2004 SCG: Evaluative Review of Active Learning Project in Primary in Serbia and Montenegro
Author: Peart, G.; Harris, R.; Baucal, A.; Babic, D. P.
The project is a cooperative venture undertaken by UNICEF, the Governments of the Republics of Serbia and of Montenegro, and the Institute of Psychology at the University of Belgrade. The project has focused on training teachers to change teaching-learning practices to foster active learning and, in that way, improve the quality of teaching-learning processes.
Over 16 thousand participants have been through the basic seminar since 2000, with training taking place on average in municipalities with a below average per capita GDP. The Active Learning manual was also revised, incorporating many suggestions of teachers based on the actual practice of active learning, and published in 10,000 copies.
The review is a formative evaluation of the Active Learning project in the Republics of Serbia and Montenegro at the transition stage from UNICEF-supported pilot project to an integral part of the education system. The objectives of the review are:
- to assess, through an in-depth analysis, the concept, implementation and effects of the active learning project, primarily on teachers as key bearers of the education reform process, and to give recommendations for its future development.
- To evaluate the potential of the project to contribute to the national strategy on quality education for all.
- To recommend short-, medium- and long-term measures for key stakeholders, in respect to training, project implementation and evaluation, funding and the integration of project strategies and approaches into the education system.
The evaluative review covered Serbia and Montenegro and included teachers, trainers, policy makers, and educational authorities. The evaluation covered the following areas: conceptual issues related to Active Learning/Teaching; its purpose; core concepts and values; project design and theoretical approach; project context: review of educational system, critical constraints and opportunities, state of teaching-learning processes. Review of how the project situated itself in this context: project objectives, strategies and activities; project structures and process, roles and responsibilities of project personnel; impact on teachers’ trainers and students.
The review included a desk review of various materials, existing reports and collecting new data. Data were collected by means of open and structured questionnaires and interviews, focus discussions with coordinators, head teachers, teachers, parents and students, field visits and case studies. A national sample of 1500 teachers, trainers and inspectors completed questionnaires. Case studies of selected schools were undertaken to corroborate data collected through the questionnaire.
Findings and Conclusions:
As the project developed, it was more favourably seen by the Ministries of Education in the Republics of Serbia and Montenegro, which resulted in a dramatic increase in project training activities since 2000, with training taking place, on average, in municipalities with a below-average per capita GDP. The project's focus on an area of key importance and the quality of its activities enabled it to attract numerous teachers to promoting active learning. A bottom-up strategy has indeed led to a more comprehensive result in terms of reforms.
A significant number of pedagogical advisers and inspectors have been trained in active learning, initiating a change in the culture of the inspection and advisory services. Further, approximately 15% of all elementary teachers in the Republic of Serbia, and 56% in the Republic of Montenegro, have been fully trained by the project.
From self-reported data and limited direct observation, the Project has had a considerable impact at several levels. The most critical one, the classroom, has improved to allow children more opportunities for meaningful learning. Teachers, the 'key agents of reform' have developed the professional skills to better plan for, and analyse, the teaching and learning process in collaboration with colleagues. At national level, the critical mass of teachers and other professionals trained in active learning approaches have opened the door to more fundamental reforms of the education system.
Teachers report at least partial application of active learning in 66% of classes, and full application in 30% of classes. They are encouraged to do so by the positive student reaction to the changes in teaching-learning practice; and by the improved quality of their students' knowledge which, teachers think, is clearer, longer-lasting and more transferable. They report improved creativity, group work questioning and critical thinking among their students, as well as better student-teacher relations and school atmosphere.
The main constraints on applying active learning are the lack of teaching-learning materials and preparation time. Other constraints include textbooks, the size and organization of the current curriculum and, in some schools, the lack of support from the head teacher and other colleagues. An important underlying constraint on all active learning activities is teacher salaries, which are too low to enable teachers to devote themselves properly to their preparation work.
It costs USD 47.84 per teacher in direct cash costs to provide the two Active Learning training seminars (basic and advanced). This compares favourably with other training programmes. Overall project costs were shared between UNICEF, the Republican Ministries of Education and the Institute for Psychology.
The new law on education gives responsibility for financing certain aspects of elementary education, including professional development, to the municipalities. One can anticipate that there will be difficulty ensuring the financing of in-service training for teachers in poorer municipalities.
The recommendations include the short-, medium- and long-term measures for MoESs, professional Institutions and UNICEF. Summary of key recommendations are the following:
Support teachers' networking and develop distant learning package in order to support scaling up and sustainability of the project.
Strengthen capacities and formalize status of model schools and AL trainers and link it with the education system decentralization.
Integrate network of ALK models schools with the network of centres for professional development.
Develop special modules for multigrade classes and classes with a high number of Roma students.
Support development of system for professional assistance and quality assurance within the education system. Use reform of professional teachers' development and supervision services to fully integrate AL into the system.
Initiate steps for integration of the AL into the pre-service training.
Develop public education campaign for parents/families.
Lessons Learned (Optional):
At Governmental level, the project is appreciated by the government because it has worked directly with thousands of teachers to improve teaching-learning practices, facilitated the government's reforms, and succeeded in making a practical difference to children's lives. UNICEF has been able to facilitate this practical success because the project has focused on a particular area and has deployed four key components of UNICEF's unique package of assets:
- An extensive field presence. Through this project (and others), UNICEF has extensive and continuous contact with education professionals and public officials across the country. These relations are the project's deep roots, for which there is no substitute when it comes to making a project work effectively.
- Supply and procurement of teaching aids. The training and teaching-learning materials provided to the Regional Centres and some schools have addressed a key constraint, testified to UNICEF's commitment, and been highly appreciated by partners.
- A network of expertise. The project's technical content has been developed by national experts who have been supported by UNICEF.
- Partnerships. UNICEF has been able to bring together different partners to work effectively, including government, University staff, pedagogical inspectors and advisers, head teachers and teachers.
Full report in PDF
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