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Teacher professional development at scale: lessons learned in improving teacher practice in low and middle income countries

Thu, April 18, 10:00 to 11:30am, Hyatt Regency, Atrium (Level 2), Boardroom B

Group Submission Type: Formal Panel Session


Education programs in low and middle income countries are investing significant resources to improve the quality of instruction, with a heavy emphasis on large scale teacher professional development programs. Millions of teachers will have been provided teacher professional development to improve literacy skills in the last several years in programs funded by USAID. Despite the scale of teacher professional development support, this massive financial and technical investment has not been accompanied by research examining the design, content or effectiveness of the prevalent teacher professional development strategies implemented at large scale. This panel will provide policy relevant timely research on this topic from four organizations implementing programs that depend heavily on large scale teacher professional development to improve literacy instruction.
The teacher professional development packages implemented at large scale in LMICs vary across several dimensions. These dimensions include their location (school-based, cluster-based, training college-based, and district-based), their technical focus (classroom management, general pedagogy, subject-specific pedagogical content, subject content, pedagogical methods, reflective practice), the training modality (practice and feedback, modeling by trainer, and lecture), level of cascade (1 to 3 levels) trainer characteristics (cluster coordinators, external trainers, district officers), duration (with some training programs including 10 or some days consecutive training and others 2 or 3 days), support and coaching modalities (peer to peer, principal as instructional leader, senior teacher, external coach, lesson study, ICT study), and the materials provided in training (structured lesson plans, subject content support, teaching aids, video/ICT support).
The sector is unclear as to how much variation there is between combinations of teacher professional development strategies, nor which combinations are most effective. Understanding what TPD programs are effective is essential for a variety of reasons, not least that a recent increase in rigorous research designs in the area of TPD has resulted in more knowledge of the relative impact of various teacher PD options on student outcomes. Popova, Evans and Arancibia (2016)’s data was used to develop the Figure below, which shows that the design of TPD matters quite a bit. Some TPD designs are more likely associated with positive impacts on learning outcomes. With a range of -.24 SD to +.47 SD, it is increasingly important to thoughtfully design TPD to maximize its impact on learning.
There are wide differences in how much time is spent in TPD programs on providing new information to participants compared with the amount of time they have to practice new skills in real contexts. The views on adult learning assumed by the TPD design and materials vary widely. While TPD programs may be designed to respond to particular adult learning or theory of change points of view, the actual materials used in the TPD program may not carefully hew to the design decisions taken. In other words, TPD programs that are described as practice-based and interactive in their theoretical design might, in fact, spend the vast majority of their content focused on learning new information.
This panel will focus on the experiences of large-scale teacher professional development in the context of literacy programs in LMICs. We will examine whether and how these programs have articulated a particular theory of change, and whether the materials utilized in these programs reflect these theories of change. The research presented in this panel will include observational data from the actual trainings, as well as analysis of fidelity of implementation data utilized to examine adherence to program implementation design characteristics. The findings will be used to determine whether future rounds of learning outcomes improvement programs can build on the successes and failures of previous interventions with a range of TPD designs and implementation characteristics.

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