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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2000 Croatia: External and Internal Evaluations of the Project "Active/Efficient School"



Author: Matijevic, M.; Bratko, B.; Ljubin, T.

Executive summary

Background

The idea to help primary school teachers emerged in 1994 when many schools worked in difficult conditions because of war zone proximity or the large number of refugee children. Under the project "School of Quality," assisted by UNICEF Office for Croatia, a team of experts helped teachers to create lessons and classes that would facilitate overcoming numerous organizational, educational and psychological problems in primary schools at the combat lines.

At the end of 1996, when the war dangers ceased, the members of "School of Quality" project team decided to continue to work with teachers in twelve primary schools. The project was renamed "Teachers' Training for Active/Efficient Teaching and Learning." The project team attempted to help teachers transform traditional teaching into pupil-oriented teaching, where the child is more active than the teacher is. Pupils are no longer passive observers but active and interested participants. They participate in the preparation, realization and evaluation of various educational episodes. The project team has the basic didactic principle: to teach younger primary school pupils through play and to teach older pupils through problem solving.

Purpose / Objective

The evaluation wanted to assess whether the curriculum attains its goals, and the curriculum effectiveness was compared to the curriculum of the same kind in other schools.

The goals set by the "Active/Efficient School" project team are:
- To direct teachers' attention to the importance of some other educational goals besides knowledge acquisition (e.g. to learn how to learn, to learn social skills)
- To organize educational situations differently than they are dominantly organized in schools (that is, whole class teaching)
- To influence complete school and classroom atmosphere that affects the main protagonists' (pupils and teachers) motivation to participate in the educational process

Methodology

All twelve of the schools in the program were surveyed. Two control schools were selected with a close match to the experimental schools in size and location. A survey and questionnaires were completed by a sample of pupils, as well as a survey of teachers and of parents. Interviews were held with teachers, school staff and headmasters. Discussion groups were held with teachers. In one experimental school, teachers wrote short essays on the advantages and disadvantages of the experimental programme.

The students sampled in the study were all fourth and eighth class pupils totalling 619 participants, of which valid data was collected from 615 pupils: 328 from the experimental schools and 287 from the control schools. 63 teachers from experimental schools and 60 teachers from control schools were selected. Work experience between the two groups did not differ significantly. The sample included 541 parents: 294 from experimental schools and 247 from control schools.

Key Findings and Conclusions

Students' Questionnaire
Results were analysed for statistical differences between the experimental and control schools.
Regarding teaching and exam strategies, statistically significant differences were noted in 14 out of 23 variables. In all of these cases, the desirable strategies are used more in experimental schools than in control schools. Teaching in class is more frequently organized in the form of quizzes, and school quizzes are organized more often. Lessons are more frequently organized in a way to stimulate pupils' activity: students sit in a circle more frequently; learn through games; work in groups; teaching material is illustrated by pictures, photographs or drawings; students are encouraged to quiz each other; and are required to help each other in learning.

Seven statements regarding motivation for learning and pupil-teacher relationship were examined with a statistical difference found in three factors: pupils learn because they like to find out something new about the world around them; pupils are capable enough to learn alone from books, and most pupils perceive teachers as friends.

Students recorded no difference between schools in having held classes regarding children's rights and the protection of the environment. No difference was also found in the promotion of belief in success or self-perception of school abilities.

Statistically important differences were noted for group leadership style. Although the democratic style of leadership (teachers discuss with pupils how to master teaching material) prevails in both schools, it is more prominent in experimental 80.8% than in control schools 68.8%. Autocratic group leadership (teachers demand strict discipline and do not ask pupils for their opinion) is less present in experimental schools 13.7% than in control schools 22.5%.

There was no statistical difference between the two schools in terms of social anxiety at school, self-esteem, competition, rivalry, or aggressive behaviour at school. There were no differences in the mechanisms the schools provided for dealing with stress such as problem solving, emotional reactions, social support and self-blame.

While a very small number of experimental school pupils was not satisfied and did not like going to school - 10.1%, more than one fourth of control school pupils expressed that attitude at 25.1%. Percentage of satisfied pupils who liked going to school is high in both schools at 64.1% and 60.3%. However, the percentage of very satisfied pupils who enjoyed school is notably higher in experimental 25.8% than in control schools 14.6%.

Teachers' Questionnaire
According to teachers' assessment, there are no statistically significant differences between experimental and control schools in the overall teaching characteristics of the schools, such as develops pupils' independence, creativity, co-operation, motivation for independent learning and other variables. There was also no difference recorded in the importance teachers attributed to promoting certain characteristics, such as recognising pupils special needs, individual skills, co-operation and other variables. Again, no difference was found in the teachers' perception of students' conduct in class for factors such as appropriate conduct to other pupils, to staff, to teachers and to school property.

The only place differences were found to be statistically important was in the teaching and exam strategies that the teachers reported using. Out of 23 variables, three had significant results: at class, we talk sitting in a circle; pupils can choose the problem to be studied; and, at class, pupils work in groups.

The majority of teachers at both schools are partly satisfied with the school: 54.8% in the experimental schools and 78% in the control. The proportion of teachers completely satisfied with their schools is higher in the experimental schools at 41.9% compared to 20.3% in the control schools.

Parents' Questionnaire
Given 10 characteristics of the schools, parents' responses were statistically different for three variables, with the experimental school having a higher mark for: reduces fear of school, enables good teacher-pupil communication and recognizes special pupils' needs. The importance that parents gave to certain characteristics of learning were statistically different for: school should recognise pupils' special needs, teacher-pupil relations should be friendly, pupils should be creative during class and pupils should be ready to co-operate with other pupils at the class.

In terms of parents' co-operation in the educational process, slightly more experimental parents supervised their children's homework at 56.5% compared to 46.7%. Time parents spent helping their children in school tasks, the time children spent doing homework, supervision of child's co-operation at class and the child asking for help in learning were statistically the same for both groups.

Although the majority of experimental and control group parents are partly satisfied with the school 57.5% and 63.2%, there are more experimental school pupils' parents who are completely satisfied with the school 40.0% compared to 30.6%, and less of those who are not satisfied with the school at all 2.5% versus 6.2%.

Overall
The results of the evaluation of the pupils sampled have shown that pupils from experimental schools, compared to pupils from control schools, perceive the application of teaching and exam strategies by the Active/Efficient School concept, display higher degree of pro-social behaviour at the class, the relation with teacher perceived as more friendly, permissive and less authoritarian, are more independent in learning and motivated intrinsically and are generally more satisfied with the school while the class/education atmosphere is better. Although the teachers from experimental schools did not differ in beliefs and perceptions from control schools, they applied the strategies trained under the programme and are more satisfied with their school. The parents of pupils attending experimental school are also more satisfied with their children's school than the parents from the control group. From the comments that some teachers and headmasters related to the evaluation team members, we might conclude that the project activities have visibly affected the change of teaching strategies and the school atmosphere. The change was positive. It is seen in their assessment of creativity, co-operation, pupils' and teachers' motivation, and class and school atmosphere.

Recommendations

Changes in education and in schools are a process not an occurrence. The interventions made should be taken as just one of the important stages in innovating primary school work. The implementation stage should be continued by organizing new training sessions and workshops for teachers, and by initiating continuous changes regarding teaching methods and strategies.

Workshops for enabling teachers to get a better insight into the connection between school and stress should be organized. Such workshops would aim to help teachers look into possibilities of organizing teaching sessions and grading in a manner that reduces or eliminates stress in educational communication.

 



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Report information

Date:
2000

Region:
CEE/CIS

Country:
Croatia

Type:
Evaluation

Theme:
Education - Participatory Learning

Partners:
University of Zagreb, Croatian Ministry of Education and Sports

PIDB:
ME002-01

Follow Up:

Language:
English

Sequence Number:
2000/004

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