A Research Framework for Capturing Teachers' Decision-Making [CIES 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.

Qualitative Research in International Education

This brief describes the use of qualitative analysis in international education research.

Understanding the Social Classroom: The basis of effective pedagogy?

Literacy instruction programs have arguably had limited success because they focus on the technical – but not the social – aspects of literacy instruction. Reform efforts in sub-Saharan Africa have regularly failed to shift pedagogy away from teacher-led whole-class direct instruction to activities that are more effective for learning. In part, the failure is due to a lack of recognition of the social nature of classrooms where teacher-child interactions are conditioned by cultural predispositions. New research from Tanzania identified such challenges to pedagogical reform and points to potential solutions. One approach focuses on the child - to develop their social and emotional competencies. Teachers in Mtwara, Tanzania - but not parents – think that confidence and curiosity are important for student learning and report that interactive teaching activities are less effective in rural areas where students lack these competencies. Evidence suggests that building students’ confidence to participate in class is achievable relatively quickly. A second approach is to adapt teaching activities. Teachers in Tanzania report reluctance to implement teaching activities that undermine the social goals of instruction, such as avoiding embarrassment and promoting a sense of fairness and togetherness in the classroom. Instruction would be more effective if activities are co-designed with teachers to achieve both the social goals and the cognitive/learning goals of teaching.

Instructional Strategies for Mathematics in the Early Grades

This document is intended for program and curriculum experts interested in implementing evidence-based early grade mathematics programs. It was developed by the authors of this document, who are mathematics teaching and learning experts with extensive experience adapting evidence-based practices in low and middle-income contexts. Our collective field and research experience, combined with the existing evidence base, led us to focus on four instructional strategies that are key to effective mathematics instruction: 1. Respecting developmental progressions 2. Using mathematical models to represent abstract notions 3. Encouraging children to explain and justify their thinking 4. Making explicit connections for children between formal and informal math While these four instructional strategies are very important, they are not the only instructional strategies that can result in improved learning outcomes. Effective early grade mathematics teachers draw from an extensive repertoire of evidence-based instructional strategies and strive to create a learning environment the supports that development of positive mathematical identities.

Gender patterns in mathematics achievement in the early years: Results from Tayari Kenya [CIES 2019 Presentation]

Dr. Benjamin Piper and Dr. Yasmin Sitabkhan presented findings at CIES 2019 on gender and math in the preschool years from the Kenya Tayari program.

ACR-Asia Early Childhood Landscape Report [CIES 2019 Presentation]

CIES presentation of Early Childhood Education landscape report for the Asia region under All Children Reading - Asia.

Early Childhood Education: Considerations for Programming Overview

The purpose of this brief is to answer the question: What are the considerations for effective ECE programming in the Asia region? To answer, we focus on the quality and sustainability, including governance and financing, of ECE. The four subject briefs provide evidence and present considerations for the following topics: ECE assessments, including measures of child learning and assessments of the quality of learning environments; Approaches to quality teaching and learning, focusing on emergent literacy and early mathematics, with consideration given to the language of instruction; Ensuring early childhood educator quality; and Sustainability of ECE.

Early Childhood Education: Considerations for Programming in Early Learning Assessment

Assessment of learning and the quality of early learning environments is an important component of early childhood education. This brief outlines the existing early learning assessments of children and environments used in the Asia region, excluding diagnostic and screening assessments.

Early Childhood Education: Considerations for Programming in Approaches to Teaching and Learning

The quality of instruction in the classroom is key to children's learning and development. This brief looks at the dimensions of guided play, emergent literacy, emergent mathematics, and language of instruction on the quality of instruction.

Early Childhood Education: Considerations for Programming in Educator Quality

Training opportunities and appropriate teacher curriculum are often insufficient, and effective regulatory frameworks for preparing, staffing, and monitoring ECE teachers are often lacking. This brief presents selected country-by-country findings on policy relating to ECE teacher quality in six countries in Asia.