellowship”?
Taking a different approach: Experiential Learning
This question was important because it would respond to our local theory of change that is based on capacity to demonstrate work-based competencies; competencies that are defined more in terms of operations than in knowledge or attitudes - operant competences. With the redefined opportunity or problem, I set out to implement a modified Action Learning approach based broadly on the Marquardt model that we had recently tested in an educational setting in Uganda. Action Learning is an approach to acquiring work based competences by working on a real work problem that has consequences for one’s immediate job and task results. I then made a presentation on the objectives of the DRUSSA Fellowship where I outlined the facilitation or coaching method I would use to execute the task at hand. The method indicated clearly the roles of each of the parties as follows:
The approach I took handed the power of learning over to the nascent community of practice, which allowed me to also become a member of the team quickly rather than the DRUSSA Fellow who is telling everyone what to do.
To continue building a community of practice the team agreed on a fortnightly meeting with the broad objective of tracking each other on the task at hand. As it turned out, the meetings provided opportunities to reflect on what to do to formulate and or review policy using systematically collected data including but not exclusive to academic data. I realised that I was beginning to find the answers for my modified question when the problem owner , the Commissioner, remarked: “As a result of your coming we are realising more and more that we have “mouth” policies. We have little statistics to back these policies that emerge from policy statements. The science policy for instance assumes that there are data. No science teacher numbers are known, no numbers were anticipated.”
The fellowship proceeded in two phases: a case study and an informal survey of existing policy relevant data. In both phases reflection on one’s job and how it is tacitly embedded in continuous policy review, delivered the competences I wanted to leave behind as the testimonies below suggest.
"It is a timely intervention. A lot has been going on failing the implementation of UPE and discussions at various levels held without referring to existing data. Using available data to solve issues affecting UPE implementation is very good"
"(I have) Learnt how to extract academic data to generate policy direction; Learnt how to Use research findings/monitoring reports findings to write policies"
"The symposium is timely as it handles the management of UPE in Uganda since its inception in 1997. I have learnt about the social cognitive factors that had hither to not been emphasised yet they are very crucial. I have learnt about the use of data and how critical this is in coming up with relevant and successful policies that will positively enhance the education sector. I have also learnt about incorporating the emerging issues for the future policy making"
If I am happy about what the Fellowship has managed to deliver within the time, it is because I utilised my own theory of change, tested its applicability hypothetically by writing a concept paper and critiquing it before implementing it and finally reformulated the problem. Then I managed to become an insider by creating a community of practice and surrendering the power of the Fellow to the actual owner of the learning that the Fellow is supposed to impart.
You can read more about Prof Munene's experience here
Prof John C Munene is the PhD Programme Director at Makerere University Business School