Principal Investigator:Edward Seidman. Lead Organisation: New York University
Research shows that effective teachers are the most important factor contributing to student achievement. Although curricula, reduced class size, funding, family, and community involvement all contribute to school improvement and student achievement, the most influential factor in the classroom is the teacher. Yet it has become clear that the professional development needed to support teachers and how effectively they function within classrooms is often lacking or ineffective. In many parts of the globe, teachers who need the most professional development (e.g. new or underqualified) often receive the least. Internationally, there is also a recognized need for improved instruments and methodologies to gauge elements of classroom quality and effective teaching. Particularly in low-income and fragile contexts, where many teaching personnel are underprepared and under resourced, more rigorously developed and culturally attuned observation tools have the potential to provide much needed feedback to teachers in a continuous cycle of improvement.
In our previous RLO grant (Toward the Development of a Rigorous and Practical Classroom Observation Tool: The Uganda secondary school project), we developed and validated the Teacher Instructional Practices and Processes System (TIPPS) with learning outcomes in secondary schools in Uganda. Using this observational tool, we examined the quality of teaching practices and classroom processes through live observations. Subsequently, we developed a pre-school version of the TIPPS in Ghana that was found to have meaningful associations with both learning and socio-emotional outcomes. We also piloted a primary school version of the TIPPS in India, where an NGO is using the TIPPS as a guide to provide teacher feedback. To date, we have not had the opportunity to systematically employ TIPPS as a feedback tool in a supportive fashion to improve teaching practices, student learning and teacher outcomes. Creating this cycle of continuous improvement is the goal of the present investigation, albeit in a new cultural context.
To test this in the Honduran context is an idea that grew organically, thanks in large part to the yearly gatherings of RLO colleagues that allowed for cross-pollination of ideas and discussions on topics of interest. Since our first RLO meeting in London, we have been speaking with Erin Murphy-Graham and her team about how we could join forces to augment the impact of the Sistema de Aprendizaje Tutorial program (Tutorial Learning System or SAT) in Honduras. The current proposal represents one-half of two parallel, collaborative but separate investigations. Murphy-Graham's proposal seeks a deeper understanding of which SAT pedagogical practices are effective (as assessed by the TIPPS) in impacting student learning and social and emotional outcomes, as well as how pedagogical practices effect teacher motivation by examining an intensive SAT condition without the addition of feedback. In this way, she hopes to recommend improvements to her partners in the SAT program. Our parallel proposal, which would operate in tandem with her existing intervention work, serves to further our objectives to both extend TIPPS' cross-cultural reach and systematically test its use as a feedback tool in the context of an optimally supportive structure. Using the SAT programming, we seek to develop an empirically-based, robust feedback mechanism that cultivates improvement in a continuous cycle of change
Feedback to teachers has long been a professional development strategy, but the mechanism that works in different contexts and the roles different stakeholders play on the ground remains understudied. This project will provide valuable, contextual information on the dosage of feedback required, the length and composition of the cycle of continuous improvement needed, as well as the economic costs of implementing such a program and sustaining it. These are key details needed by local stakeholders on promising programming but oftentimes ones that are rarely provided. By tailoring the way research learning is provided to different stakeholders, we aim to bolster their impact - such that stakeholders are provided findings in a palatable, relevant manner. Indeed, the review of SAT programming by Brookings lists this effort to "maintaining discrete roles for each actor" as an effective way to keep partnerships. By working closely with the different stakeholders, maintaining open communication and discourse, as well as providing updates and opportunities for discussion at regular intervals, we will ensure that the direct beneficiaries are continuously in the know and availing the information. These beneficiaries include (i) the teacher-focused wing of the Secretary of Education's office, (ii) colleagues at the National Pedagogical University that actively work with the Honduran school system and SAT, (iii) education specialist staff from multilaterals supporting education delivery in Honduras (DFID, USAID, IADB, IBRD) and (iv) a host of non-governmental organizations involved in implementing the SAT program in Honduras.
The next set of beneficiaries is the network of NGOs that implement SAT across Latin America. A key consideration for them is the sensitive balance they maintain with the Government systems with which they work. SAT programming, while closely linked to government system, maintains independence of action. The examination of feedback structures in Honduras will generate learning about the way partnership with governing structures is maintained. For example, the buy-in of the governance structure is critically important if there are to be any improvements or advancements in education. Our plan for impact is to work with the Murphy-Graham team to create communication that integrates both SAT programmatic findings with feedback to teachers from our TIPPS protocol. Sending out information that is packaged in a way to be useful to other SAT implementers will allow them to better understand the different components, and more importantly the mechanisms, of the program and the way in which they function. We anticipate that sending out electronic newsletters will provide us more opportunities to engage with interested teams and to further impact. If demand exists, we could consolidate all project learnings into an easily accessible website that various partner projects could use to avail this information.
Finally, the TIPPS team is embedded in key research dissemination entities that allow us to be able to reach researchers, donors, multilaterals and practitioners working in the realm of international development and education. In particular, the research focused newsletters of NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and Global TIES for Children have a global membership. Being part of both entities, we routinely use their outreach to share reports, notes and journal articles that both highlight the work as well as share learning with them. In addition, the TIPPS team also routinely presents at the annual CIES conference, and other industry conferences to increase the impact of our findings and learning.