|The Effectiveness of Teacher Resource Centre Strategy - Education research paper No. 34 (DFID, 1999, 257 p.)|
|CHAPTER ONE : Purpose and Methodology of the Study|
3.1 Definition of terms
The first, and as it turned out continuing task of the study, was to define the terms incorporated in the title of the research exercise: 'Research into the Effectiveness of Teacher Resource Centre Strategy'. The following operational definitions are given:
Teacher resource centre - a place where teachers meet and where resources for teaching and learning are held. From a process point of view, 'TRCs are essentially strategies to provide professional services to teachers to enable them to perform effectively in their classrooms.' (MS/DANIDA, 1996)
Strategy - the use of TRCs as a dissemination service for transferring management and pedagogical ideas and/or resources and materials into schools. It can do this by transferring resources, curriculum and pedagogy from central agencies to teachers and schools; and/or by providing an environment for teachers to come together to discuss, to create teaching and learning materials, to attempt to solve their teaching problems.
Effectiveness - school management and pedagogical messages and/or teaching and learning materials, traceable back to TRCs, are found operating in schools. The greater the number of such incidences found in schools the greater the effectiveness of the TRC in impacting on schools. We are talking here about teacher behaviour and management behaviour traceable back to the TRCs. Where there is evidence of pupils engaging activities that their teachers brought back from TRC programmes, that indicates high effectiveness indeed. (Please note that effectiveness in these terms can be looked at in two ways. First, is there evidence that messages and resources have transferred from the TRC to the school and classroom, without consideration of the quality of these messages or even the quality of their implementation. This is simply a measure of the effectiveness of TRCs to disseminate methods and resources. Secondly one also could attempt to judge effectiveness in terms of the quality of the messages and resources traceable to the TRC and the quality of implementation in schools and classrooms as well. In this study we have considered both.)
Quality teaching and learning* - teacher centred instructional strategies which lead to children actively engaging the subject matter the teacher presents. In this sense 'quality' includes:
· a systematic, logical sequence of presentation and children's practice (both guided and independent practice) in single lessons and in units of work over time.
· a variety of strategies and engagements from having children listen and chorus, copy and memorize, to having them write stories and essays and perform oral compositions; from having children practice algorithms over and over again to having them make up their own problems; from having children label diagrams, write out definitions and learn to spell terms correctly, to having them draw their own diagrams from direct observation, answer the questions and problems at the end of chapters, observe a phenomena and ask a 'What will happen if...?' question.
· a systematic approach to checking children's work and providing feedback
(* We include a definition of 'quality', as, although not explicitly included in the research title, it clearly is implied.)
3.2 Literature review
The literature review was an on-going process throughout the life of the project, from August 1996 through July 1998.
The first purpose of the literature review was to describe TRCs in Britain, from their emergence in the 1970's to its present role in England and Wales in the implementation of 'Literacy Hour'. In addition, the review attempted to identify major issues surrounding the intentions, organisation, activities and evaluation of TRCs in the UK. These issues helped the research team to establish a set of 'cues' as to what to look for in case studies. It helped to lay out the research questions and to develop the research instruments.
The second purpose of the literature review was to trace the movement of the British TRC concept abroad to the developing world. Again, we looked not only for descriptions of particular TRC development, but for the issues surrounding them. These, too, were feed into the development of our research questions and study instruments.
And finally, the literature review was to help us to interpret and analyse what we found in the field studies.
3.3 Case Studies
The field work was done in 5 countries: Botswana, Kenya and Zambia in Africa and India and Nepal in Asia. These countries were chosen because they have ongoing, British assisted educational development programmes which include teacher resource centres: SPRED I and II in Kenya; AIEMS in Zambia; SEP in Nepal. Although Britain's assistance to the APPEP project in Andhra Pradesh; India, ended in 1996, its TRC programme continues to operate under the new DPEP project. A visit was made to Botswana early in the research project in order to trial and further develop our research instruments. For this reason Botswana was not included in the case studies.
Another reason for choosing these 5 countries was because of the considerable working knowledge each of us on the team of five from the University of Leeds School of Education had of our particular target country. Also, we were able to employ host country colleagues with whom we have had long professional relationships to form country specific teams.
These teams did the field work in their respective countries over two, 2-week periods; four weeks in all. The two study visits were separated by 3 to 5 months depending on the circumstances particular to each country. In the interim periods between visits from Leeds host country colleagues continued to carry forward the work on their own.
It must be noted that each team evolved its own programme of research. Common research instruments (discussed below) were drafted in Leeds, trialed in Botswana and sent to host country colleagues for comment before field studies began. Nevertheless, the methodologies and procedures adopted for each country were determined by its respective team, on the basis of 'opportunity'. There is no attempt in this study, therefore, to aggregate or composite data from all countries or to compare countries. Rather, each country presents its own report; describing, interpreting and analyzing its own findings. In the final chapters we try to bring forward common issues, tease out 'best solutions' from our countries and reflect on the institution of teacher resource centres as a strategy for impacting on the quality of teaching and learning in schools in developing countries.
3.4 Research instruments
As mentioned above the development of our research instruments were informed by the literature review of TRCs in Britain and in developing countries. Initial drafts were trialed in Botswana. These were subsequently revised and sent to our host country colleagues for comment.
The set of instruments, with reference to gathering information from relevant documents and interviews, included the following:
· Central administration
- including relevant ministry of education officials and technical
· Teacher resource
1. basic information - physical site, catchment area, services
1. basic information - description of school, teachers, pupils
3.4.1 The 'tracer' study
Applying a tracer technique we attempted to establish if
the ideas and materials available to teachers through the activities and
services of teachers' centres are actually being implemented in schools and
classrooms. In other words, 'Is there any observable evidence in the school
and/or classroom that 'messages' and 'resources' from in-service programmes are
'Messages' can be of two sorts:
(1) Particular materials and/or ideas that have been
explicitly emphasised in training.
For example, teachers at an in-service course at a TRC are asked to express their individual feelings through a drawing and a few sentences in response to a poem read by the trainer, which are then displayed on a wall in the centre. Do we see similarly children's drawings and writings displayed in classrooms or even in their exercise books? Perhaps teachers at the centre make small pan-balances, like the ones used on market stalls, to weigh vegetables, and develop a set of maths and science activities to do with the balances. Do we similarly see pan-balances and children using them in the classroom, or evidence from exercise books that they had? Do we see equipment distributed through the TRCs and/or teaching and learning aids made at the TRCs by teachers in schools and classrooms?
(2) Conditions for learning in schools that are implied in stated aims and objectives of TRCs. These may be iterated in-service courses or perhaps as indirect messages at the centre, through charts and slogans displayed about. Obviously these kinds of 'messages' are less concrete, and their identification schools is a bit of a subjective exercise. Here is an example related to the aims for TRCs that come from the Regional Workshop on Teacher's Resource Centres Arusha, 1996:
"...teachers need to be able to adapt the curricula to local situations... TRCs provide opportunities to discuss national curricular goals, to translate these into relevant learning experiences and to develop the necessary instructional materials... TRCs provide systematic access to modern teaching techniques, new ideas and updated teaching and learning materials"
To 'trace' the implication of these statements of purpose we have to ask the following questions:
· Is there any evidence at the TRC of teachers being exposed to and/or producing activities and materials related to the local context?
· Is there any evidence of such activities and materials in schools and classrooms'!
· Is there any evidence that, indeed, children are being engaged these activities and materials?
We instructed our country teams that there are two major concerns regards to the 'tracer' strategy:
(1) It may be difficult to tell if particular 'innovations' come from in-service work at TRCs or from some other in-service programmes or indeed from initial teacher training. Obviously the thing to do is to ask the teacher (s) where they got the idea, noting, of course, that they may or may not be able to trace it back themselves. Also, if such materials/ideas are not evidence schools we need to ask why they are not being used.
(2) We must keep in mind that we are also the business of assessing the 'conditions for learning' that exist schools. This is an attempt to identify what materials and techniques might enhance learning given the local context. We do this in order to suggest possible content for TRC workshops.
Finally, it goes without saying that each country will be different. A great degree of adaptability the use of the 'tracer' strategy will have to be made. It also goes without saying that finding nothing traceable at TRCs, or finding nothing schools that can be traced back to TRCs are extremely important observations to record.