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Second Early Grade Reading Study in South Africa
Last registered on November 13, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Second Early Grade Reading Study in South Africa
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0002465
Initial registration date
September 26, 2017
Last updated
November 13, 2020 4:30 AM EST
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
National Department of Basic Education
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University
PI Affiliation
National Department of Basic Education
PI Affiliation
University of Witwatersrand
PI Affiliation
National Department of Basic Education
Additional Trial Information
Status
On going
Start date
2017-01-23
End date
2020-11-27
Secondary IDs
Abstract
The South African Department of Basic Education is investigating ways to strengthen the teaching and learning in Foundation Phase through the Early Grade Reading Studies (EGRS). The first study took place in the North West province and focused on the teaching of reading in home language. The second study is taking place in Mpumalanga and evaluates two different interventions, both aimed at improving early grade reading in English as First Additional Language (EFAL) to prepare learners better for the transition from home language to English as the language of instruction, which occurs in Grade 4. Both interventions provide teachers with a structured learning programme aligned to the national curriculum, and additional reading resources. However, the two programmes differ with respect to the modality of training and support: (i) the traditional face-to-face format through central training and regular school-based coaching; (ii) a combination of face-to-face training and an ICT component that includes electronic tablets and cell phone messaging to the teacher. The cost-effectiveness of these two programmes will be measured relative to each other and relative to a control group of schools. The interventions will be evaluated by testing learners entering Grade 1 at the start of 2017 and following the same learners through to the end of Grade 3 in 2019, testing the learners yearly at the end of each year. To evaluate the sustainability of the benefits of the interventions, the same learners will be assessed in Grade 4, a year after the interventions have been concluded.

External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Cilliers, Jacobus et al. 2020. "Second Early Grade Reading Study in South Africa." AEA RCT Registry. November 13. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.2465-1.1.
Former Citation
Cilliers, Jacobus et al. 2020. "Second Early Grade Reading Study in South Africa." AEA RCT Registry. November 13. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/2465/history/79457.
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
This study evaluates two different interventions, both aimed at improving early grade reading in English as First Additional Language (EFAL) to prepare learners better for the transition from home language to English as the language of instruction, which occurs in Grade 4. Both interventions focus on training and supporting teachers in the foundation phase to better teach English in the early grades. The interventions will be evaluated by testing learners entering Grade 1 at the start of 2017 and following the same learners through to the end of Grade 3 in 2019, testing the learners yearly at the end of each year. To evaluate the sustainability of the benefits of the interventions, the same learners will be assessed in Grade 4, a year after the interventions have been concluded.

Intervention 1: Teacher training, paper-based scripted lessons, learning and teaching support material and coaching.
Both interventions aim to apply the same set of instructional practices in the teaching of EFAL in the grade 1, 2 and 3 classrooms. Both interventions therefore provide teachers with clear, scripted lesson plans, which are aligned to the South African curriculum as specified in the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) for EFAL in the Foundation Phase. The lesson plans incorporate the use of learning support materials, including the government provided workbooks as well as certain additional materials (graded reading booklets, flash cards, big books, posters, etc.), which are provided through the EGRS II. The graded reading booklets will be introduced in the second year of the study (as per the recommendation of the CAPS) as a key resource for the teacher to use in group-guided reading and individual work, so as to facilitate reading practice at an appropriate pace and sequence of progression. Intervention 1 initially introduces the teachers on how to use the lesson plans and accompanying materials through a two-day central training session at the start of the year. During the year, cluster training sessions are held for one-day prior to the start of each academic term to additionally train the teachers on the use of certain core methodologies in the lesson plans. In addition to the training sessions, ongoing support is provided to teachers through ‘specialist’ reading coaches. The on-going support takes on the form of on-site visits by the reading coach on a monthly basis to assist teachers with the implementation of the lesson plans.

Intervention 2: Teacher training, electronic scripted lessons, learning and teaching support material and virtual coaching.
Exactly the same set of instructional materials (graded reading booklets, flash cards, big books, posters, etc.) is provided to Intervention 2 schools. However, instead of providing the scripted lesson plans in a paper-based format, the scripted lesson plans are provided in an electronic format on tablets to teachers. In addition to the scripted lesson plans, the tablets also contain short video tutorials for the teachers on teaching practice, audio clips on the pronunciation of the phonics sounds, audio clips of the songs and rhymes and examples of learners’ work. Furthermore, instead of a reading coach visiting the schools on a regular basis, the intervention has a virtual coach who provides on-going support to teachers through phone calls, whatsapp and sms messaging. The teachers in intervention 2 are initially introduced to the lesson plans and materials through a three-day central training session at the start of the year, and also receive one-day cluster training sessions at the start of each academic term.
Intervention Start Date
2017-02-13
Intervention End Date
2019-11-29
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Learner English reading proficiency.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
For second language reading proficiency we will measure all the intermediate steps towards comprehension: letter recognition, phonological awareness, word recognition, fluency, vocabulary development and reading with comprehension. These tests will be adapted from standard tests that have already been developed in Siswati and isiZulu (the home language of the learners), as well as in English. As our main outcome indicator, we will construct an aggregate indicator of learning proficiency, using principal component analysis. We will also include a few mathematics and home language items to test whether the treatments had any crowding-out, or spillover effects on the other subject areas.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The study is designed as a Randomised Control Trial (RCT), which aims to isolate the effects of each of the interventions and compare it to the situation among a comparison group of learners where normal teaching is taking place. The schools in our sample are randomly assigned to the three treatment groups: two intervention groups, each consisting of 50 schools; one control group with 80 schools. The interventions will be evaluated by testing learners entering Grade 1 at the start of 2017 and following the same learners through to the end of Grade 3 in 2019, testing the learners yearly at the end of each year. To evaluate the sustainability of the benefits of the interventions, the same learners will be assessed in Grade 4, a year after the interventions have been concluded.
Experimental Design Details
The first wave of data collection took place in February 2017, where 20 grade 1 learners per school were randomly selected into the sample. Four subsequent waves of data collection are planned for the end of Grade 1 (2017, wave 2), end of Grade 2 (2018, wave 3), end of Grade 3 (2019, wave 4) and end of Grade 4 (2020, wave 5).
We will visit the same 180 schools, tracking the same learners, and administering the following instruments:
• Learner assessment of English reading and literacy proficiency as well as some home language and mathematics items.
• Basic teacher assessment in English proficiency.
• Teacher survey
• School principal survey
• Facility review
• Parent survey
In addition we will perform classroom observations and more detailed document review in a subset of 60 schools – 20 schools in each treatment arm. Furthermore, 6 in-depth case studies will be conducted in a subset of 6 schools, 2 schools in treatments 1, 2 and the control group respectively.
Randomization Method
To increase power and assure balance between treatment arms, we performed stratified randomization. We created 10 strata of 19 similar schools based on school size, socio-economic status, and previous performance in the Annual National Assessments. Within each stratum, we then randomly assigned 5 schools to each treatment group, 8 to the control group and 1 as a replacement school. Thus we randomly assigned 50 schools to each treatment and 80 to the control.
Randomization Unit
Randomisation was conducted at the school level.
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
180 schools
Sample size: planned number of observations
3600 learners
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
50 Treatment 1 schools, 50 Treatment 2 schools, 80 Control schools
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Given that we collect data on 20 grade 1 learners per school, this sample should be sufficient to identify a minimum effect size of 0.21 standard deviations when comparing a treatment group with the control group and a minimum effect size of 0.23 standard deviations when comparing two treatment groups. These calculations assume a 95% confidence interval, an alpha value of 0.8, an intra-class correlation coefficient (rho) of 0.3 and a correlation between pre- and post-test scores of 0.7.
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
University of Witwatersrand Human Research Ethics Committee
IRB Approval Date
2016-05-20
IRB Approval Number
H16/05/37
Analysis Plan

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Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS