Pedagogy, curriculum, teaching practices and teacher education in developing countries

Westbrook, Jo, Durrani, Naureen, Brown, Rhona, Orr, David, Pryor, John, Boddy, Janet and Salvi, Francesca (2014) Pedagogy, curriculum, teaching practices and teacher education in developing countries. Technical Report. EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London., London.

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This rigorous literature review, commissioned by the Department for International Development (DfID), UK, focused on ‘pedagogy, curriculum, teaching practices and teacher education in developing countries’. It aimed to: (i) review existing evidence on the review topic to inform programme design and policy-making undertaken by the DfID, other agencies and researchers; and (ii) identify critical evidence gaps to guide the development of future research programmes.

The overarching question this review engaged was:

Which pedagogic practices, in which contexts and under what conditions, most effectively support all students to learn at primary and secondary levels in developing countries?

This was explored through three sub-questions:

1. What pedagogical practices are being used by teachers in formal and informal classrooms in developing countries?
2. What is the evidence on the effectiveness of these pedagogical practices, in what conditions, and with what population of learners?
3. How can teacher education (curriculum and practicum) and the school curriculum and guidance materials best support effective pedagogy?

Methods: An advisory e-user group comprising ministry personnel, teacher educators, educational researchers, NGOs, foundations and other development partners offered advice and support and commented on the draft initial report, draft final report, and responded to enquiries within their area of expertise.

Nine electronic databases for relevant literature and 17 key journals were hand searched; the websites of key governmental and non-governmental organisations were also searched; citations referenced in identified papers were followed up; and team members, the e-user group, and the team’s professional contacts were consulted for recommendations of relevant studies and ‘grey’ unpublished reports and papers.

The review was conducted in two stages. Stage one consisted of a systematic ‘mapping’ exercise on the 489 studies that met the inclusion criteria through coding, giving a broad characterisation of pedagogical practices used by teachers in formal and informal classrooms in developing countries. Studies that met the inclusion criteria of relevance and clarity of method were selected for stage two, the ‘in-depth review’. Fifty-four empirical studies, reported in 62 publications, using both quantitative and qualitative methods, were included and rated for methodological trustworthiness and quality of contextualisation. A random sample of 15% of studies was double coded for quality assurance. Data from the 45 studies ranking high or moderate on both dimensions were used to address this review’s overarching research question.

Results: The review’s main claim is that teachers’ use of communicative strategies encourages pedagogic practices that are interactive in nature, and is more likely to impact on student learning outcomes and hence be effective. This claim for teachers’ use of communicative strategies is not something that is reported consistently in those terms in the literature reviewed, but it has emerged from an interpretation of the overall body of evidence.

The overall strength of that body of evidence is moderate, with a combination of high and moderate quality studies from a range of contexts, relatively numerous in relation to other rigorous and systematic reviews, but mostly of observational-descriptive studies. Studies were not directly comparable, with different aims and research methods and a variety of outcome indicators to assess effective pedagogic practices. Evidence comes from studies of not only interventions but also reforms and existing conditions, so that these practices indicate what is possible under difficult conditions, with large, multilingual classes and scarce resources, and where students come from poor or marginalised backgrounds. The evidence is strongest in the consistency of findings on the extent to which teachers are able to implement the pedagogical strategies and practices envisaged by reforms and training. There is also convergence in how studies report that curriculum and teacher education can best support effective practices. However, there is less robust evidence of the way these strategies and practices impact on student learning outcomes, as few studies used baseline and post-tests or school or national student achievement data, and many used greater student engagement and confidence as general but not rigorously evidenced indicators.

The review identified that pedagogic practice is developed through interaction between teachers’ thinking or attitudes, what they do in the classroom and what they see as the outcome of their practice. The review identified two specific teacher attitudes that encouraged the use of three interactive and communicative strategies; these in turn facilitated implementation of six specific teaching practices that were used in effective ways and engaged students. These attitudes were teachers’ positive attitudes towards their training and their students, which positioned them in the best frame of mind to construct the teaching and learning process as an interactive, communicative process in which teaching involved provoking a visible response in their students that indicated that learning was taking place. Three specific strategies that promoted this interactive pedagogy were identified:

• feedback, sustained attention and inclusion;
• creating a safe environment in which students are supported in their learning;
• drawing on students’ backgrounds and experiences.

The above strategies formed a basis for developing the six effective teaching practices, although not all of these needed to be simultaneously present:

• flexible use of whole-class, group and pair work where students discuss a shared task;
• frequent and relevant use of learning materials beyond the textbook;
• open and closed questioning, expanding responses, encouraging student questioning;
• demonstration and explanation, drawing on sound pedagogical content knowledge;
• use of local languages and code switching;
• planning and varying lesson sequences.

While all teachers may use the above practices, the key difference is that the most effective teachers use them communicatively, paying attention to their students and placing them centrally in their construction of the teaching-learning process. These effective teachers recognise the need to provoke a positive response in students and do so in more interactive, communicative ways, so that students engage, understand, participate and learn. All of the above practices, even when used alone, if carried out in this interactive and communicative way, are then effective in the classroom. Brought together as a package in an intervention or carefully constructed curriculum, supported by relevant professional development, they might make a considerable impact on student learning.

Item Type: Reports and working papers (Technical Report)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1025 Teaching (Principles and practice)
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Naureen Durrani
Date Deposited: 10 Mar 2014 08:39
Last Modified: 12 Mar 2018 16:02

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