Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford
As millions of parents around the world abruptly discovered amid COVID-19 school closures, teaching is not child’s play. Given how difficult it is to teach well, education systems need to support teachers to continually build their competencies. To facilitate student learning, teacher training has to be aligned not only with effective pedagogical practice, but also with students’ learning levels, teachers’ context-specific needs, and local curricular requirements.
RISE hosted a webinar on 30 July to examine the importance and the complexity of training and coaching for in-service teachers. Chaired by Joe DeStefano of RTI International, the panellists came together to discuss the results of their respective research.
Janeli Kotzé compared the effectiveness of virtual, tablet-based coaching and on-site coaching for South African primary school teachers. Charlotte Jones discussed a study of the delivery of teacher professional development through communities of practice implemented at scale in Kenya and Rwanda. Andy de Barros examined the efficacy of teacher training and instructional materials for a primary school mathematics programme in Karnataka, India. Todd Pugatch presented results from an evaluation of the impact of an extensive teacher training programme on the delivery of a compulsory entrepreneurship course in Rwandan secondary schools across a range of outcomes.
Due to the time constraints of the event, our panellists were unable to answer all of the questions submitted by our attendees. Fortunately, the panel has enthusiastically tried to answer the remaining questions. Click on one of the questions below to learn more about our panellists’ research.
Todd Pugatch: Our study doesn’t address this topic directly. But in other work I have done, pre-service teacher training has little relationship to student performance. Some ways to improve pre-service training include: “First, emulate successful practices used by in-service training programs. Second, reposition certification as one point of continuous professional development, not merely a one-time event. Finally, install clear and transparent incentives for career advancement based on performance, not merely formal qualifications and experience. Such reforms would help to support and retain the most talented among the present teaching corps, as well as to attract bright and ambitious graduates to the profession.” Top ↑
Andy de Barros: We don’t entirely know, at least not yet, but we can already rule out a couple of hypotheses. Girls were indeed slightly farther behind in math, but we don’t find differential impacts by baseline ability. I just took a brief look at our classroom observation data—it also doesn’t look like we find differences in the extent to which teachers “treated students of all genders with equal regard” (as measured by TEACH). This will be more exploratory, but we can still look into differential effects on student attitudes. Top ↑
Charlotte Jones: In phase 1 of the Kenya programme (3 years 2014-2017), Education Development Trust saw gains of 0.52 SD on girls’ learning outcomes, validated by Coffey International’s final evaluation impact report (p.33 table 11, page 40 table 14). The budget envelope for this study will allow us to track changes in instructional quality only unfortunately. However, the link between instructional quality and student outcomes is well established. The two programmes do obviously track changes in learning outcomes as part of their monitoring requirements (see above). Top ↑
Charlotte Jones: This is one of the key takeaways of the paper. Too much school leadership development is generic. What are we training school leaders for? The Teachers Learning Together study has tried to get quite forensic on this question, and the leadership and facilitation attributes that actually lead to professional growth. We had no time to discuss in the panel, but we are looking inside the black box of the community of practice and have invested in a tool which looks at community of practice features and attributes, including leadership inputs. Top ↑
Charlotte Jones: Yes, in Kenya a significant proportion of the schools in the urban slum areas are low cost private schools. The study finds some interesting differences between community of practices between types of schools and this will be further analysed in the endline analysis. Top ↑
Janeli Kotzé: There could be a benefit in supporting coaches virtually, but your up-front training of the coach will be very important. For instance, we employed coaches who have a couple of years of experience in both teaching and coaching early grade reading. We still spend a week each term in training them on the content, reading methodologies and coaching support methods. Top ↑
Janeli Kotzé: Firstly, our coaches were employed by an external organisation and not the government. That already meant that there was an additional layer of confidentiality between the coach and the teacher, since the coach will not report on the teacher’s performance. At this point, we are not sure how critical this aspect is to the trust relationship. Secondly, we spent a lot of effort to train the coaches on the soft-skills, and even ‘scripted’ this slightly. For instance, coaches had to always start their feedback with a compliment, and they had to ensure that the majority of their feedback was encouraging. We are currently in the process of developing a coaching course and the intention is to train district officials on these coaching methods. We will see whether this will change their approach to supporting teachers. Top ↑
Todd Pugatch: We’re looking into this, as the results on income and university enrolment remain preliminary. Top ↑
Todd Pugatch: Yes, Skills Lab implementation was considerably higher (52 percentage points) in treatment schools. We attribute this to the emphasis placed on Skills Labs in the training and outreach program. Teachers and head teachers got the message that Skills Labs were essential to curricular implementation. Top ↑
Todd Pugatch: Soft skills were indeed included in the curriculum and our evaluation, though I didn’t focus on these in the presentation. We find no treatment effect on a range of dimensions, though we do find increases in grit among treated students in preliminary results of our follow-up study. Top ↑
For more information regarding the event, including links to the papers that were presented, please visit the event page on the RISE website.
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