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Evaluation of the Grade R Early Mathematics Project (Western Cape)

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06.30.2021

Evaluation of the Grade R Early Mathematics Project (Western Cape)

The Grade R Early Mathematics Project (R-Maths Project) intends to develop, test and evaluate a province-wide teacher training project to improve teaching and learning of Grade R Mathematics. This project serves to capacitate all Grade R teachers in the province by improving their Mathematical conceptual knowledge and pedagogical competency.

Name of Organisation: JET Education Services and Kelello Consulting

Implementation Service Provider: School Development Unit (University of Cape Town)

Name of Project/Intervention: Grade R Early Mathematics Project (R-Maths Project)

Duration of Project: September 2016 to May 2019

Geographical area of the project: Western Cape

Background

The R-Maths Project intends to develop, test and evaluate a province-wide teacher training project to improve teaching and learning of Grade R Mathematics. This project serves to capacitate all Grade R teachers in the province by improving their Mathematical conceptual knowledge and pedagogical competency. It is envisaged that better teacher proficiency would result in improved learner performance in Grade R Mathematics and better preparedness for Grade 1 Mathematics.

A cascade model has been adopted, with UCT-SDU Facilitators training all 70 of the Western Cape Education Department Foundation Phase subject and curriculum advisors (SAs). These SAs then train all the Grade R teachers and practitioners in the province in a series of seven cluster-training sessions. 

The materials, in English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa, were developed and disseminated to SAs and Grade R educators. The materials include a Mathematics concept guide, an activity guide and cluster notes that provide structure and focus for each week of instruction and classroom resources in the form of a poster book and Mathematics kits.

Methodology

A comprehensive evaluation using a mixed-methods approach (drawing on both qualitative as well as quantitative methods) was undertaken to evaluate the project. This included:

  • Perspectives of changes experienced by stakeholders as a result of the intervention: baseline and endline qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with key project stakeholders.
  • Improvement in knowledge of SAs and teachers: a pre-test, post-test design was used to measure the change in knowledge of all Western Cape SAs and Grade R teachers before and after the intervention

Learner performance: changes in Grade R learners’ Mathematical knowledge and skills will be assessed via a pre and post-test using quasi-experimental, difference-in-difference design with a random sample of learners drawn from one rural and one urban district. The instrument selected to assess learners was the Marko-D – an individual test administered orally, one-on-one and designed to be administered with young children

Changes in classroom practices: detailed case studies will be conducted in six schools (3 rural and 3 urban schools, per district), at baseline and endline, to understand the mechanisms through which change occurs in different schooling contexts.

Key findings

The following major findings have emerged from the Midline Report:

  • Benefits of the intervention model: the comprehensive and high-quality materials which were developed for the project, together with the mentoring of SAs through the dry run and the daily lesson plans, mitigated some of the risks associated with a cascade model of implementation.
  • The evaluation indicated that there is a need for SAs to upskill their Grade R Mathematics content and teaching methods to enhance their ability to support Grade R teachers and practitioners.
  • The SA training worked best when the facilitation was more hands-on, maintained a balance between theory and practical ideas in both the Mathematical concepts (the “big ideas”) and the pedagogy sessions (“how to teach in Grade R”).
  • The implementation of a “dry run” was useful to enable practical experience opportunities for SAs to run training workshops for teachers.
  • The evaluation also found that the workload of SAs (number of schools, rural vs urban, geographic distances) is onerous and that there is a poor ratio of SAs to teachers. Additionally, SAs have limited experience in supporting Grade R, making effectual support to teachers challenging. This implies that an effective intervention, at scale, will require the Western Cape Education Department to provide skilled and adequate numbers of SAs.
  • The demographic profile of grade R teachers, qualifications and teaching experience varies considerably (from Grade 9 to university level), as do their qualifications (from ECD level 4 to Masters) and Grade R teaching experience (from 0 to 38 years). The intervention needs to cater for this diversity.
  • Observation of grade R teachers indicates that for Grade R teachers to consolidate learning and adapt their teaching practices, they need onsite support at the school and classroom level by experts. Grade R teachers cannot turn to their peers. Many HoDs’ knowledge of R-Maths is limited. However, they have the potential to support teachers because they are embedded in the school.
  • In terms of learner performance, the analysis of the intervention and comparison groups revealed that the two groups were substantively equal. Analysis of the results of the learners showed a slightly positively-skewed normal distribution in both districts. This means that the test can be administered at endline as planned to compare the shifts in individual results from the baseline to the endline. Only when there is endline data available to compare to the baseline, can the learner assessment data be meaningfully interpreted for the evaluation.

This evaluation informed the development of a similar intervention for Grade R teachers in Gauteng.

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