Although our International Education SharEd community is barely 1 year old, we have enjoyed the opportunity to share personal stories of projects and programs we are working on or areas of research interest through the commentary ("blog") feature. A total of 20 articles have been posted, although some of these were reposted from other blogs dating back as far as 2011. Of the original commentary posts written for SharEd in 2017, topics covered included: scale up and sustainability (Hank Healey), applying the Collaborate, Learn and Adapt approach in Uganda (Tracy Brunette), reflections on the AEA conference (Matthew Jukes), applying Improvement Science to international development (Lee Nordstrum), and Benjamin Piper's heartfelt plea for humility in international development technical assistance. 

In case you missed them, here is a chance to review those that generated the most interest in the calendar year 2017 (regardless of date posted). Thanks for being part of our first year of blogging, and hope to see you back in 2018!


Invisible in the classroom: Addressing reading hurdles for low vision and hard of hearing students


In one of the first commentary posts of the year Carmen Strigel describes a new approach to screening of hearing and vision impairments in Ethiopia. Through a partnership with existing products--South African firm HearScreen and UK’s Peekvision--RTI conducted one of the first rigorous assessments of the prevalence of these impairments, as well as teacher attitudes and self-efficacy towards inclusive education in regular public school classrooms. "Eleven trained assessor teams traveled to 65 schools in five regions of Ethiopia to screen grade two children in selected classrooms for their vision and hearing levels and interview them about their reading, classroom and schooling experience. Assessors also surveyed teachers about their instructional practices, attitudes, and self-efficacy in teaching children that are hard of hearing or have LV low vision, and observed their classrooms. School principals were asked about the prevalence of disability among their students, inclusive practices implemented by their schools, and resources to support children that are hard of hearing or have low vision." This article describes the technology and study approach. We are in the process of posting the endline report, sharing lesson learned, as well as the most encouraging outcomes of this intervention. You can be sure to hear more about this study in Ethiopia as well as expansion to other countries in 2018.


Journeys through Uganda: The USAID/Uganda Literacy Achievement and Retention Activity’s (LARA) approach to stopping SRGBV in primary schools


In this article, Julianne Norman and Liz Randolph describe a ground-breaking approach to addressing school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) in Uganda. Journeys, an innovative approach to eliminating violence in schools, which was informed by Ugandan educationist views and expertise; research on known mediators of SRGBV, such as cultural norms related to gender and power relations, school climate and social and emotional learning; social behaviour change models; experiential learning and social behaviour change models; SRGBV prevention and intervention case studies; and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Presencing Institute U-Model. The Journeys approach is unique in that it applies awareness-building social technologies, such as guided reflection, idea generation tools, and a variety of dialogue tools, and prototyping to allow individual and collective actions for social change to emerge naturally rather than conducting any form of direct training or “sensitization.” The program has been influential notably by becoming a mandatory element of the primary school curriculum (based on this circular from the MOES).


Using games to assess employability skills


Lee Nordstrum describes an experiment in "Stealth assessment, in which assessment participants are unknowingly scored on skills and abilities while undertaking intentionally structured tasks....RTI is developing CurrentMobile, a suite of game-based assessment modules that measure skills that are critical for participation in school, work, and life. The assessment modules allow users to exhibit (rather than self-report) a set of skills within authentic scenarios of home and work situations. Data are collected by the games and can be combined with other cognitive data (such as reading and mathematics assessments) in order to produce a holistic view of applied skills and competencies held by young people. The assessment utilizes tablet technology, and is designed for use with youth in peri-urban settings in middle- and low-income contexts."  This article describes the background and field trial completed in Morocco in 2016. Stay tuned for more on this initiative in 2018 as development and testing continues!  


MOOCs and Online Education for International Development (A Retrospective)


Hoping to find some groundbreaking evidence of the applicability of MOOCs for low-income environments, Sarah Pouezevara looks back at the year 2016 and developments in the MOOC implementation and research landscape. This commentary post summarizes important news and research from around the world, and concludes that although the "summary is unlikely to be an exhaustive list of major recent research, it does show some recurring themes that are also reminiscent of issues we raised in our original paper. In terms of the applicability of MOOCs to developing contexts, it seems our original conclusion is still valid: The delivery format(s), language and pedagogy of most MOOCs make them inaccessible for many learners who need them the most. However, there is increasing evidence that the prospect of gaining marketable skills and affordable course certifications can be an important motivator for learners in LMICs to overcome these challenges." A useful follow up would be to unpack the conditions for successful access to and completion of MOOCs in low-income environments and and highlighting more examples of these positive adaptations. Perhaps a "MOOCs in Development, v3" commentary will make it onto SharEd in 2018?


About the Expert

Ms. Sarah Pouezevara is Senior Research Education Analyst and eLearning Specialist with the International Education Division of RTI International’s International Development Group. She has expertise in adult learning and training with a special focus on teacher professional development, including using Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) for training. She applies this expertise to designing innovative approaches such as mobile learning, open and distance learning, and communities of practice to increase impact of international education project through monitoring, evaluation, and learning. Ms. Pouezevara has led program evaluations for international NGOs in the education and health sectors, and has been the lead or co-author on several practical research reports and reference manuals, including state-of-the art reviews of mobile learning, one-to-one tablet computers, and massive open online courses (MOOCs) in education in developing countries. Prior to working for RTI, she participated in many education-sector program evaluations for the International Rescue Committee; she developed e-resources for The World Health Organization and the International Committee for the Red Cross and Red Crescent, and designed training materials and delivered training workshops for UNAIDS. Sarah is based in Seattle, WA.