What can you expect from EduEval in 2016?

EduEval has evolved over the years since its inception in 2010. We have enjoyed working closely with governments, private school operators, NGOs and corporate partners to help support evidence-informed decision making in the education sector. We are excited that we have been able to grow in the MENA region. Our growth is a recognition that there is a need for high quality consulting for all stakeholders who want better education for a knowledge-based society.

As we have grown, we do need to make sure that we continue to meet the needs of the community that engages with us. So we have made a few changes and we are working on a few exciting internal projects to share with you.
So what can you expect from us in 2016? 
  1. We will be changing our name from EduEval Educational Consultancy to EduEval! This represents our organic growth as we have built several verticals where we will continue to promote the same level of excellence in evidence-informed decision making on a broader scale.
  2. We are working on a School Choice Guide for parents in Dubai. We have been approached by several parents and concerned stakeholders over the years. Parents who need help in understanding how to make the best decision for their child when it comes to choosing a private school in Dubai. This guide will be available soon – so keep your eyes on us.
  3. We will be publishing more on understanding the practical link between assessment for learning, the role of technology and promoting better teaching and learning. So follow us on twitter and you will notice more activity sharing relevant information about education.
  4. We will be directly engaging with communities to promote our new initiative: Industry Connect. This is a great series of programs that are being developed with corporate partners and schools to promote a greater link between the theoretical learning in schools and real-wold applications.
  5. We will continue our commitment to excellence by relying on assessment, monitoring, evaluation and research to make informed decisions that promote the best practices in education in the MENA region.
Thank you for all of your support over the years of our infancy. We appreciate all of our followers, our partners, our clients. We also appreciate the time from the students, parents, teachers, school leaders, and high level bureaucrats who have given us their trust and engaged with EduEval.
We have received many accolades and statements of gratitude from our stakeholders. Each of these positive reflections have meant a great deal to all of the professionals who have worked tirelessly to ensure a high quality service since we started this company.

From the EduEval family, we wish you a wonderful new year and lets make 2016 one where we can focus on cultivating motivated confident happy young independent 21st century learners.

Happy new year!

Sonia Ben Jaafar, PhD
Managing Director
EduEval Educational Consultancy

Progressive vision in Dubai private schools at What Works 2015

The third What Works event and first in 2015 was held on the 19th of January. Educational professionals from all over Dubai private schools came together to exchange their best practices on teaching, learning and leadership in schools. This series also included the signature workshops dedicated to  professional knowledge sharing for school leaders where a key talking point was the challenge to meet the National Agenda 2021 and Dubai Plan 2021. Schools are being asked to improve student achievement and improve Dubai’s ranking on international tests. Private school leaders are taking this tall order from HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum very seriously. The message is clear, residents of Dubai should be assured that their kids are in schools that are one of the best in the world!

With this demand hanging in the Dubai air; it was only natural that What Works dedicates a series of leadership workshops on school self-evaluation where school leaders exchange their expertise to promote systemic measurable school improvement. At this particular event in January, there was a focus on the practical coupling of performance management and school vision.

Effective educational leaders help their schools to develop or endorse visions that embody the best thinking about teaching and learning.

– Task Force on Developing Research in Educational Leadership (2003)

With this in mind, a group of school leaders from Dubai schools reviewed their approaches on:

  1. How they reflect the needs of their school in the school vision?
  2. How they ensure the vision is appreciated and owned by various stakeholders?; and
  3. How they make the vision operational in daily practice across the school?

visionThere is no scarcity of literature on the galvanizing effect of a progressive school vision that is well implemented. Moreover, a quick visit to most Dubai private schools will show that vision statements are a dime a dozen boasting laudable goals of whole student development, 21st century skills and the fostering of life-long learners.

So why all the attention on school vision and performance management?

This audience took progressive school vision a step further. They talked about the alignment of school-based outcomes and the vision with an explicit purpose: the daily practices in their schools should result in desired outcomes. This is a shift from static leader-driven visions to a shared vision that promotes a learning organization.

You cannot have a learning organisation without a shared vision…A shared vision provides a compass to keep learning on course when stress develops

– Peter Senge

This meant a few tweaks in how some leaders were thinking about their school vision. Yes, it is good to consider the desired outcome when creating a vision. But, it is also necessary to consider the evidence of the current context using data collected from various sources such as assessment results, staff anperformanced student attendance rates, staff turnover rates, disciplinary incidents, parental surveys, and student questionnaires. These data can be utilized to develop evidence-based strategies for a vision that moves schools from the abstract to the real – in other words, from traditional goals to progressive goals using a SMART framework. Progressive goals that will support an actionable school improvement plan to get the most out of the school vision.

Improving Implementation of Common Core Standards and Assessment in MENA

Learning is the imperative to equip future generations to respond and to survive in a frenetically and unpredictably changing world.

Louise Stoll, Dean Fink and Lorna Earl

                         MENA CC                                                               

The MENA Common Core 2nd Annual Conference was held in Dubai on the 24th and 25th of October. A number of educational experts from the Middle East, North Africa and the US came together with the shared goal of improving the implementation of the Common Core Standards in American schools in the region. Over 25 interactive professional development workshops were delivered over the two days period to educators and educational leaders in the region who gave up fun in the sun weekends for this unique professional learning opportunity.

In addition to the formal learning in the workshop rooms, the networking between principals, teachers, educational consultants and publishers inspired hope of collaboration across roles with the shared intention of higher student engagement, learning and achievement. As one teacher stated at the end of the event:

I had a limited understanding of the Standards and their use…. As a teacher, I never questioned the curriculum I was given to teach in terms of the extent to which it met the Standards. Now, I have no doubt that teachers need to be familiar with the Standards of their grade level if not also those of the previous and future grades for the success of the students.

This recognition of the role of the Standards and how they fit into the responsibility matrix for teachers is critical to ensuring that educators are meeting the needs of their students in coordination with the demands of the Standards. It is through these kinds of professional learning opportunities that focus on teacher capacity and understanding without judgment – but rather in an effective and safe environment that we, as an educational community, promote better classroom practice.

The message at the MENA Common Core 2nd Annual Conference was loud and clear and resonated with the big ideas offered by McTighe and Wiggins on how to move from the Common Core Standards to Curriculum. Teachers throughout the weekend were coming to terms with the fact that Standards are not curriculum & that the Standards come to life through the assessments. This necessarily highlights the role teachers play to bring the Standards to life through their professional work that requires a high level of assessment literacy. It sets the stage for teachers to design consciously purposeful assessment alongside learning opportunities for their classes.assessment

This moves away from the practical and often observed model of teachers concentrating their attention on planning and delivering the curriculum content and then designing assessments later in the process when grades are demanded by their leadership for the grade book. The “afterthought” mentality towards assessment is being pushed into the past-tense with Standards that demand more assessment literacy from the front-line educators. The challenge of bringing assessment to the forefront of teaching and learning is daunting for many teachers who receive a limited amount of training in assessment. Perhaps that is why these kinds of events are so critical. But they are not sufficient.

Near the end of the conference, a teacher shared the following:

 I learned that when assessments are done with a purpose in mind this challenge is minimized and the students’ learning is enhanced. Looking back at the days I was teaching, it is difficult for me to imagine the amount of opportunities my students missed because of the purposeless assessments they had.

This kind of reflection needs to be appreciated and invited by educational leaders. A critical way to respect this professional growth is to make sure leaders leave with action-based questions at the forefront of their minds. Questions like:

  1. How can I support the follow up workplace learning necessary to ensure this professional learning translates to classroom practice?
  2. How can I make sure teachers at this school find the resources and networks to continue to discuss and learn about assessment and Standards?
  3. How can I promote assessment literacy tied to the Standards in my school?

Conversations about Teaching and Learning with PISA 2012 on the Side

Yesterday in Dubai’s Academic city, KHDA hosted What Works Maths and Science at Zayed University. Last year, this series of knowledge sharing events brought together hundreds of school leaders, teachers, and key community leaders to discuss what is happening in the private education sector of Dubai. Given the number of education events in Dubai, the natural question is:

Why would you create another education event in Dubai?

The difference with What Works is that the discussions are not about the business of education as with the larger vendor-driven shows. This event is about the content and delivery of teaching and learning considering the effect on student engagement and achievement. What does this mean in practice?

For example, the conversations is not about what technology to purchase, but about:

when and how various ICT solutions are being integrated into teaching various curricula? How they are enhancing learning? what is the effect on student achievement?

This distinction is not trivial. Salespeople were not present reminding me of Rebel XD’s performance (when he set the the Guinness world record for fastest rapper) pitching materials to schools to ensure sales KPIs. Instead, the community of educators was focused on their core services trying to find ways to offer better opportunities to learn for their students.

Having been present at What Works since the first one, we anticipated this environment and prepared by reading the results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2012 where Dubai ranked 42nd in maths, 43rd in reading and 40th in science. The planned sessions about successful approaches to teaching and learning of math and science in Dubai’s schools could have easily been overshadowed by the Dubai PISA 2012 report which was handed out by KHDA upon entering the venue.

Usually, when these kinds of results are first released, sideline conversations take over. Principals would be boasting about how 85% of Dubai’s students reported being happy at school (above the global average of 80%). Professionals would be discussing the difference between the results of Emirati and non-Emirati student averages in all subjects, the comparison of results of the different curricula, and the ranking of each Emirate with Dubai (Mean Score: 464) topping the list and Umm Al Quwain closing the list (Mean Score: 398).

So why did the community of educators focus their conversation on the teaching and learning of math and science?

The culture of What Works that has been cultivated over the last academic year is about the practice of quality educational delivery. The very first event did see a lot of chatter about the Dubai inspection results; however, over time, the results have only become fuel to drive attention to the core issues.

Yesterday, the Dubai educational community did not seem to find the PISA information shocking or worthy of great discussion. Their reactions were that of professionals who had their perceptions confirmed and their direction reaffirmed. The conversations were deeply rooted in the practice of improving classroom teaching and learning.They recognized that in trying to identify the learning activities and approaches that they could promote in their schools to close the gap and improve learning, they were addressing the core issues that were relevant to their roles.  

If we view the event through the framework presented in Building and Connecting Learning Communities: The Power of Networks for School Improvement, then we might notice a cross-school culture of collaboration. The conversations were reflective of a space where relational trust had been established, capacity building was occurring and collaborative practices were budding. 

It seems that the event’s focus on sharing of professional knowledge and promoting collaborative inquiry might be changing professional ideas and practices. The focus was clearly on professional practices and attention to the PISA 2012 results has been appropriately left for another conversation with a different audience. Perhaps the UAE PISA 2012 results should be led by policymakers at the federal level since it does implicate all of the Emirates and raises critical issues relevant to the nation.