The Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE) launched a new study earlier this week, a continuation of their brief offering Ten Tips for Improving Teacher Quality at Scale. Drawing on Educate!’s experience in Rwanda and the experiences of seven other PSIPSE partners, the study details practical lessons on how to design, implement, and scale efforts to train, motivate, and support teachers.
In Rwanda, Educate! supports the Rwandan government with implementation of the reformed, competence-based curriculum (which we also acted as a technical advisor on) through in-school support and teacher training. As a result, we have identified key challenges to improving teacher quality, tested creative solutions, and developed positive interventions that strengthen teachers’ pedagogical skills.
Below are excerpts from PSIPSE’s new study, which highlight our most important lessons learned for enhancing teacher quality at scale:
Lesson 1: Address challenges in teacher motivation by integrating with ongoing classroom practices, keeping things simple, and building student demand
“Educate! has responded to this challenge by stopping short of suggesting that teachers change their pedagogical style entirely. Rather, Educate! asks teachers to use one period a week to implement an engaging, hands-on activity— namely, its “skills lab” approach of “build–practice–present” . In the “build” step, teachers share knowledge and build skills interactively. In the “practice” step, teachers have students work in small groups and engage in a variety of exercises, including case study analysis, discussion, and role play. Finally, in the “present” step, groups share their work with the rest of the classroom. These three mutually reinforcing steps are intended to foster peer-to-peer learning, communication, and critical thinking skills. The last step, in which students present the group’s work, also gives teachers the opportunity to assess students’ understanding of the material. This enables teachers who are reluctant to relinquish their traditional teaching methods time to become comfortable with active learning approaches in a low-risk environment.” (page 14)
“Educate! found that the teachers participating in its program were often willing to consider adopting their new pedagogical approach but were held back by concerns around student reactions…. Educate! has leveraged students’ agency to increase teacher motivation. Specifically, it has sought to shape student expectations: ‘We also go directly to the students to influence the teachers. If we can change student expectations of their teachers, they can put pressure on the teachers.’” (page 19)
Lesson 2: Simple and straightforward program models are more easily scaled
“Complex, multi-component program models may require a level of technical expertise that not all government officials being trained to roll out these models will have. They also often require intensive on-the-ground oversight and refinement, which is difficult for busy government staff to undertake. By contrast, simple and streamlined models are more easily understood by government officials tasked with cascading programs and ultimately more easily adopted by teachers. For example, Educate! has designed a pedagogical approach that is easy for teachers to remember— build–practice–present. It reports that this approach is easily acquired during training (without requiring the perusal of lengthy manuals). It is also easily implemented in the classroom. Many teachers told Educate! that they had learned to develop lesson plans at their pre-service institutions, but that “no one really used lesson plans in real life.” Educate! notes that the build–practice–present approach allows for easy and effective improvisation even without a lesson plan in hand.” (page 26)
Lesson 3: Create linkages between teacher training colleges and in-service teacher training to extend impact and close gaps
“Engaging teacher training colleges in in-service teacher training efforts may help identify gaps in knowledge or skills that could motivate reforms in preservice training to better equip subsequent cohorts of teachers. Several grantees pointed out that teachers did not receive the preparation they needed to become effective teachers. Consequently, they use in-service training to help ensure that teachers who are already in the workforce are not using only traditional, rote learning-based pedagogical approaches, and that they are beginning to adopt the types of pedagogies that enhance learning and help prepare students to be critical thinkers—such as inquiry-based, problem-based, and hands-on teaching strategies. Educate!’s approach, encouraging the use of hands-on activities during one lesson per week, is a good example. Trainings such as this one could be leveraged to improve pre-service training.” (page 16)
Lesson 4: Build and maintain close government partnerships to amplify impact
“....Educate! interacted with key members of the Rwandan government as their new secondary education curriculum was being finalized and identified (1) strong synergies between its work and the government’s focus areas and (2) gaps it could help the government address.Specifically, in reviewing the new curriculum, Educate! became aware of the close parallels between the content for the entrepreneurship subject and the topics covered by its own leadership, entrepreneurship, and workforce readiness program in Uganda. It also noted that the Rwandan government did not yet have a specific pedagogical approach for implementing its entrepreneurship curriculum, and made the case for the adoption of its build–practice–present pedagogical model. This approach has now been folded into the cascaded national rollout of the entrepreneurship curriculum; all entrepreneurship teachers in Rwanda are being trained on the approach.” (page 24)
“Several grantees believe that bringing government officials to the classroom to see teachers in action is the most promising way to make a case for scale-up to policymakers and obtain the buy-in of midlevel officials rolling out the program at scale. For example, Educate! noted that a key barrier it faced in scaling its pedagogical approach in Rwanda, as part of the national rollout of a new entrepreneurship curriculum, was resistance among national trainers to this approach. To tackle this challenge, Educate! staff members took these stakeholders to the field to observe one of the lesson plans from Rwanda’s old curriculum being used in the classroom. They observed that the lesson plan, which was long and complex, was difficult to implement in the classroom. In this way, Educate! sought to show government actors what was effective and not effective in practice and thereby make the case for new approaches more closely aligned with realities in the field. Beyond enabling scale-up, grantees feel that such field visits are needed to reduce the disconnect between policy and practice and stem the tide of programming being pushed out that does not reflect on-the-ground needs and constraints.” (page 24)
Lesson 5: Rigorous evaluation and robust evidence should be a critical part of projects considering scale
“Two grantees have taken steps to generate rigorous evidence of the effectiveness of their program models. Both STIR and Educate! have commissioned external partners to conduct experimental or quasi-experimental evaluations of different iterations of their model…. Once programs are beyond the pilot stage, however, and considering further scale-up, generating rigorous evidence of impact becomes more important.” (page 21)
“Once evaluations are conducted and strong evidence is generated, the next step is to engage in multi-component and tailored dissemination of this evidence, which can showcase project successes and potentially enable replication or scale-up of promising practices.” (page 22)
To read PSIPSE’s full length study click here.