Teaching by the book: Teacher decision-making while using structured lesson plans

The purpose of this paper is to present a methodology for understanding materials usage in primary classrooms in Sub-Saharan Africa that centers teachers’ actions and voices. The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 focuses on improved primary education around the world. To meet this goal, many large, donor-funded interventions aim to improve education through provision of teacher’s guides and student textbooks. However, what many of these interventions lack is a systematic way to understand how and why teachers are making pedagogical decisions while using materials. There is a large body of work that seeks to understand how teachers make decisions as they teach, and the ways these decisions are influenced by their knowledge and beliefs. Drawing from this work, we describe a methodology and set of tools that uses observations and interviews to identify key decisions that teachers make in the classroom and why teachers made those decisions. We piloted and iteratively refined this methodology over the course of three studies and use examples from these studies to illustrate the methodology. By closely observing and listening to teachers, we gain insights that allow us to continually refine and improve materials to ultimately improve the quality of classroom instruction.

Influences on teachers’ use of the prescribed language of instruction: Evidence from four language groups in the Philippines.

In 2009 the Philippines introduced a mother tongue-based multilingual education language policy requiring the “mother tongue” as the language of instruction (LOI) in kindergarten through grade 3. Using teacher classroom language data collected from four LOI groups in 2019, we compared the frequency of teachers’ use of the target LOI in different contexts, including urban versus rural classrooms, classrooms with relatively homogeneous student language backgrounds versus more heterogeneous classrooms, and classrooms with materials in the target language versus classrooms without. We also examined language usage against characteristics of the teacher populations, including language background, years of experience, training, and beliefs about the best language for initial literacy. The results strongly suggest that the most influential levers for increasing teacher usage of a designated LOI in these contexts are ensuring that teachers are assigned to schools where the LOI matches their own first language and providing teaching and learning materials in the target LOI, especially teacher’s guides. These two factors were more strongly and more consistently correlated with teacher use of the LOI than all other variables examined. The linguistic homogeneity of the student population also showed a statistically significant though lower impact on teacher language usage. This document was developed with support from the American people through the United States Agency for International Development.

Report of Self-Administered EGRA/EGMA Pilot (Ghana, English)

This report summarizes the findings of an effort to develop and validate tablet-based, self-administered assessments of English-language foundational literacy and numeracy in the early grades. The tools described in the report were developed at the request of Imagine Worldwide with the support of the Jacobs Foundation. RTI carried out field testing and a pilot study to assess the tools' internal consistency, test-retest reliability, and concurrent validity with respect to "traditional" EGRA and EGMA. RTI International developed the two assessments, known respectively as the Self-Administered Early Grade Reading Assessment (SA-EGRA) and the Self-Administered Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (SA-EGMA), with the support and at the direction of Imagine Worldwide. The assessments are deemed “self-administered,” because children complete the assessments independently in response to instructions and stimuli imbedded in the tablet-based software. However, adults typically supervise the organization and conduct of the assessment as well as the collection of individual data from the tablets for analysis. The tools have been developed under an open-source license. The code can be viewed and downloaded for reuse or modification at https://github.com/ICTatRTI/SE-tools/blob/main/README.md. Users of RTI's Tangerine software may request that the SA-EGRA and SA-EGMA tools be added to their Tangerine groups via https://www.tangerinecentral.org/contact

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.

A Research Framework for Capturing Teachers' Decision-Making [CIES 2021 Presentation]

The purpose of this session is to articulate a research framework that centers teachers’ voices when trying to understand how teachers use curriculum materials in the classroom. Operating in the context of highly structured lesson plans, the approach identifies ways in which teachers exercise their professional discretion to modify the lesson and frames conversations to elaborate the motivations driving the teachers’ choices. The approach has been iteratively refined across three studies; taken together, the studies provide evidence for the value of listening to teachers and being responsive to their voices during implementation. The research framework uses the lens of modifications, or changes to the intended lesson plan implemented within one class period. Modifications can be large or small, additive or subtractive. For example, in a lesson with a section for independent student practice, a large modification might be skipping the practice section entirely. Or, during a lesson focused on blending of initial sounds using 3 example words, a small modification might be extending the exercise by adding extra words. Researchers observe the lesson, noting any modifications; after the lesson, the researchers select some of the modifications and ask the teachers why they made the choices they did. Analyses of teachers’ explanations highlight the importance of understanding why teachers make the choices they do. For example, a teacher who skipped the independent practice section because they don’t think their students are ready to do the skill on their own suggests that the teacher is exercising agency and using her knowledge of her students to inform her decision-making. Insights such as this one can guide decisions on projects. It may be that while the intention of the teacher was guided by knowledge of students, the end result is not desirable from the project’s point of view. Understanding why the teacher made this choice provides implementers with better and targeted ways to address choices that impact the overall goals of the project. In this presentation, we draw on data from an exploratory case study to understand use of new mathematics materials in Liberia, a more in-depth case conducted in Malawi on teacher use of reading materials, and finally, a systematic study examining how reading teachers use materials across four Sub-Saharan African countries. We use each case to highlight both an aspect of the research framework and instances of modifications to project implementation driven by teachers’ voices. By focusing on teacher voices, we disrupt the deficit notion that teachers are “resistant” to change, or do not “understand” new pedagogies. Instead, we aim to value teacher voices and integrate their insight into implementation programs. By doing this, we not only raise the likelihood of successful use of new materials and pedagogies, but we also develop more responsive pedagogy that better matches existing classroom cultures.

Results and Implications of a 2019 Study of Fidelity of Implementation of the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) Policy in the Philippines

This presentation highlights some of the results and implications of a 2019 study on fidelity of implementation of the language of instruction policy in the Philippines. In 2009 the Philippines Department of Education issued Order No. 74 calling for the use of the learners’ mother tongue (MT) as the main medium of teaching and learning (MoTL) in kindergarten through grade 3. The policy introduces Filipino and English as additional languages of instruction, gradually increasing their usage until they take over as the primary MoTL in grade 4. Successfully navigating students through three languages in the early grades is a daunting task. Building on previous studies of MTB-MLE policy implementation in the Philippines, this study examined how teacher assignment, class sectioning (grouping learners by MT), materials provisioning and usage, and teachers’ language usage in the classroom conforms to or diverges from the policy, especially across locations with different contextual factors. It also looked at the factors associated with higher implementation.

2019 Language Usage Study in Bahasa Sug, Chavacano, Magindanawn, and Mëranaw Mother Tongue Schools

The objective of this study was to provide insight into the relationships between the teachers’ and students’ language usage, the MTB-MLE policy implementation, and student reading outcomes, especially in areas with linguistically heterogeneous populations. It sought to examine how language usage in the classroom conforms to or diverges from the MTB-MLE policy after six years of implementation, which factors are associated with higher policy implementation, and how language usage by teachers and students relates to student learning outcomes.

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.

Relationships Between Coach Support and Teacher Instructional Practices Preliminary Findings from the Nigeria Reading and Access Research Activity (RARA)

Presentation delivered at CIES2017 (Atlanta). As part of the USAID-funded Nigeria Reading and Access Research Activity (RARA) (2014-2015), RTI International developed and evaluated, through a randomized control trial, an approach to improving early grade literacy instruction and reading outcomes in Hausa in Northern Nigeria. The intervention package included the provision of teaching and learning materials, teacher training, and periodic support to teachers by pedagogical coaches. This presentation will focus on the role of the coach support; 24 reading coaches were trained to support 72 teachers in 60 public primary schools in two states over a period of six months during the 2014-2015 school year. The coaches provided support in the form of recurring site visits, lesson observations, and a coach-teacher discussion after the lesson. The underpinning theoretical framework for this research assumes that ongoing engagement with a pedagogical mentor promotes positive changes in teachers’ instructional practices over time. The research activity collected data on the frequency, duration, content, and nature of the coach-teacher interactions during the intervention and tracked changes in the teachers’ instructional practices from baseline to endline. This presentation will share findings on the relationships between changes in teachers’ instructional practices and the degree and nature of support they received from their coaches. The objective of the presentation is to add to the body of knowledge about effective ways to use and improve pedagogical coaching to influence teacher instructional practices in similar low-resource contexts.

Summary of the Early Grade Reading Materials Survey in Zambia

information on the available supply of early grade reading (EGR) materials. The approach included the development of a questionnaire and a protocol for data collection. The survey results will serve primarily to inform the Global Reading Repository by providing a detailed description of the current supply of EGR materials in African languages. This document specifically summarizes the findings from Early Grade Reading Materials Survey conducted in Zambia. (Part of the DERP program).