InformEd International at CIES 2019

Last month, the InformEd team traveled to San Francisco, joining more than 2,500 education professionals for the 63rd Comparative and International Education Society’s conference under the theme ‘Education for Sustainability.’ We shared two presentations on the role of school leadership and management as a sustainability driver – one a paper entitled, “Exploring and Measuring the Relationship between the School’s Learning Environment and Learning Outcomes: Results from Cambodia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe,” and a PechaKucha session on “Trials and Tribulations of Generating Evidence in Contextualized Education Programming.”

School in Cambodia improved through local school leadership and management stakeholders

School in Cambodia improved through local school leadership and management stakeholders

Both presentations explored the results of a three-country longitudinal research study examining the effectiveness of an implementation approach to Save the Children’s (SC) global guidance for education programming, the Quality Learning Framework (QLF). During the paper session, we highlighted the interrelationship between and sustainability of the quality of the learning environment and student learning outcomes, and the use of these results to inform the design of future education programming for Save the Children. There were several important and encouraging findings from the research:

  • The interrelationship analysis conducted by the research team shows the project model holds – the five QLF Foundations are associated with improved learning outcomes. The project examines root causes of poor enrolment, attendance, and performance and used a holistic perspective to address the causes.

  • Results were variable for literacy, numeracy and life skills across countries. The longitudinal research exhibited positive outcomes in literacy, weaker results in numeracy, and little to no results in life skills, it did observe important impact on QLF indicators and this impact was increasing over the length of the project.

  • A measurable improvement in community/parental engagement in school was achieved. The project galvanised parental, community and teacher’s commitment to improving school results.

  • The research design selected schools according to criteria of marginalisation. The project was extremely effective at helping to raise the most marginalised schools to a point of functioning again.

  • A cost analysis showed large differences in per student/school funding levels between the three countries. These costs were also benchmarked against other equivalent interventions, leading to recommendations for costs/child of this holistic style programming.

  • The QLF model was adopted nationally in Cambodia.

A major finding from the research was that school leadership and management (SLM) was most effective where it was participatory and distributed, acting as a driving force for change and improvement, and conversely, less effective leadership and management suppressed a school’s results. Participatory and distributed SLM was achieved through:

  • ensuring the effective functioning of school management committees;

  • fostering leadership structures for classroom teachers to raise standards of teaching and learning;

  • establishment of classroom committees to enable parents to have a hands-on role in their child’s school;

  • strengthening of children’s councils to empower the voice of children in school-level decision making.

The I’m Learning project found that stronger involvement and participation in school management and leadership contributed to a mind shift around quality education and joint ownership and responsibility for creating quality learning environments for children. Furthermore, by breaking down the barriers between stakeholders, the project ensured that interventions were locally relevant and encouraged sustainability.

During the PechaKucha session, we reflected on how a well-intentioned longitudinal research design, that engaged local and international universities, struggled to maintain rigorous research while simultaneously enabling flexibility in a locally-developed, contextualized program. The presentation challenged attendees’ conventional understanding of local programs and research while unpacking a thought-provoking conversation between the donor, the university, the INGO, and the communities around roles and responsibilities in creating evidence-informed programming. To learn more, please view the full PechaKucha session below.

Using the results of the longitudinal study, InformEd is working with Save the Children Norway on a two-year process to formulate a school leadership and management project model with components of (a) Leading Learning; (b) Distributed Leadership; (c) Effective management of human, financial, and physical resources for ensuring a protective and safe learning environment. To accomplish this, a developmental evaluation approach will be used to support the evidence base for and refinements of the SLM model.

Have you used developmental evaluation in your work? What are your recommendations for employing a successful evaluation using this process?