Improving learning outcomes by raising in-class teacher effectiveness

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CII-KPMG Report on education and skill development – ‘Improving learning outcomes by raising in-class teacher effectiveness’ released in December 2017, gives insights on the key factors affecting in-class effectiveness of teachers and recommended way forward. Excerpts.


Learning outcomes has been the latest buzzword in academic circles. – as the mantra to measure effectiveness. Learning outcomes is all about results. It doesn’t matter what is the curriculum or where is the school or for that matter medium of instruction or reputation of the institution – all that matters is – is it effective? This is a positive development as it means that reach and availability has been largely achieved. While in a complex country like that of ours, there will be some part that will always have lack of access/ lack of infrastructure – the bigger question now is the quality and relevance of education and not mere availability. While this measure of learning outcome is relevant for the pupil, teacher, classroom, school etc., the learning outcome is an important indicator for the state in palming and executing large scale education intervention programs for schools in public domain. Although multiple factors affect the learning outcomes and quality of education in the public education system, activities inside the classroom have the most critical impact.

The CII-KPMG report highlights that while we have achieved a near 100 percent enrolment at the primary level, improvement in learning outcomes has not kept pace with increase in enrolment ratios. In fact, outcomes have fallen over the past decade. There are numerous factors which have contributed to this decline in learning outcomes – outdated curriculum and pedagogy, inadequate infrastructure facilities, low teacher quality and effectiveness, lack of accounting and monitoring mechanisms, skewed pupil-teacher ratio, and poor quality of classroom instruction.

Highlights from the report are mentioned below:

Key factors affecting in-class effectiveness of teachers

In-class teacher effectiveness is a complex combination of factors comprising of time for classroom instruction, teaching resources, teacher training, and systems for selecting, incentivizing, and monitoring teacher performance; this section examines each of the factors in greater detail.

1. Time for classroom instruction: It refers to the actual time spent by a teacher for preparing for class and for teaching within the classroom. It excludes time spent for any administrative duties or non-academic duties. This teaching time has a direct bearing on the student’s opportunity to learn or learning time. There exists a strong correlation between extent of learning and amount of instructional time that a student receives in the classroom.

2. Teaching resources: Teaching materials or resources is defined as tools which teachers use to deliver instruction effectively. They comprise both (i) intangible resources such as sources to discover teaching materials or assistance from other teachers and, (ii) tangible resources such as charts, posters, maps, globes, etc. Based on the type of sensory modalities used to absorb information or learning styles teaching resources can be classified into visual, aural, audio-visual, read/write, and kinesthetic as outlined in the graphs.

3. Teacher training: In India, the Teacher Education Policy has changed significantly over the years, with inputs from various committees. Teacher education consists of two major components, pre-service and in-service training, which are shown in the graphs.

Fragmented training approach:The training effort is decentralised to empower each state for preparation of training calendar as per the state’s requirement. Lack of coordinated efforts across the centre, state, and other external agencies in the form a consolidated training plan, results in a situation in which teachers recurrently attend the same training programs year after year.

Variation in performance of bodies appointed to support teacher training:Variation in staffing patterns not only affects the smooth functioning, but also makes monitoring and evaluation of the process difficult, taking away all the accountability in the process.

Quality of training: Teachers training programs are not well curated (same subject/topic is repeated in successive training programmes over the years).

Inadequate fund allocation for teacher training:A recent study conducted by The Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) and Child Right and You (CRY) with 10 Indian states reveals that the share of teacher training budget is actually less than 1 per cent for all of the 10 states participated in the study. While India has a low share of expenditure on teachers’ training, the corresponding figure for the U.S.A. is ~ 3.4 per cent (as per 2016-17 data). Apart from minimal allocation, timely release of funds and underutilization of funds are some other challenges.

4. Systems:Systems can be defined as procedures or institutional arrangements for selecting, incentivizing, and monitoring teachers. It is imperative to attract and recruit the best talent in the first place, hence, teacher selection is crucial in ensuring the creation of a critical mass of people that will lubricate a change in the classroom.

Current teacher education institutions are isolated from universities, specifically state institutions that provide pre-service education. As a result of this stand-alone structure, there is a lack of collaboration, knowledge dissemination, and research culture among these institutions and the larger academic ecosystem. Besides, the quality of teaching needs to be defined, assessed, and monitored if we are to improve outcome levels.

Our recommendations

Integrate teacher training with performance management structure:Teachers respond to direct pay linkages, but, these may tend to yield only short-term benefits, leave out poor-performing students in the class, and lead to competition among teachers hindering collaboration. Non-monetary incentives such as career advancement and professional development tend to enhance motivation intrinsically. They also affect the practice and attitude towards teaching and in turn impact the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom. Teachers in the classrooms need to be positively incentivized for undertaking training and professional development, till their importance is innately realized. First, access to enough opportunities and programmes on subject matter mastery, pedagogy, adoption of tools and technology is paramount. Second, it is important that there exist some parameters to link teachers appraisal system with the training and overall professional development. This is evidenced in the study on a school transformation programme carried out by the Government of Haryana which instituted a new performance appraisal system for 100,000 teachers, integrating teachers training. As a result, in classes I through VIII, students have seen an improvement of three to six per cent in learning outcomes. Even, European Union Countries have also developed a concept of Continuous Professional Development of teachers (CPD), where the teachers are trained and supported by peer-mentor network. The educational staff is classified into appropriate levels and each standard for each level is linked to remuneration. These standards exist for headmasters as well in order to enhance educational outcomes for underperforming schools.

Specifically for teachers in India, progression is a factor of years of experience. It is necessary that among other factors that attract and retain best talent such as competent salary, bonus or financial incentives, rewards and recognition, the need for self-efficacy and acceptance of the idea of meritocracy by a teacher is realized. Institutionalizing an integrated system will thus have a three dimensional impact by attracting better candidates by increasing the aspirational value of the teaching profession, providing adequate support to meet timely training needs for acquiring knowledge and skills, and motivating teachers to perform their classroom duties in the most effective manner.

Design an effective monitoring mechanism:Any system to measure teacher effectiveness has to be free from any form of stakeholder bias and instead be based on actual performance defined by measurable parameters. This can be achieved in two ways –
(i) building an external network of monitoring troopers/resources
(ii) designing competency benchmarks for teacher performance.
First, each school must include well-defned output based parameters in their school development plans and periodically monitor progress against it. Second, this monitoring should be assigned to an external task force, who has a completely balanced opinion. For example, capacity of school management committees can be developed for this purpose or schools should recruit external audit instructors to dedicatedly monitor teaching. Third, in addition to developing external monitoring resources, governments and hence schools need to define teacher competency benchmarks against which teacher’s performance will be assessed. A similar practice is followed by the corporate sector in the form of defining Key Result Areas (KRAs) and corresponding performance goals against each KRA for all their employees. The teachers should be made aware of these benchmarks at the beginning of each session and their progress should also be both reviewed and communicated to them periodically. This regular feedback will prompt teachers take corrective action to improve their effectiveness thereby positively impacting their role in the classroom.

Encouraging use of technology by teachers:Progressing towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is undeniable that technology will play a central role in nearly all aspects of our lives. The potential of technology is vital in the context of public education in India in order to enhance quality and access for one of the most populous countries. Making technology affordable for those who have so far been unable to benefit from these advancements, will be a leap in the right direction. Hence, enabling a teacher to integrate technology within the classroom i.e. into the everyday teaching process is crucial. In addition to providing hardware and digital content, appropriate handholding is required to support teachers since there is no such training at the beginning of their tenure. More so, given, the novelty, the variety, and the plethora of content available, it might be overwhelming for the teacher to use these tech-tools effectively in the classroom, minus any formal training. Post coaching teachers to deploy technology, one of the foremost uses in which teachers can leverage the power of technology is to design and implement real-time assessments. This can assist teachers to determine the teaching level in the classroom and provide customized support to students outside classroom, whenever necessary. It has now become fairly convenient and quick to assess students with the help of several low cost and effective tech-enabled assessment options.

(Data, findings and insights sourced from CII-KPMG Report on education and skill development – ‘Improving learning outcomes by raising in-class teacher effectiveness’ released in December 2017.)