Examining Effective Teaching in Rural Honduran Secondary Schools

Lead Research Organisation: University of California, Berkeley
Department Name: Graduate School of Education

Abstract

Honduras is one of the poorest and most violent countries in Central America. In this context, education should offer an escape; a path to a better future. However, the quality of Honduran schooling is abysmal, and few youth are able to study in secondary schools.. Despite these challenges, in our previous research we have discovered what one Honduran educational authority described as a "light in the path," a way for rural youth from disadvantaged communities to have access to high quality education. This "light" is the Sistema de Aprendizaje Tutorial program (Tutorial Learning System or SAT). In the proposed research we will build upon the positive findings of our recently completed impact evaluation (see McEwan et al., 2014) to examine a number of remaining questions regarding the elements that support effective teaching in poor, rural, geographically isolated communities. Furthermore, by collecting follow-up data collection with a cohort of youth from 94 villages that we began tracking in 2008, we will be able to examine whether learning gains fade over time as well as whether there are linkages between improved quality education and successful transition to adulthood (e.g. enrollment in tertiary education, labor market outcomes, delayed marriage and pregnancy). In doing so, this research will also provide a unique opportunity to develop improved measures of educational quality and adolescent girls' empowerment in low-income countries.

Informed by our earlier research and a review of the literature, we conceptualize effective teaching to be supported by three features of the SAT system of education: 1) Teacher recruitment and preparation; 2) The provision of resources for teaching effectiveness; 3) A system of professional support, accountability, incentives and rewards. With this framework in mind, we have designed a research project that examines the following core research questions through a mixed-methods case study:
1) What system-wide supports make a critical contribution to "effective teaching" in rural Honduran secondary schools?
2) Which elements of effective teaching contribute to sustained learning gains that are relevant and useful for youth as they transition to adulthood?
For the purposes of this proposal, we define "effective teaching" as teaching that leads to both immediate and sustained gains in learning across a range of competencies relevant to successful adulthood.

We will employ case study methodology, examining two "nested" cases of secondary schooling in rural Honduras, the SAT program and more traditional Centros de Educación Básicos (CEB). Results of our earlier research comparing SAT and CEB suggest that learning outcomes for SAT are considerably higher than CEBs (.2 standard deviations; stated differently residing in a SAT village increased the rate of learning by 45 percent). Despite these striking learning improvements, we estimate the cost of SAT to be 18 percent lower than CEBs. This comparison (SAT/CEB) allows us to gain valuable insights regarding the elements that support effective teaching and improved learning outcomes. A follow-up round of data collection with our cohort of youth will also address the question of whether learning gains fade over time and allow us to better understand the ways in which quality education influences the transition to adulthood. Our research methods will include the application of quantitative instruments (surveys and assessments) as well as qualitative in-depth interviews, extensive classroom observation, and the observation of teacher professional development sessions.

Beyond the qualitative and quantitative datasets that this study will generate, the outputs of this research include measures of educational quality (assessments and scales) that can inform future research in other developing country contexts. We will disseminate our findings via traditional (e.g. academic journals, conferences) and new (e.g. Prezi, YouTube) venues.

Planned Impact

Informed by the ESRC guide to maximizing impact as well as our previous experience with research dissemination, we will design a strategy for impact with the following research beneficiaries; 1) Academic beneficiaries: Researchers from various fields including education, economics, demography, and gender studies (see previous section on "Academic Beneficiaries"); 2) The networks of technical experts/policy makers involved in funding decisions at the international level. These include charitable foundations (MacArthur Foundation, MasterCard Foundation), bilateral aid agencies (e.g. USAID, DFID), and multi-lateral aid agencies (e.g. Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank); 3) Charitable and voluntary organizations concerned globally, national, and regionally with the improvement of educational quality in low income countries; 4) The network of non-governmental organizations involved in implementing the SAT program in Honduras and internationally; 5) Children and youth in Honduras and elsewhere that live in marginalized settings and lack access to quality, relevant secondary education.

From the outset, we will work closely with our Honduran collaborators, who have primary academic appointments at the National Pedagogical University. We have been working with this Honduran team since 2008. They will be closely involved in the facilitation of a key stakeholder meeting, where we will invite representatives from the Secretary of Education's office and other educational experts (e.g. World Bank, USAID, DFID, IADB education officers). This seminar will allow us to fully ground the project in the local context, and to begin planning our dissemination approach.

If properly and strategically disseminated, this research has the potential to directly influence the design and delivery of high quality secondary education programs in Honduras and other low-income countries. Additionally, the research will benefit others attempting to measure dimensions of educational quality at the secondary level because we will share our scales and assessments. Overall, this project will generate knowledge about how the transformative power of education can be fully tapped to improve the lives of disadvantaged children and youth, particularly adolescent girls.

When we have results, we will work closely with the research unit hosting this project at UC Berkeley, the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), which has extensive experience with disseminating innovative research that drives effective policy and development programming. We plan to present at their conference entitled "Evidence to Action" (co-sponsored by the Abdul Jatif Jameel Poverty Lab or J-PAL). In addition, we will present findings and share working-papers with program officers at charitable foundations and other funding agencies. In particular, we will conduct outreach to the Education Donors Group and the newly-created Building Evidence in Education group. In addition to these targeted outreach activities, we will present our findings at international conferences including UKFIET and CIES and top international universities.

In addition to the anticipated impacts of traditional publications, we will create a short documentary video highlighting our key findings (see our video "A Light in the Path" on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfvIb1u6s-8). A public relations specialist in Honduras will secure interviews with major television stations and newspapers. Having non-technical media to share our findings will ensure that all stakeholders can benefit from the knowledge generated from our research.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Film on Effective Teaching in the SAT program 
Description We created a short (10 minute) documentary film that is intended to reach a broad audience to share our research findings and thereby influence thought and practice related to quality secondary education in rural areas. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact This is a very effective way to share our results during high level meetings with policy makers as well as the audience at international meetings. 
 
Title Short film on gender norms in education 
Description I created a short documentary film, informed by this research, on gender norms in education that is now available on the Align platform: https://www.alignplatform.org/resources/2019/02/ideas-and-evidence-about-gender-norms-and-education 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact No notable impacts have resulted as such - the hope is that the film will improve understanding of how gender norms operate in education systems. 
URL https://www.alignplatform.org/resources/2019/02/ideas-and-evidence-about-gender-norms-and-education
 
Description The Sistema de Aprendizaje Tutorial (Tutorial Learning System or SAT) model for secondary school (grades 7-12) provides a rare example of a cost-effective system of effective teaching and learning, particularly for rural areas. SAT has operated in Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Ecuador for over three decades, and functions as a public-private partnership between the government and local NGOs. Research findings about the effectiveness of SAT schools, particularly in terms of the recruitment, professional development and ongoing support of teachers, provide key insights that can inform interventions to improve teaching and learning outcomes in developing countries.

Building upon results from a quasi-experimental impact evaluation which found that students in SAT villages in Honduras had test scores that were 45% higher than children in neighboring villages that attended traditional schools , researchers examined the features of the SAT program that explain these learning gains. Led by the University of California, Berkeley, the team partnered with Honduran researchers to gain a more nuanced understanding of effective teaching in SAT. By conducting in-depth interviews and observation of both SAT teacher professional development sessions and classroom teaching practice, the research identifies a number of innovative features of SAT. These findings address some of the major challenges of improving the quality of teaching in developing country contexts, and as such, their implications extend far beyond the Honduran context (reference "key challenges" table?).

Teacher recruitment and preparation
SAT recruits teachers from a wide pool of job applicants, not just graduates of traditional teacher training colleges. Once these applicants are interviewed and pass a test in mathematics and Spanish, they begin an intensive training process. Every three months, teachers spend two weeks living at a training facility where they are trained in the same curriculum they are expected to teach students. This cohort training model builds a professional learning community and allows teachers to become exposed to new pedagogical techniques, practice those techniques, and at the same time develop subject matter knowledge. In total, SAT teachers receive approximately 250 hours of professional development each year for six years with the same curriculum they are expected to deliver to their students. This allows them to improve their teaching skills and subject area mastery. One trainee explained that he "comes to the training to prepare myself to pass on the knowledge to my students."

Resources for effective teaching
The findings from the study suggest that a key resource for effective teaching is the attitudes of teachers that they are learning alongside of their students. While the teacher has mastery of the curriculum, this attitude allows teachers to shift away from lecture and dictation toward more effective pedagogical practices.
A key feature of SAT that makes this possible is that students have copies of the workbooks that comprise the SAT curriculum. In total, students study a set of 10-12 texts (workbooks) per year, which they write in and keep personal copies of. The texts have accurate, coherent content that provides conceptual richness and opportunities for problem solving. This creates a print rich environment and allows the students and teacher to study together rather than to rely on dictation and copying. The activities in the texts often involve a component of community-based research that provide opportunities for practical and hands-on learning. The quality of the curriculum and students' interaction with texts allows teachers to use more effective teaching techniques. One teacher explained, "I learned from training but when I was developing content with my students I also learned from them, and they learned from me. This creates a climate of trust and we always try to explain the 'why' of things."

Ongoing professional support and accountability
SAT teachers are visited by an asesor (advisor, similar to a teaching "coach") once every two weeks. The role of the coach is to "accompany" teachers in their classroom- to observe their teaching and to offer support. As one coach explained to us, some of the teachers leave the training sessions and may still need additional support. "I don't arrive to the community like a boss that wants to know, we want to be a companion in the process, and if they have difficulties to help them." The coach also administers student tests each trimester to keep track of student learning outcomes and step in if they find deficiencies. These features of SAT create system of accountability that is not punitive but rather supported ongoing professional development.

This research identifies features of the SAT program that can inform the design and reform of education systems to improve teaching effectiveness. Furthermore, the case of SAT demonstrates that high quality teaching and learning can happen, even at scale. Project team members have joined a number of high-level international policy discussions to share findings from the study of SAT to ensure that their evidence influences education reform in Latin America and other regions. In Honduras, the team is closely engaged with government officials and donors to examine how SAT can expand to other communities.
Exploitation Route In the future we hope that these findings will inform the teacher professional development, design, and implementation of more effective secondary school programs in rural settings in developing countries.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education

 
Description From 2018: This year we continued to engage with various donors and stakeholders internationally. Highlights of our efforts include the selection of SAT as a "global solution" in the Generation Unlimited competition that is a global partnership that aims to ensure that every young person is in education, learning, training or employment by 2030. We also produced two films that shared our research findings: one of which focuses specifically on gender norms and education. The second film is a 10 minute documentary that we will share with policy makers, key education stakeholders, international donors, and the scholarly community interested in "lessons learned" from SAT in how to improve the quality of secondary education in rural areas. We have also continued to work on four publications, currently at various stages of the publication process, that result from this research. We published a contribution to the ESRC-DFIF Research for Policy and Practice brief on Effective Teaching in Rural Honduran Schools. Finally, we continue to do our best to meet regularly with thought leaders and policy makers in Honduras that influence funding and expansion decisions for rural secondary education, and are consistently told that our research has made a difference in terms of the support for SAT and effective secondary education. We also are hopefully that a funding proposal submitted to partner with the team from NYU that has developed the TIPPS classroom observation protocol will be funded. From 2017: This year project PI (Murphy-Graham) engaged with various donors and other stakeholders across the Central American Region to draw attention to the research findings. Of particular note was the award of $55,000 to implement a intervention that stems from our research findings that addresses the high levels of child marriage and pregnancy in rural Honduras. This intervention is the first school-based comprehensive sexuality education program that we are aware of, and has huge potential to go to scale. From 2016 This year the project PI (Murphy-Graham) led a delegation to Peru to engage in a series of meetings with representatives from the Ministry of Education to discuss the feasibility of implementing the education system that is the focus of our research, SAT, in rural communities of Peru. We held meetings with over 30 representatives from the Ministry of Education, as well as held a public meeting at the Institute for Peruvian Studies, where we invited other stakeholders in the field of education (multilateral agencies, academics, NGOs). The findings of this research were in part what sparked the interest of the Peruvian Government in exploring the feasibility of implementing SAT in their country. They are currently in internal discussions to determine if they will begin a pilot phase of SAT implementation in rural communities. From 2015 The alternative secondary education program in Honduras that this research focuses on, the Sistema de Aprendizaje Tutorial Program (SAT) has been selected as a case study for the Brookings Institution "Millions Learning" project, a study highlighting educational programs that have a proven track record in improving learning outcomes and that have demonstrated ability to go to scale. This selection of SAT to highlight was due to my nomination of the program and the ongoing research I have conducted related to the SAT program. See: http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/education-plus-development/posts/2015/03/11-education-revolution-rural-communities-central-south-america-perlman-robinson
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Increased government support for the SAT program
Geographic Reach South America 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Impact As a result of our meetings with Ministry of Education officials, the government of Honduras has decided to expand the SAT program throughout the country as part of its effort to universalize completion of 9th grade. The NGO that implements SAT in Honduras is currently seeking additional effort for this effort from international donors.
 
Description Intervention to address child/early marriage
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Based on research findings, members of the research team successfully impacted the policy and practice of the Honduran Ministry of Education to include additional curriculum to adolescents and their parents that is intended to address rates of early pregnancy and child marriage. Hundreds of adolescents and their families will receive this additional training this year. The goal of the intervention is to change public attitudes on child marriage and pregnancy and to also change social norms. We have collected baseline data and will continue to track program impacts. In the meantime, this is the first time of program of this kind has been implemented in the Central American region, and it has huge potential to go to scale in other countries.
 
Description SAT selected as "global solution" for youth
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact I nominated SAT as a "global solution" for the Generation Unlimited initiative. It was selected among hundreds of nominated interventions. The selection of the program is sure to raise awareness and support for the SAT program globally, as well as to provide additional resources for SAT expansion in Honduras.
URL http://www.genunlimited.org/index_solutions-and-ideas.html
 
Description Empowering Girls
Amount $17,108 (USD)
Organisation Summit Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 02/2016 
End 06/2017
 
Description Empowering Girls
Amount $55,500 (USD)
Organisation Summit Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 09/2017 
End 09/2019
 
Description Central American Donor's Forum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Supporters
Results and Impact Presentation and networking at the Central American Donors Forum.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://vimeo.com/217561859
 
Description Conference presentation: Comparative and International Education Society conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I delivered two talks at the Comparative and International Education Society Conference to share and further disseminate our research findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Delegation to Peru 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I led a delegation to conduct a feasibility study on the implementation of the SAT program in Peru. During two trips, we engaged with stakeholders from the Ministry of Education, sharing the results of our research to date. We also held a public meeting, inviting stakeholders from a variety of sectors (academic, donor, practitioner). The Ministry continues to demonstrate interest in our study, and hopes to engage in further dialogue during 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description Keynote address 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This year I gave the keynote address at the Annual Conference of the Peruvian Society for Education Research, which was based largely on my research findings from this award.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.siep.org.pe/
 
Description Meeting of Ministry of Education Officials 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I presented findings and the research design from this research at a regional meeting of Education Ministry staff in Panama City, Panama. The focus of the event was on how to design evaluations in order to improve the quality of education.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Meetings with key government officials in Honduras 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This year I continued to meet with key government officials to share our research findings in order to influence key stakeholders in Honduras in the field of education. These included representatives from Transparency International, UNICEF, UNFPA, and the Secretary of Education.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation of findings at conferences 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presented findings of our research on effective teacher training in the SAT program at three international conferences.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentations at conferences 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Our research team presented at a number of different conferences, including:

February 2017: Examining Experiential Science Education in Sistema de Aprendizaje Tutorial Program. Talk at Tinker Summer Field Research Symposium, Berkeley. March 2017: Examining the Connections Between the Quality of Schooling, Early Marriage, and Early Pregnancy among Adolescent Girls in Honduras. Comparative and International Education Society Conference. May 2017: Examining the Connections Between the Quality of Schooling, Early Marriage, and Early Pregnancy among Adolescent Girls in Honduras. National Academies of Sciences, Workshop on the Demographic Effects of Girls' Education in Developing Countries.
November 2017: Designing across contexts: Interdisciplinary interpretations of an ecological modeling environment. Poster presented at the 13th annual conference of the International Society for Design and Development in Education (ISDDE 2017). Berkeley, CA, USA.
March 2018: Culturally Relevant Science Instruction in Latin America: Two Cases of Curricular Reform. In A. Lewis (Org.) Cultural Connections Hispanic and Latin American Teachers and Students. Symposium to be presented at the 12th annual conference of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST 2018). Atlanta, GA, USA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017