Learning from Successful Early-Grade Math Programs: Lessons from the Numeracy at Scale study [CIES 2024 Presentation]

The Numeracy at Scale study was designed to identify and examine aspects of successful numeracy programs, to provide policy makers and development practitioners with evidence-based strategies for improving numeracy instruction and learning outcomes across contexts. To this end, the study team identified and analyzed six programs across five countries that had rigorous evidence of impact on numeracy learning outcomes and which were operating at scale or which showed the potential for scale in an entire region or country. In each country, the study teams carried out a mixed-methods study including quantitative observations and interviews conducted in 80 to 130 schools per country; as well as qualitative observations and interviews in ten schools per country. The Numeracy at Scale study investigated two research questions addressed in this presentation: 1) What classroom ingredients (such as teaching practices and classroom environment) lead to learning in programs that are effective at scale? 2) What methods of training and support lead to teachers adopting effective classroom practices? The programs involved in this study are based in India, Jordan, El Salvador, Madagascar and South Africa. Two of the programs are government-led. The six Numeracy at Scale programs represent a variety of designs, from providing instruction to at-risk girls via interactive software to a national-scale numeracy initiative integrated into all public primary schools. Despite their differences, these programs share a large number of common elements. This presentation will provide an overview of the common pedagogical strategies found across these successful numeracy programs, such as use of multiple representations, discussion about mathematical concepts, and targeted support for students, as well as the approaches these programs used to support the development of these practices among teachers. Drawing from qualitative data, the paper will then discuss details of how these common elements were executed differently under different program models. Both the common, key elements and “differences in the details” that are found across these programs can generate helpful guidelines and ideas for how practitioners and governments can strengthen their own numeracy professional development approaches, across different operating contexts and program designs.

Social Emotional Learning and Inequalities in Academic Achievement: Evidence from Kenya, Vietnam, India, Peru and Ethiopia [CIES2024 Presentation]

Research in high-income countries has established a relation between social and emotional learning (SEL) and academic achievement. However, evidence is lacking from low- and middle-income countries. In this paper we present two studies to address this lack of evidence. In the first study we analyse data from a nationally representative survey of SEL and literacy skills in Grades 1-3 in Kenya. In a multiple regression analysis, 4 of the 5 SEL skills measured – assessor-rated confidence, self-rated confidence, interpersonal negotiation strategies and peer relationships – were independently associated with literacy skills. In addition, children who perceived their learning environment to be supportive also had better literacy skills. A supportive learning environment was a stronger predictor of literacy skills for boys compared to girls. There were inequalities in academic achievement, with children in urban areas, and those with wealthy parents, having better literacy scores than poor children in rural areas. Up to 50% of the academic advantage of wealthy, urban children was explained statistically by their more advanced SEL skills and more supportive learning environment. The second study analysed data from the older cohort of children in the Young Lives longitudinal study. The data analyzed were collected from children in four rounds, when they were 12, 15, 19 and 22 years of age. We found a bidirectional relationship between agency (a child’s sense of control over their life) and their achievement in mathematics. In all countries, mathematics achievement was a predictor of subsequent levels of agency. We found that a child’s agency in a given round was associated equally with their agency and their mathematics achievement in previous rounds. In two countries – India and Vietnam – we also found a relationship in the opposite direction: mathematics achievement depended on previous levels of agency. These relationships are important because other analyses of the same data show that gender inequalities in self-efficacy and agency emerge in late adolescence, with girls increasingly lagging behind boys. An implication of both studies is that programs to promote SEL and supportive learning environments may help reduce learning inequalities based on wealth and between urban and rural students (Study 1) and inequalities based on gender (both studies).

Практическое руководство и обзор литературы

*** This is the Russian translation of the Science of Teaching Structured Pedagogy Guide Literature Review *** Результаты обучения в странах с низким и средним уровнем дохода являются катастрофически низкими. Задача улучшения результатов в области базовой грамотности и счета (FLN) зависит от повышения качества преподавания и поддержки принятия методических решений отдельными учителями - их десятки тысяч во многих странах. Программы структурированной педагогики показали их способность оказывать поддержку учителям в принятии таких индивидуальных педагогических решений в широком масштабе, и, что такие изменения могут оказать значительное влияние на результаты обучения.

Данные, системы и подотчетность

Своевременные данные, поступающие в систему, необходимы для обеспечения подотчетности основных действующих лиц за осуществление структурированной педагогической деятельности, для оценки воздействия данной деятельности на педагогическую деятельность учителей, для определения и обоснования коррекции содержания программы и, что наиболее важно, какое воздействие, если таковое вообще имеет место, оказывает данная деятельность на ключевые целевые результаты программы (например, базовые навыки учащихся в области грамотности и счета).

Examining teacher support and play-based practice in Kenya, Rwanda and Ghana [CIES 2023 Presentation]

While there is growing evidence of the impact of learning through play (LtP) on student outcomes in high-income countries, there is little research linking LtP to learning outcomes in low-and middle-income contexts in primary schools. This presentation focuses on the midline evaluation findings from an education improvement initiative that is seeking to expand playful pedagogies into primary schools in five low and middle-income countries (LMICs). In this presentation, we examine the different approaches taken by projects to support teachers to test, adapt, and adopt LtP in their classroom. We link these findings to classroom observation data on the frequency with which teachers employ more collaborative, interactive, creative, exploratory, and student-driven play-based approaches. We also discuss the impacts of these activities on student outcomes (EGRA, EGMA and SEL).

Measuring support for children’s engagement in learning: psychometric properties of the PLAY toolkit [CIES 2023 Presentation]

Despite the growing interest in supporting learning through play across many low and middle-income countries, measures of how contexts can support learning through play are lacking. As part of the Playful Learning Across the Years (PLAY) project, the concept of “self-sustaining engagement” was identified as central to learning through play. That is, learning through play is effective because children are deeply engaged in their learning and are self-motivated to learn. The PLAY toolkit was designed to measure how settings – particularly adult-child interactions in those settings – support children’s self-sustaining engagement in learning. The toolkit was developed for use in multiple age-groups across different settings. For the 0-2 age-group, the toolkit assessed support for children’s engagement in the home, largely through interactions between the caregiver and child. These interactions were assessed through observations and through an interview with the caregiver. In the 3-5 age-group, tools were developed to measure support for engagement in the home and the classroom. Tools for the 6-12 age-group were focused only on the classroom. The classroom-based tools had several components. Teacher-child interactions were assessed through observations, a teacher survey and – for the 6-12 age-group only – a student survey. There was also a classroom inventory to assess physical aspects of the classroom – such as materials on the walls – which might support self-sustaining engagement in learning. The toolkit was developed in three phases – the Build phase used qualitative data to understand local concepts of self-sustaining engagement. The Adapt phase used cognitive interviewing and small-scale (approx. 25 schools, centers or homes) quantitative data to refine the tools. In the Test Phase we used large-scale (approx. 150 schools, centres or homes) quantitative data to assess the psychometric properties of the tool. This presentation focuses on these psychometric analyses. Data were collected for the 6-12 age group from Kenya, Ghana and Colombia; for the 3-5 age group from Colombia, Jordan and Ghana; and from Colombia only for the 0-2 age group. Results indicate how the concept of “support for self-sustaining engagement” can be divided into constituent sub-scales and how the different methods of assessment – observation, teacher report and student report – relate to one another. We will discuss plans to develop a final toolkit, based on these analyses, which can help strengthen the evidence base on learning through play.

LEGO Play Accelerator Baseline Report

The Play Accelerator research partner grant presents a unique opportunity to examine five large-scale educational interventions focused on improving learning through play (in Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Vietnam, respectively). One aspect of this activity is determining if and how these five programs change the practice and attitudes of key education stakeholder and whether or not this leads to improved holistic learning outcomes through increasing playful pedagogies. This, in turn, will generate much-needed rigorous evidence on implementing playful pedagogies successfully through government teacher professional development systems at scale. Due to prolonged school closures and other obstacles resulting from COVID-19, this report presents baseline findings collected between June and November 2021 from three of the five Play Accelerator partner programs: Partners in Play Program (P3) implemented by Right to Play in Ghana; Tucheza Kujifunza (TuKu) implemented by Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) in Kenya; and the Scaling Learning Through Play program implemented by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Rwanda. The goal of this report is to provide comprehensive baseline estimates for these three Learning through Play (LtP) programs. These results will serve two purposes: 1) to provide a starting point against which program impact will be measured at midline and endline, and 2) to provide programs with data-driven recommendations of areas to focus on for improved implementation throughout the remainder of their programming. While the overall evaluation of these programs includes a wide range of research questions that will be addressed at midline and endline, the baseline study focuses specifically on four main research questions: 1. What are the baseline levels of student literacy, numeracy, and social-emotional learning among Grade 1 students in treatment and control schools? 2. What is the baseline state of teachers’ pedagogical practices in the classroom (including LtP) among Grade 1 teachers in treatment and control schools? 3. What are the baseline perceptions of LtP among school-, district-, and community-level stakeholders? 4. What are the enabling factors associated with implementing LtP pedagogical methods in classrooms? What are the barriers associated with implementing LtP pedagogical methods in classrooms?

Measuring the impact of play on social and emotional learning across countries [CIES Presentation]

This presentation was part of a CIES 2022 panel on measuring learning through play and child SEL outcomes across humanitarian and LMIC contexts. The presentation focuses primarily on the development of a new SEL tool that is being used as part of impact evaluations for five learning through play implementation programs across five countries.

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.

System Supports 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 system supports. It addresses the following research question: What system supports are required to deliver effective training and support to teachers and to promote effective classroom practices?