Is your teacher professional development program working? Find out by measuring changes in classroom teaching practices

Zanaki Primary School. Photo Sarah Farhat / World Bank

As we look ahead to what needs to be done to recover learning losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic, investing in evidence-backed programs that can help teachers improve their teaching skills must be at the center of any strategy.

Investing in teacher professional development (TPD) programs that help teachers adopt more effective teaching practices that improve student learning is the first step. How can we assess if this is happening?

Like in any skills training program, we need to track the results: not just the development of the new skills, but whether these new skills are being used. To ensure that TPD programs are effective, we need to evaluate whether they lead to meaningful improvement in the instructional practices teachers utilize in the classroom.

Unfortunately, most of TPD programs today only collect data on inputs, or activities, related to program implementation—for example, how many teachers attended trainings, how many teachers received regular coaching or mentoring support, or how many teachers received instructional materials for the classroom. To understand whether TPD programs are indeed working, it is essential to also collect data on the results.

Tracking results of TPD programs, especially in terms of measuring changes in teaching practices in the classroom, is often viewed as a highly complex process—but it doesn’t need to be so. With appropriate guidance and tools, measuring how a TPD program changes teaching practices in the classroom can be a simple and straightforward process—and one that provides a wealth of valuable information to inform a program’s strategy and growth.

How do we know teacher professional development is working?

Our new guidance note outlines the steps that TPD program managers need to take to assess and track whether their programs are improving teaching practices using classroom observation tools. The note discusses what it takes to develop simple indicators to measure changes in teaching practices using classroom observation tools, and how to benchmark whether these changes are meaningful.

The note lays out a three-step approach:

Three-step guidance process
Three-step guidance process

  1. First, TPD program managers need to choose a classroom observation tool that is well-suited to the goals of the program. This means that the tool needs to measure teaching practices reliably over time, at a scale and cost that is feasible for program managers. The note offers six guiding questions and criteria to select among the several existing classroom observation tools: Does the tool measure the appropriate domains of teaching practice, for the appropriate education level? Has the tool been designed for the role it will play within the project? Has the tool been used in similar contexts? Is the tool valid and reliable? What materials are available to support implementation? What are the costs involved in the use of the tool at scale?
  2. Second, users need to select which indicator(s) to use to measure outcomes. The note presents and illustrates several types of indicators, including: improvement in average scores of teaching practices, percentage improvement in average scores, improvement over a given score threshold, improvement in the proportion of teachers that move into a higher score tier level, or a combination of all four indicators. The note highlights the advantages and limitations of each indicator, and how to calculate them using the data collected from the classroom observation tool.
  3. Third, users can determine an improvement goal, that is, they can set in advance a reasonable improvement target for the TPD intervention. What can be a reasonable goal for expected improvement in teaching practices? The note provides suggestions for how to establish benchmarks based on initial performance level using evidence from the impacts of TPD interventions and data on changes in teaching practices from the field, considering intervention dosage, program duration, and other factors that may play a role in improving teaching practices.

The Guidance Note provides examples of different indicators used to assess the results and impact of teacher training programs through classroom observation tools. In Uruguay, classroom observation tools are being used to assess the country’s new teacher professional development model for full-time schools. In Tanzania, classroom observation tools are being used to measure improved teaching practices from an intervention focused on improving math and science teaching practices at the secondary level. The Guidance Note is also accompanied by additional resources, including a checklist to support the selection of a classroom observation tool and an Excel tool to help set an improvement target for a program.

With careful planning and preparation, it is feasible for any TPD program to use classroom observation instruments at scale. The insights that implementing these tools brings can be eye-opening, helping drive program improvement and spurring policy-level dialogue. In Punjab, for example, an adapted version of Teach Primary is currently being used as part of the in-service TPD system to conduct thousands of classroom observations a day. This data is consolidated via dashboards that allow system leaders to understand teachers’ strengths and needs, and use these insights to drive TPD, resulting in meaningful improvement in teaching quality—all by re-directing existing resources, and incurring limited additional costs. To learn more about the impact of using classroom observation tools, consult the Teach in Action: Three Cases Studies brochure available via our website.

Education is going through a historical crisis. Investments in TPD programs aimed to equip and support teachers to recover and accelerate learning are paramount. To make the most of these investments, policymakers, program leaders and designers, school leaders, teachers and other stakeholders must ensure that TPD is leading to the urgently needed learning recovery and acceleration. These new resources, along with the existing set of publicly available tools from the Teach and Coach programs, aim to support policymakers and other stakeholders in this goal.

Read the Guidance Note on Measuring Changes in Teaching Practices in the Classroom here.  


Ana Teresa Del Toro Mijares

Consultant, World Bank Group

Diego Luna-Bazaldua

Senior Education Specialist

Adelle Pushparatnam

Senior Education Specialist

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