PLAY overview CIES (Dubeck et al., 2022)

Play has the potential to transform the global learning crisis. In infancy and early childhood, play builds a strong foundation for later learning by improving brain development and growth (Goldstein, 2012). In education systems that lack capacity to support children effectively, play brings its own powerful engine to drive learning—the joyful, engaged intrinsic motivation of children themselves (Zosh et al., 2017). In this way, play contributes to the holistic development of children, helping to prepare them for the challenges of the current and future world. Accordingly, there is an urgent need to improve measurement of playful learning, to be able to add to the evidence base on what the benefits of play are, how playful learning takes place, and how it can be promoted at home and at school across the lifespan. This presentation focuses on a renewed conceptualization of playful learning and describes an innovative approach to measuring how settings contribute to playful learning for children ages 0 to 12, supported by the Lego Foundation. The settings we examine include homes, classrooms and ECD centers. Following Tseng and Seideman (2007), we view settings as consisting of social interactions (i.e. between teachers or caregivers and children) and the organization of resources (e.g. learning materials, games). First, we will present our conceptual framework which identifies six constructs to guide our measurement strategy. The constructs, such as ‘support for exploration’, represent the ways in which a setting supports playful learning. Next, we will present our contextualization framework which guides how we are adapting and modifying the measurement tools to different contexts. The tool consists of a protocol to observe adult-child interactions and survey measures conducted with teachers, caregivers and primary school pupils. As part of the development process for these measurement tools, observation and survey measures will go through a three-phase development process in Kenya, Ghana, Colombia, and Jordan. The Build phase involved collecting qualitative data from teachers, caregivers and students to understand their perception of playful learning and how it is supported at home and at school. Next, an Adapt phase took place where the initial versions of the measurement tools underwent cognitive interviewing, field adaptation, and a small pilot to adjust and extend the items in the tool. The third Test phase is a full pilot of the instruments, and the data will undergo rigorous psychometric analyses to review the validity and reliability of the tools in the four country contexts. We will use the results to adjust the instruments and to finalize the conceptual framework and contextualization strategies. The final toolkit will be publicly available towards the end of 2022 with supporting materials for contextualization, piloting, training and analysis. The toolkit will be available on a public platform designed to promote sharing of data collected using the tool and to collaborate to continually improve approaches to measuring support for playful learning.

Instructional Support for Effective Large-Scale Reading Interventions (Learning at Scale)

Learning outcomes are low and instruction is poor in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). These shortcomings are particularly concerning given the substantial learning loss due to COVID-19 from which many systems are suffering. The Learning at Scale study identified eight of the most effective large-scale education programs in LMICs and now is examining what factors contribute to successful improvements in learning outcomes at scale (see list of programs on last page of this brief). These programs were selected based on their demonstrated gains in reading outcomes at-scale, from either midline or endline impact evaluations. The study addresses three overarching research questions, focused on understanding (1) the components of instructional practices (Brief 1), (2) instructional supports (Brief 2), and (3) system supports (Brief 3) that lead to effective instruction. This brief focuses specifically on instructional supports. It addresses the following research question: What methods of training and support lead to teachers adopting effective classroom practices in successful, large-scale literacy programs?

Instructional Practices for Effective Large-Scale Reading Interventions (Learning at Scale)

The Learning at Scale study aimed to investigate factors contributing to successful improvements in learning outcomes at scale in eight of the most effective large-scale education programs in LMICs (see the map of programs on the last page of this brief). These programs were selected based on their demonstrated gains in reading outcomes at-scale, from either midline or endline impact evaluations. The study addressed three overarching research questions, focused on understanding the components of instructional practices (Brief 1), instructional supports (Brief 2), and system supports (Brief 3) that lead to effective instruction. This brief focuses specifically on instructional practices. It addresses the following research question: What classroom ingredients (e.g., teaching practices, classroom environment) lead to learning in programs that are effective at scale?

Teacher Language and Literacy Assessment: Final Report

The Research for Effective Education Programming – Africa (REEP–A) Task Order, awarded in September 2016, is a five-year project within the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Africa Bureau. The primary objective of REEP–A is to generate and effectively disseminate Africa regional and country-specific education data, analysis, and research to inform the prioritization of needs and education investment decisions. One research focus under REEP–A is to explore how teachers’ language proficiency and literacy in the language of instruction (LOI) influence students’ learning outcomes. It is hypothesized that the teachers’ level of language proficiency and literacy in the LOI can either facilitate student learning, if high; or impede learning, if low. However, limited data are available on how teacher language and literacy skill levels precisely relate to student outcomes. Exploring this relationship requires having a valid and reliable tool to measure teachers’ language and literacy skills. USAID therefore commissioned the development of the Teacher Language and Literacy Assessment (TLLA) to assess teachers’ language proficiency and literacy in the required LOI. The TLLA, adaptable to any language, consists of subtasks assessing speaking, listening, reading, and writing, as well as vocabulary and grammar, in the language(s) used for teaching and learning at the primary school level in a given context. It is envisioned that policymakers, researchers, and other education stakeholders can use the TLLA to collect data on teachers’ linguistic assets and gaps in the languages that their role requires them to use. These data could be useful for identifying factors contributing to student learning outcomes, informing teacher training and professional development needs, designing teacher deployment policies, and evaluating the impact of interventions aimed at improving teachers’ or students’ language and literacy skills. The aim of this report is to present the new tool and disseminate the initial findings around its technical adequacy. The international community has directed considerable effort to assessing and understanding the impact of language on students’ literacy and language skills, and the TLLA is a complementary tool that shows promise for understanding teachers’ language assets and needs.

What works in early grade literacy instruction

Over the past decade, RTI International has pursued the goal of quality, inclusive, differentiated early grade literacy instruction in nearly 30 early grade reading or early grade literacy programs in low- and middle-income (LMI) countries. Across our diverse portfolio, we have supported Ministries of Education (Ministries) in diverse contexts in their development and implementation of research-based early grade literacy programs and have learned important lessons based on our experience working with Ministries to design, develop, and implement early grade literacy programs. This paper describes the core elements that we have found to improve early grade literacy instruction and learner outcomes: the approach to teaching (Teach), the availability of quality, relevant learner materials (Text), the effective use of instructional time (Time), the use of formative assessment to guide instruction (Test), and provision of instruction in the most effective language (Tongue). This paper focuses on the acquisition of literacy in alphabetic and alphasyllabic languages in the early primary years (most typically, academic levels 1 through 3) and the kinds of exposures, instruction, and support learners need to become fully literate. These are the elements of a literacy program that can be taught, that should be present in teaching and learning materials and in teacher trainings, and that relate specifically to what happens in a classroom.

Using EGRA data for differentiated instruction: Learning profiles and instructional needs in Uganda

Presentation delivered at CIES2017 (Atlanta). A challenge of large-scale education research projects in international development is determining the most appropriate way to effectively report findings for a wide variety of audiences (e.g., researchers, ministry officials, donors, and other relevant stakeholders). It is important to consider technical rigor and accessibility, while ultimately providing results that can be used to inform policy and instruction. Using Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) data from Uganda in two languages, we are replicating an approach for categorizing students into learning profiles, which are directly tied to their particular instructional needs. We have conducted this analysis previously with data from Indonesia. We had conceptualized on the framework to be used across different context This study reports on the efficacy of using the same method with this sample with Luganda speakers. We divided students into five learning profiles based on their reading ability (Next Grade Ready, Fluent, Instructional, Beginner, and Nonreader) and then examined the relationship among these profiles and their reading skills on a variety of EGRA subtasks to determine the instructional need required to promote students from one profile to the next. Our learner profile method has been used with data in two countries and two languages. EGRA has been used in over 70 countries and in more than 100 languages. This study is an initial attempt to explore the value in this method.

Complements to the Early Grade Reading Assessment: Spelling, Reading Comprehension, and Oral Language Subtasks

The EGRA has been a useful tool to understand students’ progress toward fluent reading. However, users are often left wanting additional information about reading comprehension, writing, and language. The subtasks that we piloted in the research activity described in this brief can give researchers and practitioners more detailed information to understand the early literacy abilities of students in low-income contexts.

“I failed, no matter how hard I tried”: A mixed-methods study of the role of achievement in primary school dropout in rural Kenya.

Article published in the International Journal of Education and Development, Volume 50. From Journal abstract: "Initial access to school is nearly universal in Kenya, but many children who enroll drop out before completing primary school. In this mixed-methods study, we use quantitative data from a randomized control trial involving 2666 upper primary-grade students, as well as qualitative data from interviews with 41 schoolchildren, dropouts, and parents, to examine dropout. Poorer baseline performance on literacy and numeracy assessments predicted a higher risk of dropout. Interviews revealed that children are the primary decision-makers rather than parents. Together, these findings suggest that school quality interventions may be an effective means of reducing primary school dropout in this region."

The Early Grade Reading Assessment: From Design to Dissemination

An infographic describing the key steps and timeline involved in conducting an Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA).

Improving Literacy Instruction in Kenya Through Teacher Professional Development and Text Messages Support: A Cluster Randomized Trial

Article published in Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness. Published abstract: We evaluated a program to improve literacy instruction on the Kenyan coast using training workshops, semiscripted lesson plans, and weekly text-message support for teachers to understand its impact on students’ literacy outcomes and on the classroom practices leading to those outcomes. The evaluation ran from the beginning of Grade 1 to the end of Grade 2 in 51 government primary schools chosen at random, with 50 schools acting as controls. The intervention had an impact on classroom practices with effect sizes from 0.57 to 1.15. There was more instruction with written text and more focus on letters and sounds. There was a positive impact on three of four primary measures of children’s literacy after two years, with effect sizes up to 0.64, and school dropout reduced from 5.3% to 2.1%. This approach to literacy instruction is sustainable, and affordable and a similar approach has subsequently been adopted nationally in Kenya.