Research has shown that one of the most cost-effective interventions to improve student learning, is “structured pedagogy programs”, that provide teachers continuous professional development support (TCPD) – in the form of lesson plans, training, and ongoing support by expert coaches – and additional learning resources to be used in the classroom (Snilstveit et al., 2016). This model has been tested in many contexts in Africa (Cilliers et al., 2019).
However, there is limited evidence on how such programs can be implemented by the government at scale in a low-capacity environment. Most of the successful studies evaluated were implemented by NGOs and at a small scale. In fact, studies have shown that existing government-run teacher professional development programs fail to have a positive impact on teaching practices and student learning (Loyalka et al., 2019; Schaffner et al., 2021). And other studies have shown that successful programs implemented by NGOs at a small scale, often fail to successfully scale when implemented by the government (Tessa et al., 2018). More research is required to find models of teacher professional development that are scalable and can be successfully implemented by the government.
Despite positive elements of Mozambique’s new teacher professional development model, some aspects can be strengthened by: (i) providing resources to simplify lesson planning; (ii) recognizing that lesson study methodology (reviewing lessons plans among peer teachers) may not be effective for teachers who have not mastered the curriculum content or possess weak pedagogical skills; (iii) providing more structure and intensive support to teachers with low content and pedagogical skills; (iv) recognizing that the schedules and tasks teachers are responsible for have not been modified, despite having added additional responsibilities, which has resulted in increased time constraints that prevent them from effectively implementing the new model.
Most traditional in-service professional development is highly theoretical, with little practical application. Aprender+ will promote the use of active learning strategies and deliberate practice to help teachers improve their teaching. The literature on adult learning is clear on the need to replace lectured-based teaching with active learning strategies and hands-on application. The rationale is twofold. First, active learning strategies promote engagement and increase learning (Freeman et al., 2014). Second, practicing teaching skills that teachers need to use in their classrooms makes it more likely that teachers will modify their teaching habits (Lemov et al., 2012). Aprender+ will promote the use of these insights not just in the coaching protocol but also in other aspects of in-service teacher development (e.g., where teachers are brought together for a period of time, and presented with new materials or methods).
The study will be conducted in the province of Manica, working in 197 Pedagogical Influence Zones (ZIPs) that have 2-4 schools within the ZIP (356 schools in the 197 ZIPs). 99 ZIPs will be assigned to treatment, and 98 will be assigned to control. The treatment will take place in all the schools in the 99 treatment ZIPs. Data collection will take place in two randomly selected schools in each of the 172 sampled ZIPs (344 schools). This intervention is targeted at grade-1 students and their teachers.
This study will contribute to the literature on TCPD, and also the literature on improving state capacity. First, it will provide critical evidence on whether and how government can successfully implement teacher professional development programs in a low-capacity environment. As mentioned before, there is strong evidence for a successful model of TCPD. Second, it will also provide insight into how to improve state capacity to improve public service delivery in developing countries.