Re-design of Professional Courses for Greater Impact

Rethinking and revamping its programmes and activities in line with PASGR’s Strategic Plan 2014-2018 was a major preoccupation of the Professional Development and Training programme (PDT) in 2015. Innovations in the design of delivery, content, pedagogy and the coordination of the courses were key elements that emerged in the latter part of the year.

The year 2015 also saw sustained interest in our short courses as word went round among researchers and early career academics, among others, about its engaging and demanding Multi Method Research Course (MMRC) delivered with innovative and unique approaches rarely seen in the African social science community.

The courses sought to enhance skills among emerging and mid-term career researchers and academics with a view to developing excellence in research methods, policy engaged research, communications and uptake.

PDT’s strategic objectives include delivering practical professional development that builds policy actors’ and researchers’ skills and competencies. Its agenda includes deepening partners’ capacity to design, deliver and accredit high quality professional development courses, and providing innovative design and content to enrich participants’ learning and experience for maximum impact and reach.

Programme Manager Pauline Ngimwa describes 2015 as “quite successful, judging from the positive feedback” from participants. She underlines the redesign and delivery of two modules, namely, Contemporary Political Economy Analysis (CPEA) and Advanced Research

Design for Policy-Oriented Research (ARD), together with the development of the Writing Scholarly Papers module (in progress) as key 2015 activities.

The CPEA course (October 12 to 16) was co-designed and co-piloted by Dr Frederick Golooba- Mutebi and Dr Tim Kelsall in 2014. The module, which employs case-based pedagogy, seeks to familiarise participants with key CPEA approaches, their origin, strengths and weaknesses in public policy analysis. It aims at investigating the successes or failures of public policy. The course module was re-customised to integrate lessons learned from 2014.

Facilitated by the University of Ghana’s Daniel Doh, a graduate of the PASGR MMRC and Dr Tim Kelsall, the course included intensive engagement with research design questions, which though not in the initial plan, built on lessons from the pilot. Twenty-seven participants (12 of them women), from Kenya (9), Nigeria (6), Ghana (3), two each from Cameroon and Uganda and one each from Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo, South Africa and India, were trained.

The ARD course, delivered in November 2015 to 39 participants (23 female and 16 male), was derived from the original MMRC. It comprises three foundational research design modules: Designing Social Inquiry, Multi-Method Strategies, and Critical Policy Engaged Research. The remaining seven methods modules from the MMRC are now standalone courses.

Another major undertaking in 2015 was the development of an e-case and an accompanying animation video, based on Nairobi’s Dandora Municipal Dumpsite. Jointly developed by a team from PDT, MRPP and the Hubert Project (University of Minnesota), these two multimedia teaching and learning resources boost the innovative delivery of the ARD and CPEA courses.

PDT has previously developed training modules aimed at strengthening policy

actors and data consumers’ skills to appreciate, understand and make effective choices and decisions around the use of research findings and data for more effective policy uptake. Until

July, the PDT was also responsible for PASGR’s communications and policy outreach. An autonomous unit has since been created for these functions (See Page 5). The programme also shed Monitoring and Evaluation as well as Gender Strategy dockets in line with decisions made by the Board of Directors in April.

As part of its redesign for greater impact in 2015, PASGR started to institutionalise its engagement with PDT instructors through a structured pre-course orientation that addresses both course content and pedagogy. It was also decided that PASGR would begin experimenting with institutional and university training complexes, rather than hotels, to cut costs.

In its effort to provide innovative design and content to enrich participants’ learning and experience and to maximise its impact and reach, the PDT embarked on the PASGR Policy Engaged Research Methods Institute (PERMI). The idea is to provide high quality short-term accredited training in methods, governance and policy and other key public policy and sustainable development issues and needs. The cost-sharing initiative aims at delivering 15 courses in six weeks, targeting 150 to 300 researchers.

The model in which participants pay their way to the course venue as PASGR caters for lodging and training arose from the observation by PASGR and IDS (University of Sussex), that it brought on board participants who were academically stronger and more committed to learning than was previously the case. PASGR will lean more towards this cost-recovery cost-sharing model, but remain non-profit.

Concept development and piloting is cost-intensive, and according to PASGR Executive Director Tade Aina, only 30 out of Africa’s 2,000 universities—a minuscule 1.5 per cent—have strong research methods classes that can provide robust training in social sciences. Based on previous lessons, PASGR focused 2015 MMRC activities around the deepening of new facilitators’ capacities by fostering greater engagement between the original module designers and new facilitators, and strengthening pedagogy skills through both training and practical experience. Building greater depth and breadth in the content and delivery of all modules was a major programme objective.