An introduction to TESSA

In 2005, The Open University secured funding to develop OER to support teachers and teacher educators in developing more active approaches to teaching and learning, in line with national policy aspirations.

A consortium of authors and reviewers was formed with representatives from 14 teacher education institutions in nine African countries. The result is a bank of collaboratively produced OER which has been versioned for different contexts and is available in four languages.

The pedagogy of the TESSA OER positions teachers as learners. The OER show teachers and teacher educators how to translate theory into practice.

They are designed to open up possibilities for educators and, through case studies, show how they can make their teaching more interactive and engaging for learners. An independent evaluation report, published in 2012, found that TESSA had created a demand for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as teachers realised the potential for change within the constraints in which they were working.

The TESSA OER provide structured learning opportunities for teachers, related to the Primary curriculum and the Secondary Science curriculum, helping them to see how active teaching and learning works in practice. There are also handbooks and toolkits, explaining how the resources can be used in different contexts. Throughout this course we will be drawing on the TESSA OER to help you to develop your practice and better support the teachers and student teachers that you are working with.

The pedagogy in the TESSA OER focuses on modelling practice for teachers that consistently conceptualises learners (whether they are students or teachers) as:

  • knowledgeable individuals with a range of experiences that they bring to their learning
  • constructors of meaning and problem solvers
  • self-regulated, self-directed social beings
  • intrinsically motivated if learning activities have personal meaning and cultural authenticity.

Activity 1.6: The TESSA OER

Timing: (Allow approximately 15 minutes)

Listen to Dr Henry Busulwa from Makerere University in Uganda talking about the TESSA programme and the importance of ‘openness’. There is an accompanying transcript of the audio that you can read at the bottom of the page.

As you listen write down any thoughts about the key points he makes about the TESSA OER in your notebook.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: tessa_mooc_act_1.6.mp3
Skip transcript


The TESSA OER were developed between 2005 and 2008. They are specifically linked to school curricula and remain current despite recent changes to the curriculum in many countries. This is because the focus of recent changes are teaching approaches rather than content. In Zambia for example, teachers are expected to teach knowledge, skills and values; the TESSA OER supports the teaching of all three.

Although they are designed for teachers, the TESSA OER are relevant to teacher educators. Recent research suggests that teacher preparation courses and in-service training courses, need to place more emphasis on the practicalities of teaching in order to improve the quality of classroom learning. This is difficult for teacher educators because, although most have a good knowledge of the theory of teaching, many do not have the knowledge and experience of classrooms. The TESSA OER provide practical examples of how to teach specific topics which help teacher educators to model good teaching.

In Week 2 of this course, you will focus on learner-centred education.

Learner-centred education is not a set of particular approaches to teaching; it is about values and beliefs. Learner-centred teachers will take account of the needs of their learners; they will make links between the school curriculum and children’s lives; and take account of their prior learning experience. Most importantly, a learner-centred teacher believes that all learners can learn, given the right support. Through the Inclusive Education Toolkit subject resources, TESSA OER show teachers and teacher educators how to provide that support.

The fact that the TESSA OER are Open Educational Resources means that as well as being available free of charge, you can copy, adapt and re-publish them. For example, you could include some of them in your course materials. There are two conditions attached to the copyright license: the first is that you say where you found the resources and the second is that you re-publish them under the same license.

TESSA is not an intervention or a set of prescriptive lesson plans. Rather it is a set of ideas, relevant to their local context that teachers can use. It is hoped that by using TESSA OER, teachers will develop their ability as professionals to plan their own lessons, according to the needs of their learners. Likewise, teacher educators can use TESSA OER to plan interactive teaching sessions which reflect classroom realities.

During this course we hope you will enjoy exploring the website and learning about TESSA OER. How could you use these resources in your work with student teachers?

End transcript
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

You can also download a copy of the transcript [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Activity 1.7: Finding TESSA OER

Timing: (Allow approximately 5 minutes)

Watch the short video that provides advice on how to look for and find resources on the TESSA website. This will help you in the next activity, when you will spend time exploring the website.

Download this video clip.Video player: tessa_mooc_act_1.7.mp4
Skip transcript


Welcome to the TESSA Open Educational Resources. There is a lot of material available, so the purpose of this introduction is to give you some idea of where to start. If you are a teacher, then you will be most concerned about what you have to teach next week.

You should have a look at the subject resources. There are 75 sections of work, linked to the primary school curriculum. We also have 15 sections to support secondary science. The resources are organised into six groups to help you find what you need. These are: Literacy, Numeracy, Primary Science, Social Studies and the Arts, Life Skills and Secondary Science. Each group is divided into 3 modules and each module has 5 sections. Each section has three activities and three case studies – these contain ideas for you to try out in your classroom. The learning outcomes are for you, as by organising the activities you will be developing your skills as a teacher.

The sections are not grade specific. This is deliberate because topics are often re-visited as students get older. You will find that you can easily adapt the activities to suit your needs. For example, in one of the science activities, children make models of animals. In Grade 2 you could use this to teach the names of the different parts of the animal. In grade 5, you could use the activity to focus on adaptations for different habitats. Each section also has resources that will help you to organise the activities that are being suggested. There is also a handbook ‘Working with Pupils’ and a set of Key Resources. The Key Resources provide extra information about some of the teaching approaches that are being suggested. If you are a teacher educator working with pre-service teachers or in-service teachers, then you will find that the subject resources provide practical examples that you can use to illustrate some of the theory you have to teach. If you are teaching subject knowledge, then you could use some of the activities in your teaching. This way, you will be teaching content and pedagogy together, especially if you ask the students to reflect on how they learned as well as on what they have learned.

You will also find the key resources helpful as they explain various teaching approaches at a practical level. There is a handbook called working with teachers which has examples of how other teacher educators have used the resources. One thing that many people have found is that students find them very helpful during teaching practice. The teaching practice supervisor’s toolkit has a collection of tools which you can use to support students on teaching practice more effectively. And the inclusive education toolkit sets out the principles of inclusive teaching. It highlights examples from the subject resources that you could use to illustrate those principles. Remember – all these materials are free. You can adapt them as you wish and re-publish them for others to use, as long as you say where you have got them from. Good luck and we hope you find the TESSA OER helpful for your own professional development.

End transcript
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

You can also download a copy of the transcript.

Activity 1.8: Exploring the TESSA OER

Timing: (Allow approximately 30 minutes)

In this activity you will explore the TESSA website.

Spend some time exploring the TESSA website. (If you have any issues with the TESSA website try accessing the OER on OpenLearn Create. These are on the ‘Content’ tab.) You will find resources to support classroom teaching as well as handbooks and toolkits.

Open Educational Resources

The future classroom