Creative Experts to Address Hot Topics in International Education During DC Conference

By Jennifer Brookland

March 5, 2015

Nearly 3,000 education professionals from around the globe are in Washington, D.C., this week to take part in the 59th annual Comparative and International Education Society conference’s 500 activities exploring the most important issues in global education.

Creative experts will moderate or speak at 12 events, providing insights from completed and ongoing work ranging from randomized control trials investigating school dropout in Asia to strategies for teacher professional development in low-resource settings.

Recruiters from Creative’s human resources team will also be on hand throughout the conference at the organization’s table and at various presentations and receptions.

More than 500 workshops, panel discussions, paper presentations, films, networking events and talks from Sunday, March 8 through Friday, March 13 will reflect this year’s theme of “Ubuntu! Imagining a Humanist Education Globally.”

Registration is still possible for the conference, which takes place this year at the Washington Hilton hotel.

A focus on global math education

Basic mathematical skills play a critical role in determining an individual’s life success, and even dictate a country’s capacity to advance in science and technology. Yet large, cross-national mathematics studies have shown that children in developing countries lag behind when it comes to performance in math. What the studies don’t show is why, or where the problems originate.

Creative’s math specialist Deepa Srikantaiah will chair a panel on Global Mathematics Education: Mathematics for Youth, which will focus on out of school youth, older children, non-formal education, and math for workforce development, and answer some of these questions.

She will also chair a panel on Math education for linguistic and cultural minorities, examining efforts and gaps in making math education more inclusive for linguistic and cultural minorities.

Another, two-part panel will continue the focus on math education, presenting research on approaches to supporting primary school math teachers in low-resource contexts. Traditional learning models used in these environments often run counter to current thinking that holds mathematics instruction should stress conceptual understanding, adaptive reasoning, and flexible problem-solving.

Facilitated by Joy du Plessis, a Senior Associate in Creative’s Education for Development division, the panels will first address teachers’ knowledge and beliefs, and then teacher practice and attempts to change it through training and support.

The overwhelming importance of literacy

EAS07121447-200x300 In today’s globalized and technology-driven era, where literacy is tantamount to earning potential and power, Ubuntu-inspired education means all students learn to read well. But today, only a fraction of primary school-age children worldwide learn to read with speed, accuracy, expressivity, and understanding.

Improving and expanding fluency and comprehension instruction has proven challenging in early grade reading classrooms around the world, with the consequence that many children develop these skills slowly, or not at all.

Diane Prouty, a senior educational researcher at Creative, will discuss planning and organizing for success in fluency and comprehension on a panel called Instruction for optimal fluency and comprehension: Approaches and possibilities, in which experts imagine how high-quality fluency and comprehension instruction can become a standard feature of all classrooms, rather than being largely confined to the global North.

Prouty will provide evidence about the efficacy of strategies and techniques to deliver fluency and comprehension skills that are feasible for teachers even in the most difficult classroom contexts, calling on data on student outcomes from programs in Yemen, Tanzania, and Zambia.

Prouty will also chair, and present on a panel entitled Differentiated instructional practices in Reading and Math: Reaching all students.

Despite awareness that teaching should be responsive to individual learning needs, many teachers announce with pride that they treat all their students the same. “Consequently, multiple factors lead to the marginalization and vulnerability of individual students in any classroom,” explains Prouty, and “students who start off with the toughest learning situations frequently end up getting the poorest instruction and least opportunity to learn.”

In fact research has shown that the poorer the country, the greater the gap between the learning opportunities of students based on gender, social economic demographics, urban/rural settings and disability.

This panel will explore important influences that impact students’ opportunity to learn reading and math, and how Creative has introduced teaching practices and professional development strategies that foster differentiated instructional techniques in its education programs.

Prouty will take a special look at educational reform efforts in developing countries where there are booming student populations in under-resourced learning environments.

Srikantaiah will discuss differentiated teaching and learning strategies based on recent brain research that revealed structural and functional differences between the ways boys and girls learn.

And Nicholas Hoekstra, a research associate at Creative, will present on differentiated learning strategies to reach students with special learning needs.

In a panel chaired by Karen Tietjen, Director of Creative’s Instructional Systems and Governance practice area, experts will present “experiences from small- and large-scale reading improvement programs in an effort to inform (and perhaps temper) expectations surrounding how quickly and easily the needle on reading performance has been (and can be) moved.”

Despite increasing momentum for the post-2015 set of global goals and indicators to include a target for primary education learning outcomes, experts disagree not just on which goals to select, but what expectations are reasonable.

Great Expectations: Reflections on reading results achieved to date and prospects for “All Children Reading” in a post-2015 world will focus on results from programs in several countries, including Tanzania, Yemen and Zambia, and will attempt to set expectations that are indeed great, but also informed.

Tietjen will also chair a panel on Preventing Dropout: Exploring impact, successes, failures, and imponderables, which features Creative staff and partners from the USAID-funded School Dropout Prevention Pilot (SDPP) in Cambodia, Timor-Leste, India and Tajikistan.

While enrollment has grown globally, the ability of school systems to provide quality education has not always kept pace. Dropout has emerged as a worldwide problem; up to 50 percent of American students in some urban centers fail to complete compulsory education, and the number is even higher in parts of Asia. There is little evidence from developing countries on effective ways to mitigate this.

School Dropout Prevention Pilot, which is assessing the effectiveness of tailored anti-dropout interventions through randomized control trials, will eventually collect data from 898 schools and 278,000 students. This panel will present the varying effectiveness of the pilot’s dropout mitigation interventions, and will address its impact on variables including student progression and dropout, engagement, behaviors and attitudes.

More panels not to miss: Conflict, coaching, and middle school

Creative experts will also present on learning in conflict and crisis, bringing attendees through video to Nigeria, Pakistan and Honduras for a glimpse at the challenges and expectations for students in these places, and revealing each group’s unique strategies and learning outcomes as they navigate danger in their daily lives.

Education programs that combine academic achievement with positive coping strategies can play a crucial role in safeguarding children’s psychosocial health and keeping them on track for success later in life. Unique perspectives on learning in contexts of conflict, chaired by Creative’s Education in Conflict expert Wendy Wheaton, will investigate the effectiveness and potential of programs that address vulnerable learners, particularly in the context of conflict and crisis.

In a panel on Adapting coaching for different contexts, Creative’s instructional systems and school governance expert Lynn Evans poses a few key questions about coaching early grade reading teachers. How can it be embedded in broader professional development, and how can Ministries of Education that are sometimes weak and under-resourced provide it? Can anyone make the paradigm shift from supervisor to coach? Does gender matter in coach selection?

The international education community is learning that “Effective coaching for teachers can influence their resiliency, student learning in the classroom, and overall school improvement efforts.”

Creative experts Evans and du Plessis will present findings from coaching components they have introduced in Zambia and Yemen. Creative’s Chief of Party in Tanzania, Renuka Pillay, will speak about the organization’s role in Coaching for Reading Across the Curriculum, a part of the Tanzania 21st Century Basic Education Program being implemented in 900 primary schools.

Sylvia Ellison will chair a panel discussion on Issues and opportunities in middle school education—a level that will soon demand more attention as enrollment rises but quality stagnates.

YEM05061428-200x300 Middle school is a transition period for children, who are facing new academic and social challenges that could lead them down a path to success and opportunity, or frustration, negativity and diminished options for a positive adulthood. At this level, scholastic pressure rises while school-based support for students often wanes.

And yet “the resilience of middle school children coupled with their increasing capacity for autonomous action, their growing mastery of new knowledge and skills and their innate pursuit to find purpose in life create powerful opportunities that schools can leverage.”

This panel will look at strategies and approaches that can help students thrive in middle school, empower educators to meet their learning and developmental needs, and ensure structures and policies promote healthy learning environments.

Creative’s Eric Rusten will present on middle schoolers’ perceptions of and experiences with school, and will share the perspectives of students in Morocco, Jordan, Tajikistan and Cambodia. —the role schooling plays in their life, their views of teachers and other students, how they experienced school, what caused them or would cause them to leave, and what would keep them in school and enhance their well-being.

It will also look at various way of eliciting authentic student opinion and supporting a productive dialogue among students, parents and educators.

Abdelkader Ezzaki, a Creative education expert based in Morocco who now works on the Enhanced Reading Program, will present what worked in strengthening reading instruction for middle school students. Jeff Coupe will present on creating a healthy learning environment that can foster student engagement and well-being, particularly among at-risk students with lagging skill sets. Youth expert Bonnie Politz will facilitate.

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