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research radioA research team from SAS has designed a more transactional model of Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) that can be useful for teaching basic literacy and numeracy in societies recovering from violent conflicts.

The research team, made up of the Chair of Communications and Multimedia Design, Dr. Jacob Udo-Udo Jacob, and two AUN alumnae Kenechukwu Nwagbo and Zamiyat Abubakar, suggests that the new Transactional Radio Instruction (TRI) model can be used in crisis and post-conflict societies where there are no schools or trained teachers.

Their work, “Where there is no school: Rethinking Interactive Radio Instruction in Conflict and Post-Conflict Societies,” was presented recently at the maiden edition of ‘Media Futures’ – a roundtable discussion on contemporary media issues, organized by SAS Research Seminar Series.

Drawing on behavioral and communication models, mainly the works of Albert Bandura and Marshal McLuhan, the team argued that learning takes place in a social context and that the medium of instruction is in itself a symbolic learning environment. It must necessarily aim to replicate the real-life learning environment, including the many social problems, taboos, beliefs, and persons who interact and interfere daily with learning.


The team argued that there is a mutual influence between radio instructional contents and various contextual elements, such as learners’ self-esteem, local attitudes towards ‘western’ education, religious and cultural beliefs, noise, influential others, and learners’ field of experience. This process of “reciprocal determinism”, they say, is a vitally important element that must be addressed in radio instruction design as it can influence how pupils in societies in crisis engage with program contents.

“This demands that IRI content creators go beyond merely requiring learners to recite or repeat answers as found in most IRIs. IRIs should transact with real-world experiences by embodying stories and normative appeals that seek to help learners overcome real-world interferences to their learning,” the researchers said.

Introducing the project, lead researcher Dr. Jacob who is also Interim Dean of SAS, said their interest in new forms of IRI developed after his team undertook formative evaluations late last year during the trial episodes of the radio instructional components of the USAID-funded Technology 

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Enhanced Learning for All (TELA) project. He said they observed that the target learners, which included IDP children, orphans, and other vulnerable children who fled Boko Haram violence, required a lot more than literacy and numeracy lessons.

Nwagbo and Abubakar, both 2016 Magna Cum Laude graduates, identified elements from original scripts of the TELA literacy and numeracy radio instruction programs that illustrate the transactional nature of the programs. They also identified elements in the script that show how the programs transact with the lived experience of learners.“Over the three seasons of the radio programs, our content and production design have evolved along with the vicarious needs of our target audience. We have drawn enormous lessons from the field and from behavioral and communication models. This is an ongoing project. We don’t have all the answers yet, we are still learning,” Jacob said.

“Our TRI program uses workbooks, local folk songs, storytelling, strong characters, dolls, and drama to stimulate and support learning. Our work highlights the importance of radio instruction programs that not only engage all the senses of children-learners, but also model pro-social behavior,” the researchers noted.

Drawing on in-depth personal interviews of facilitators and learners in the field, the team argued that their TRI model has the potential of achieving impact beyond the targeted 50 percent improvements in learners’ early grade reading and math competencies.

IRI was developed by scholars at Stanford University in the 1970s for use in teaching basic Math in hard-to-reach areas in Nicaragua. Since then, IRIs have been used in various parts of the world to support learning.

The AUN-USAID TELA radio programs are produced by a team of AUN students, staff and faculty members and broadcast weekly on the local Gotel Radio FM. The programs reach some 20,000 children in Adamawa State. The TELA project aims to improve the numeracy and literacy skills of vulnerable children in northeast Nigeria, where literacy rates are among the lowest in the country.

By Ogadinma Christon-Quao

Culled from

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