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© 2022 Opportunity International Education Finance functions under its US and UK affiliates. Opportunity International United Kingdom is registered as a charity in England and Wales (1107713) and in Scotland (SCO39692). Opportunity International United Statesis a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

In the Classroom: establishing a baseline for quality improvements

By Karri DeSelm

In Part 1 of our Classroom Observation series, we shared the framework and development process of Opportunity EduFinance’s new Classroom Observation tool. 

In Part 2 of our series, the Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) team has analyzed baseline data from 468 classroom observations conducted in late 2020 – early 2021 across four countries: Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Zambia. In this blog we summarize our key findings from this baseline data, accompanied by a more detailed Key Insight publication.


Baseline data is critical to measuring change.

  • Without baselining we would not have a clear understanding of how teachers currently prepare and deliver lessons to learners, or how engaged learners are during lessons.
  • We could not measure how classroom instruction changes once teacher mentors begin participating in EduQuality professional development training.
  • We could not measure how instruction changes in other classrooms after mentors train and coach their peer educators through a training-of-trainers model.

While our Classroom Observation tool is not being used in a third-party academically rigorous study to correlate impact – such as a randomized control trial – evidence of quality teaching practice is critical to our theory of change for improved student learning outcomes.

After analyzing baseline data from 468 classes observed across four countries, 12 findings emerged. While these findings do not yet measure change, they provide important context to what we know about the schools we work with, and set the foundation of what we expect to change over time in line with EduQuality program activities.

Baseline classroom observations found only 32% of classes scored >70% in teaching practice quality, highlighting opportunities for improvement.

While the individual components of our Classroom Observation tool provide insight into detailed aspects of learner engagement, lesson planning, classroom resources and uses, and teaching practice, the M&E team also created an overarching scoring rubric for the tool. This allows us to establish an overall baseline score for classes observed and track changes in scores over time, providing a high-level measure of change complimented by detailed analysis on tool components.

Teachers do not actively use learner discussion in their teaching practice.

Observations found 91% of classes had <5 minutes of discussion time with learners, with 52% reporting no discussion time at all. Discussion time can be a key technique to actively engaging learner interest and stimulating critical thinking. Lecture is often more traditionally used during instruction, positioning learners as a passive listener. Observations documented 33% of classes including >5 minutes of lecture.  

75% of teachers set expectations for learners during the lesson, but most did not connect the lesson to real life for learners to better understand.

In three areas of teaching practice, observers document whether the practice was used during the lesson (yes/no):

  • Setting clear and precise expectations for learners
  • Situating the lesson in the wider curriculum
  • Making real life connections

Baseline observations show opportunities to strengthen the way teachers help learners understand conceptual content by showing the linkages to learners’ daily context.

Less than 1 in 3 teachers used techniques to check for learner understanding throughout the lesson.

To determine if learners are understanding the content delivered during the lesson, teachers can use question or prompt techniques to check in with their learners. Without evaluating learner understanding the teacher cannot effectively make adjustments or revisit topics to ensure learners successfully comprehend the material before moving forward.

Less than 1 in 4 teachers observed had a lesson plan for the class, but plans shared with observers were of high quality.

A strong lesson plan includes details of a learning activity, is learner centered, and has a planned assessment of the lesson. Without a written lesson plan, it is unclear whether a teacher will effectively deliver a high-quality lesson that includes all three key features.

25% of teachers scored ‘none’ or ‘low’ in setting a supportive classroom culture.

A score of ‘None’ is given to indicate the teacher used physical punishment, insulting language and/or ignored learners’ disruptive behavior.

A score of ‘Low’ is given to indicate use of negative language or inappropriate voice with learners.

The vast majority of class time was spent on learning activities, and most learners were engaged during learning activities.

The snapshot approach uses 5-minute time intervals to do four 10-second visual scans of the classroom. In the first snapshot, 88% of classes were conducting a learning activity, while this increased to 95-97% across the other three snapshots. This indicates teachers are generally using lesson time effectively for learning, rather than other non-learning activities such as passing materials, making learners wait or disciplining. During these snapshots only 5.7% of learners were observed not on task during a learning activity.

The most commonly available and used material by learners was a notebook.

Only 1 in 3 learners had a textbook during the lesson.

Chalkboards were used in nearly all lessons, while hands-on learning materials were infrequently utilized during lessons.

The classroom observation tool also assesses classroom furniture, resources and learning materials both available in a classroom and used during the observed lesson. While our theory of change does not indicate any specific resource is critical to meaningful learning, it does provide insight into the context of our school partners and how teaching and learning materials are utilized in lessons to engage learners.

To see additional findings and data from these Classroom Observations, download our Key Insights piece here

The M&E Team of EduFinance will begin collecting new classroom observation data this year to build on our understanding of any changes over time. Any key insights will be published as we continue learning from our school partners and measuring potential impact of our EduQuality program activities. Final endline measurements will be completed in most markets in late 2023 – early 2024. 

 

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