The Teacher Community Assistant Initiative (TCAI) of Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) was developed in partnership with the Ghanaian Ministry of Education through the Ghana Education Service to address (1) low learning levels in Ghana and (2) the challenges teachers face in coping with classrooms that includes students with a wide range of learning levels. The program was based on rigorous evidence from a program in India showing that targeted instruction for low-performing students led by community teaching assistants is an effective way to improve learning outcomes in numeracy and literacy. The Ghana program therefore enlisted help from local teaching assistants through the National Youth Employment Program to provide targeted instruction, focusing on literacy and numeracy, to students using a child-centered and activity-based approach.
Four variations of the program were tested.
- In-school remedial classes were provided by Teacher Community Assistants (TCAs)
- After-school remedial classes were provided by TCAs
- TCAs assisted teachers during classes, pulling students out at random to review lessons
- Teachers were trained to provide small-group instruction based on student ability levels.
There were a number of strengths and weaknesses that contributed to the overall outcome of the remedial classes. For example, TCAs had higher attendance and time-on-task than regular teachers, likely because they were tasked with only remedial courses and had a very specific set of lessons to deliver on any given day. In spite of this, however, they still found it difficult to use the teaching and learning materials in fun and innovative ways, likely because they were used to the ways in which they were taught. In order to address this, refresher trainings were initiated once per term to teach games, songs, and other interactive activities that could be used to assess pupil knowledge, increase pupil participation, and ensure engagement throughout the lesson. The program found it helpful to also limit the teaching and learning materials to a small, core set of items that could be easily used across subjects and throughout different lessons in order to establish routines that were easy to follow. Other challenges included logistical difficulties of providing after school sessions (e.g. parents needing their children to come home, or the need to provide food if students stay after school), and the need for the community to value remedial education for the program to be successful. In order to better invest communities in the remedial programs, especially those taking place after school, meetings were held with community leaders to explain the program, address concerns, and provide insight into the benefits of the remedial methodology.
The results of the rigorous evaluation conducted showed that working with low-performing students separately (e.g. after school) was most effective in increasing learning levels. There are a number of theories as to why this might be the case, including increased contact hours and fewer distractions from other pupils and teachers. Results also show that results are persistent even beyond P3, especially for literacy (in both English and the local language). Remedial classes are most successful at positively impacting basic skills, but they can also have an effect on more complex skills, indicating that mastering basic literacy and numeracy concepts helps students to learn higher-order skills. The study showed that remedial skill development, especially when using a teaching assistant, can have great impact on learning for pupils often left behind.
See here for a selection of teaching materials and resources used by TCAI.