Improving Teacher Quality at Scale: 10 Tips from Practitioners
Our partner, The Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE), recently released a brief offering 10 Tips for Improving Teacher Quality at Scale. PSIPSE drew on important insights from Educate! as well as seven other non-governmental organizations working to sharpen teachers’ pedagogical skills.
Educate!’s model, highlighted in PSIPSE’s report, incorporates innovative approaches that aim to cultivate and enhance teacher quality. For example, Educate! has designed an approach (which we call Skills Lab) that is easy for teachers to remember: build-practice-present. Teachers easily learn this approach during training and can deploy it in class quickly. The simple build-practice-present framework facilitates improvisation when teachers do not have a lesson plan ready. The clarity of the approach enables its expansion by ensuring that it is easily understood by government officials overseeing scale-up.
PSIPSE’s brief offers concrete tips on designing an intervention, partnering with key stakeholders, and motivating teachers. Take a look below:
DESIGN FOR SCALE
TIP 1: Develop simple, streamlined pedagogical approaches. Straightforward program models are more likely to be adopted by teachers and scaled successfully than complex models.
TIP 2: Give teachers time to internalize new pedagogies. In-service trainings often ask a lot of teachers—to shed practices they have followed for years and adopt methods that may be radically different. Training programs need to acknowledge this challenge up front and allow enough time for teachers to fully understand the new pedagogies.
TIP 3: Strike the right balance between inclusion and efficacy when deciding whom to train. NGOs want to structure training programs so that they reach the most teachers, and each teacher receives adequate support. One NGO found that its approach to selecting teachers for training was leading to feelings of inequity and demotivation among those excluded. It therefore revised its implementation model to allow teachers to take turns attending the trainings, and it began requiring trained teachers to share their new knowledge and skills with other teachers in their schools.
TIP 4: Consider school size—and draw on the strengths of small and big schools—in designing a training strategy. Working in small schools can lead to significant changes in practices, particularly for capacity-building efforts that rely on teacher collaboration. Other types of collaboration do not happen as organically at larger schools.
TIP 5: Design an affordable intervention if you want to sustain and scale it. For innovations to permeate the educational system, they must be cost-effective and in line with government resources.
BUILD STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS
TIP 6: Partner with teacher training colleges and universities. Forging strong ties with teacher colleges and universities that offer pre-service training could help create a virtuous feedback loop—whereby the NGOs’ in-service trainings benefit from the expertise of academics, and the academics benefit from the infusion of new practices and practical experiences.
TIP 7: Gain the government’s buy-in for program scale-up by building trust. NGOs said that engaging government stakeholders in the design process—and having them participate in trainings—can increase their confidence in new pedagogical approaches. Strategically engaging the government in this way can set the stage for eventual program scale-up.
TIP 8: Provide a mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators at scale. Some teachers enter the profession in response to a strong vocation, whereas others make a sound career choice given viable alternatives. Enhancing teachers’ motivation at scale will likely require using a mix of strategies to motivate both sets of teachers, those who respond to intrinsic versus extrinsic motivators.
TIP 9: Support teacher networks to boost intrinsic motivation and increase student learning. Teacher networks can nurture intrinsic motivation in a sustainable and scalable way. Preliminary evidence not yet publicly available suggests that these activities may lead to increased teacher effort and improvements in reading among primary school students.
TIP 10: Offer tangible recognition of accomplishments—such as certificates, accreditation, and awards—to boost motivation. Formal recognition may encourage teachers by helping with their career advancement—and may fuel intrinsic motivation as well. A few NGOs use extrinsic motivators to encourage teachers. They recognize teachers’ accomplishments through certificates of participation, awards for best-performing teacher or school, credit toward teachers’ licensing renewal requirements, or the showcasing of teachers’ work to others.