A Waterfall Model for Providing Professional Development for Elementary School Teachers: A Pilot Project to Implement a Competency-Based Approach

Keywords: Teacher professional development, competency-based learning, situation-based approach, The Democratic Republic of Congo


Supporting the professional development of teachers to enhance mathematics learning is an important consideration of global education initiatives. However, designing and implementing professional development depends on the structures in place in different contexts. For instance, some structures involve different roles played by the different actors in the schooling system. Thus, school board consultants, principals, inspectors and teachers might be in charge of providing information, coaching, training or educating teachers. Those policies and practices are key components when designing and implementing professional development for teachers at a large scale. This article presents an initiative supported by UNICEF in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In 2015, the DRC undertook a transitional approach to school reform by adopting a situation-based approach “Approche par les Situations (APS)” in the elementary school curriculum. An experimental pilot project to improve teaching and learning Mathematics and Language Arts in elementary school was set up. To this end, learning situations were created and 80 teachers were trained in the use of these situations in class using a waterfall model of professional development. The results indicated positive contributions resulting from the teacher-enacted situation-based approach, but also exposed functional problems of implementing a waterfall model to support teachers at a large scale. Our results highlight the challenge of supporting all teachers in a global context.

Author Biographies

Annie Savard, McGill University

Annie Savard, PhD, is an associate professor at McGill University in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education (DISE). Her research program focuses on the contribution of mathematical competencies to the development of citizenship competencies such as decisionmaking or critical thinking in regard to financial activities. She is also interested by the professional development of teachers, which brought her to work with different communities
of teachers, from Nunavik in Canada, to Romania and several African countries such as DCR, Djibouti, Mali and Rwanda.

Stéphane Cyr, Université du Québec à Montréal

Stéphane Cyr, PhD, is Professor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQÀM) and Ph.D. in mathematics education at Université Laval (Quebec). He works on the training of primary and secondary teachers in mathematics. His current research in this field focuses on developing deductive reasoning and preparatory skills for proof writing among elementary school students and on the development of geometric vocabulary. Professor Cyr is also interested in the study of video games for elementary mathematics. Stéphane Cyr is also chair holder of the UNESCO Curriculum Development Chair (CUDC). Through the activities of the Chair, he has carried out numerous studies on curricular reforms at the primary, secondary and university levels in African countries including Benin, Togo, Guinea, Madagascar, Senegal, Mauritania, Niger, Cameroun And the DRC. The orientation of the research work related to this theme aims at the development of a curriculum reform.