Teach the Teachers (and Their Supervisors):
System Strengthening for Improving Teacher Effectiveness
August 23, 2011 — 3:45 p.m.
||Marcia Davidson, RTI International
Norma Evans, Education Development Center
||Penelope Bender, USAID Office of Education
Penelope Bender noted that teacher quality is the key factor in improving student learning outcomes in spite of the fact that teacher-training practice does not have a good track record in changing behaviors and improving learning performance. This session presented good practices that are showing a positive impact on improved student literacy outcomes in several country programs.
Using examples from the Liberia Teacher Training Project II, Marcia Davidson discussed effective classroom reading instruction which involves (a) adequate time for reading, (b) consistent instructional routines (especially for teachers with low reading levels and poor qualifications), and (c) availability of enough appropriate material for children to read independently. Face-to-face training is followed by structured opportunities for teachers to apply new practices and training coaches frequently visit teachers in their classrooms to observe, test students, and give feedback.
Norma Evans presented evidence from the Whole School Reading Program (WSRP) in the Philippines which works with teachers and students together to improve reading skills. She noted that effective teacher training needs to (a) be sustained over time, intensive, and connected to practice (b) be embedded in larger professional preparation, (c) use the same types of activities as students will use, and (d) deliver content knowledge appropriate to the needs of the classroom. Both presenters emphasized the need for continuous assessment of students’ reading achievement to ensure that students are actually learning as a result of investments in teacher training.
Questions from the audience focused on bilingual instruction, minimum levels of teacher content knowledge needed, addressing learning disabilities, and scaling up materials development programs. Answers from the presenters invariably focused on the need for funders and decision-makers to understand the importance of teaching reading well and to provide for the requisite time and steps involved to thoroughly train teachers.
Key take away points included an emphasis on the use of prolonged, structured training to build consistent and accurate teaching routines that enable teachers to actually understand the necessary mechanics of teaching reading. Various types of on-going assessment are crucial, including continuous classroom assessment, progress monitoring of long-term goals, and evaluation of teacher training programs. Stakeholders, including teachers themselves, need to see that investments in training actually result in improved student performance. Stakeholders also need to understand that while time focused on early reading may detract from time spent on other subjects, children who learn early to read well will do better in all of their subsequent learning.