EVALUATING CLASSROOM PRACTICE: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF APPROACHES TO EVALUATION IN LARGE SCALE TEACHER EDUCATION OR EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMMES, IN INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT CONTEXTS
This study contributes to work in teacher education and educational technology in international development contexts. Recent reviews, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) have examined the characteristics of teacher education programmes (Westbrook et al, 2013) and educational technology programmes (Power et al, 2014), show evidence of impact of such programmes on teaching practice or learning outcomes. These both illustrate the importance of a strong focus on improving the quality of classroom practice in programme design, and both indicate some of the key characteristics of effective programme support for teachers. But, in both reviews, the studies reviewed present problems of evidence. Such evidential problems arise in relation to reporting changes in attitudes and understanding, teaching and learning practices, and learning outcomes.
In this article, we draw particular attention to evidence of classroom practice: in terms of extensiveness, of methodology, and of understanding the relationships between the variables considered. As such, the purpose of this article is to provide insight into three inter-related issues in the context of developing countries: the methodological challenges - of rigour, systematic observation, and extensiveness; the practical challenges - of human capacity for research activity, geographical remoteness, and cost; and the evidence requirements of different audiences - donors, policy makers, practitioners and the academic and research communities. This is done by considering these three issues, through a case study of English in Action, a large-scale teacher education programme in Bangladesh, in which educational technology plays a central role in supporting both teacher professional development, and new classroom practices.
There are several implications, from the recent reviews and the case study, which lead us to argue for greater development of approaches to the evaluation of classroom practice, based upon rigorous, systematic observation (using standardized observations of low-inference behaviors). Such approaches must be capable of deployment at scale, and reliable implementation through relatively inexperienced field researchers who are available and affordable in country. This may suggest certain kinds of large-scale quantitative observation that are somewhat rarer in the global north. Is there an opportunity, for a collective accumulation of data, to deepen our basic understanding of classrooms and the actors within them?