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

Sharing Practices across Dubai Schools: The Launch of What Works 2014

Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority launched its third series of What Works last week at the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Medical Academy. The buzz from school leaders, teachers, students, government officials, and various other interested parties was now familiar. There is a core group of education professionals who know that this event is a knowledge exchange hub where student engagement and learning is at the heart of all discussions. So it was nice to see that it is now a tradition to have students helping educators find their way, managing breakout sessions, keeping everyone on time, and of course, showcasing their work to encourage others to promote student-centric learning opportunities in their schools.ww capture

The critical importance of this kind of launch is that it does set an expectation that helps school leaders extend their professional attention beyond the walls of their own individual school. This kind of knowledge sharing practice has been shown to be essential for successful 21st century school leadership:

“Sharing stories and examples can go beyond the boundaries of one school or system.”
– Michael Fullan & Maria Langworthy, 2001

In particular, the kind of knowledge sharing encouraged at the event reflects school effectiveness research findings that promoting the knowledge, skills & professional community of educators in schools enhances greater instructional quality and student achievement (Newmann, King, and Youngs, 2000).

There was an assortment of knowledge sharing sessions such as the workshop-style practical session on how to start a school self-evaluation. In this session, the senior school leadership from GEMS Modern Academy shared their approach on school self-evaluation with their colleagues from other schools who want to improve their own school practice. The session walked the participants through the same step by step approach that GEMS Modern Academy uses that helped them improve their school rating from a “Good” to an “Outstanding” rating in 2011.

When schools opt to make their own practices explicit for others, they gain a greater appreciation of the value of their own work and ensure that the tacit knowledge of individuals is transferred to an explicit usable form for others in their own organization. As they share with colleagues outside their organization, the benefit extends beyond their own walls and circumvents insularity of ideas and practices. Their learning is a byproduct of working on knowledge sharing endevours for others. In the case of Dubai What Works, the contribution is intended for the joint development of Dubai’s education sector.

The 2014 launch event introduced the promise of deeper sharing practices across schools in Dubai. The remaining events in the series that will focus on Mathematics, Literacy, Science and Arabic will further support this level of knowledge sharing.

But only time and the collaborative efforts from Dubai educators will help us understand the extent to which these efforts translate into school improvement – and subsequently, student success.

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.

Being Responsible means Evaluating the Effect of Technology in the Classroom

Checking for a positive effect when integrating technology in classroom practice is critical for school improvement and effectiveness. The evaluation of using these new tools in our classrooms should not be an optional “add-on” that may or may not be done rigorously and may or may not be taken seriously by educators and policymakers.

The number of tech-tools/solutions for students is growing. The financial cost for these tools varies from free to substantially high. The time cost is always high because you need to first train educators and then take from precious class time. A risk that is not always appreciated by teachers struggling to deliver a packed curriculum to diverse students.

Finally – the most important cost is the risk of not being effective: This is the cost of a lost opportunity to learn for the students on which these tools are being imposed! This is the cost that is too high to risk without due diligence!

We are now at a point where the evaluation of technology-based instruction should be mandatory when introducing it into a classroom. To date, this kind of practical work has been limited – especially when it comes to the younger grades. I am at a loss when trying to think of any other field where we introduce new tools without rigorous empirical consideration on their effect. So why would it be acceptable in the only field that directly and indirectly affects each and every member of society – education?

This is a bleak picture – and some might argue that there are a lot of studies on the effect of online learning etc. But I am talking about applied research for real-time feedback in context. I am talking about being responsible to all students as educational technology companies release more and more solutions with the promise of increased student success – and little proof!

Despite the bleak reality, there are pockets of responsible professionalism that are emerging. For example,

It is noteworthy to highlight that there are critique these evaluations. The evaluations and the critiques are important for the community of educators, technology developers, evaluators and policymakers to all engage in examining the effect on student learning. It is only through a collaboration from all these stakeholder that we will ensure the best technological solutions for increasing student success. This was the reminder from SRI as the evaluators reflected on  promising findings:

“keep in mind a basic principle of scientific research … Positive results merit continued and even expanded use, but ongoing evaluation is needed to build a body of evidence, especially as interventions are implemented in varied ways.”