Exploring the Early Learning Toolkit

June 03, 2016Samyuktha Warrier

Exciting strides in recent early learning research make a bright future for the growth of global education increasingly possible. Unfortunately, many still face barriers accessing essential materials and guidance even for strategies with robust evidence supporting their effectiveness - especially in 1) targeted instruction, 2) teacher coaching, 3) mother tongue instruction and 4) parent-child interaction.

The Center for Education Innovations has compiled some of the most prominent research on these topics in the Early Learning Toolkit – a practical, online interface open for anyone seeking to improve student learning in the developing world. The online toolkit provides a brief overview of the 4 learning strategies (plus 3 program management strategies) and provides valuable aides to implement them. The Early Learning Toolkit bridges the gap between the new findings and dedicated educators around the world. Take a look at some of my favorite features here:

Targeted Instruction:  

Research has shown grouping students by learning style and ability can be more effective than assigning them a learning level by age and grade. A 2014 study by the World Bank ranks the use of smaller learning groups within classes as a “most effective intervention” in improving education. A solution that the Early Learning Toolkit shares is dividing the classroom into ability groups.  

One tool provided by Pratham, based in India, is a video demonstrating the Combined Activities for Maximized Learning (CAMAL) method. The CAMAL method explains in simple terms how to fully engage students from all backgrounds in reading, writing and math.

Another targeted teaching tool is a step-by-step guide to using group work in class. Written by the Teacher Education in Subaharan Africa (TESSA) organization, it includes tips on what to do before, during and after a group activity to ensure effective participation.

Teacher Coaching:

Teacher coaching has received heightened attention recently in developing countries. The ongoing process allows a teacher to develop professionally and receive constant constructive feedback through the process. The Early Learning Toolkit recommends that coaches offer teachers support through strong leadership and clear communication regarding feedback. The following tools give added clarity to what makes a strong teacher coach.    

OLE Ghana has compiled a list of what a coach is and what essential qualities that person possesses. The document gives places strict guidelines on the definition of teacher coaching; OLE wants to ensure that their coaches do not become “consultants, mentors, therapists or counselors.” Such distinctions make for a clearer idea of what is most effective in carrying out the key strategies.

Another tool for teacher coaching is the Early Childhood Education (ECE) Program Evaluation Package published by the World Bank in India. This Program Evaluation Package includes ECE teacher and classroom observation forms, a school readiness assessment for children, and a questionnaire for parents. Frameworks like these are simple to use and provide a good starting point for programs and educators.

Mother Tongue Instruction:

Education in early grades forms the foundation on which students grow academically. Instruction in one’s mother tongue during early years can be vital to the early development of children. The Early Learning Toolkit encourages educators to make sure that storybooks and teaching materials are available in student’s mother tongues.

Story Weaver is an online database of over 1,000 children’s stories that have been translated to over 32 languages. Educators can access the website and download stories from several categories and reading levels to share with their classrooms.

The UNESCO Advocacy Kit for Promoting Multilingual Education (MLE) is a guide on mother tongue based learning. It includes case studies of successful MLE programs in numerous countries, questions and answers on what makes the MLE method so important and effective, and a compilation of UNESCO principles to adhere to when implementing MLE.

Parent-Child Interaction:

Parents are a critical piece of the puzzle in educating youth in developing nations. Parental engagement with children at home results in large improvements in student performance. The Early Learning Toolkit offers useful tools to ensure parent trainers are knowledgeable about their children’s development.

Reading for Children, a guide published by the East Africa Quality in Early Learning Project, encourages parent involvement from a reading and literacy standpoint. The guide explains how parents can select storybooks strategically and create an environment that promotes reading in the home. 

Explore the education innovations that the Mother Child Education Program (MOCEP) developed.  The program provides mothers with support groups, booklets that contain helpful exercises to do with their children, and ways to prepare their children for school. Based in Turkey, the MOCEP program is a great example of the parent engagement that is soimportant to global education.

The Early Learning Toolkit continues to collect important resources for global education. Later this month the Toolkit will launch four new learning strategies, centered around intervention models targeting children aged 0 to 6. These new strategies will make the Early Learning Toolkit even more of a comprehensive platform, but the work continues!

If you have any resources or input that would make helpful tools, please reach out to us at cei@r4d.org. Either way, we hope you’ll enjoy exploring everything the Early Learning Toolkit has to offer!

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