New Research Highlights Key Ways to Improve Teacher Quality in East Africa and India

Jul 18, 2018

Skills Lab

A new study from Mathematica Policy Research examines the innovative approaches that the multi-donor Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE) employed to improve teacher quality in East Africa and India. The study, which draws on in-depth interviews, a web survey, and an extensive document review, gleans lessons from the experiences of eight PSIPSE grantees.

Key learnings from the study, which focuses on in-service teacher training, include:

  • Developing tailored training content (for example, low-burden techniques for implementing new pedagogical approaches) and employing a strategic training structure (for example, a phased approach to enable gradual skills acquisition) can promote the use of new teaching methods.
  • Addressing key enablers and inhibitors of change such as school size, level of support from the head teacher, information technology infrastructure, and government engagement can position teacher training programs for success.
  • Scaling simple, straightforward in-service teacher training models is easier than doing so for complex multicomponent models that need teachers to internalize extensive reference materials.
  • Engaging with staff from teacher training colleges—and having them observe, participate in, and learn from in-service teacher training efforts—could help strengthen preservice training efforts and catalyze broader improvements in the teaching force.
  • Teacher training programs may need to leverage financial rewards, certifications, and other such incentives, while also strengthening teachers’ intrinsic motivation to shape students’ lives, to improve teaching quality at scale.

The report, led by Mathematica Senior Fellow and Director of STEM Research Clemencia Cosentino and Researcher Swetha Sridharan, provides detailed insights on how to design, implement, assess, and scale efforts to train and motivate teachers. Learnings that are particularly relevant for practitioners are highlighted in a brief, “Improving Teacher Quality at Scale: 10 Tips from Practitioners.”

“These findings draw on the unvarnished insights of people who are on the ground running these programs—people who see what is and isn’t working every day and people who are constantly improving their work in real time,” said Sridharan. “Lessons from the study could be used to inform program design as well as funding and policy decisions aimed at improving the quality of secondary education in developing countries.”

Read more about Mathematica’s work to support the PSIPSE and how the initiative is helping to strengthen teacher quality.


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