Working Paper

20/050

Can Virtual Replace In-person Coaching? Experimental Evidence on Teacher Professional Development and Student Learning

Authors

Image of Jacobus Cilliers

Jacobus Cilliers

RISE Tanzania

Georgetown University

Image of Brahm Fleisch

Brahm Fleisch

University of Witwatersrand

Image of Janeli Kotzé

Janeli Kotzé

RISE Fellows

Department of Basic Education, Government of South Africa

Image of Nompumelelo Mohohlwane

Nompumelelo Mohohlwane

Department of Basic Education, Government of South Africa

Image of Stephen Taylor

Stephen Taylor

Department of Basic Education, Government of South Africa

Image of Tshegofatso Thulare

Tshegofatso Thulare

Department of Basic Education, Government of South Africa

Virtual communication holds the promise of enabling low-cost professional development at scale, but the benefits of in-person interaction might be difficult to replicate. We report on an experiment in South Africa comparing on-site with virtual coaching of public primary school teachers. After three years, on-site coaching improved students' English oral language and reading proficiency (0.31 and 0.13 SD, respectively). Virtual coaching had a smaller impact on English oral language proficiency (0.12 SD), no impact on English reading proficiency, and an unintended negative effect on home language literacy. Classroom observations show that on-site coaching improved teaching practices, and virtual coaching led to larger crowding-out of home language teaching time. Implementation and survey data suggest technology itself was not a barrier to implementation, but rather that in-person contact enabled more accountability and support.

The original version of this paper was first published in September 2020.

Citation:

Cilliers et al. 2021. Can Virtual Replace In-person Coaching? Experimental Evidence on Teacher Professional Development and Student Learning. RISE Working Paper Series. 20/050. https://doi.org/10.35489/BSG-RISE-WP_2020/050