Supporting the introduction and scaling of more effective and efficient models for teacher professional development and school leadership development requires fast and strategic learning. VVOB commits a big part of its efforts in its programming to research and is teaming with The Research Base to provide Ministry partners in Rwanda and Ecuador with evidence for decision-making.
The powerful impact that good teachers and school leaders have on learners’ wellbeing and learning outcomes is well-evidenced. Ministries of education are well aware of this and most are actively looking for cost-effective ways to professionalise their country’s education workforce.
This is certainly the case in Rwanda and Ecuador, two countries where the ministries of education have shown exceptional commitment to improving both the quantity and quality of education. Their challenge is to identify the most promising innovations for teacher professional development and school leadership development and to bring those to scale.
Scaling is a process that can take many years. It requires long-term commitment as well as what the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution calls “a strong culture of research and development (R&D) in education”. To foster such a culture in Rwanda and Ecuador, VVOB is investing in two rapid cycle evaluations that will yield multi-year evidence about various modalities for teacher professional development and school leadership development that have piqued the interest of our ministry partners.
Piloting what, where and how?
In Rwanda, VVOB is collaborating with the Rwanda Education Board and the University of Rwanda – College of Education on a major reform of the continuous professional development (CPD) system for the teachers and school leaders of secondary education.
Among the CPD services being introduced are: (i) a diploma course and sector-level professional learning communities (PLCs) for school leaders and (ii) a certificate course for school-based mentors and school-based PLCs for teachers, focusing on science, technology and math - or 'STEM' subjects.
Geographically, the intervention is rolling out in some 750 schools in 14 out of the 30 districts across the country – a spread that allows us to learn about the generalisability of the approach. Several components, such as the PLCs and diploma course for school leaders, have been tried and tested at the level of primary education before, which also yielded valuable lessons for implementation at secondary.
The pilot in Ecuador is also at secondary level, specifically in two tourism-related fields of study in secondary technical education. The aim is to better prepare graduates for emerging opportunities in Ecuador’s sustainable tourism industry. Here, VVOB is working together with the ministries of Education and Tourism and partners from the travel and tourism sector to pilot two models for collaboration between technical education and industry. Both models include the following in-service teacher support: a short training course aimed at technical and pedagogical upskilling, followed by a brief period of intense coaching by district-level pedagogical counsellors of the Ministry of Education; and teaching materials developed in co-creation with industry representatives. The models are being piloted in all 21 schools that offer tourism in the Province of Manabí and Cantón Quito. This, too, is a spread that is typical of the full sweep of such schools and of districts.
Continuous learning and adaptation
In both countries, VVOB teams with The Research Base to gain insight in how these new modalities of CPD for teachers and school leaders are faring in their different contexts, and to find out how implementation may need to be adapted to obtain the desired effect and to keep the interventions feasible for scaling.
The first data collection and results are envisaged for early 2019.
To encourage a culture of learning, we opted for mixed methods rapid cycle evaluations that have these broad learning questions as their starting point:
- What, if any, is the effect on the beneficiaries of the intervention – that is, of a specific modality of CPD or support for teachers or school leaders?
- How is this effect achieved?
- What are the challenges in implementation?
With each measurement, the learning questions will be refined, increasingly homing in on those elements that show promising effects but require some changes in operations. For example, in Ecuador, we are keen to learn whether the content of the training trajectory offered to teachers is relevant enough.
Governments play a pivotal role
In an effort to bring education innovations to scale, governments play a key role. For VVOB it is crucial to take its partners from the Rwanda Education Board and the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education on board with the rapid cycle evaluations from the beginning. We are excited to embark on this journey together with them and are grateful for their leadership in openly exchanging ideas, sharing failures and discussing new solutions together with other stakeholders.