The project, led by Professor Pauline Rose, aims to identify strategies to raise learning outcomes for all children, regardless of their background.
It is widely recognised that teachers are central to a child’s educational experience. Yet, in low income countries, disadvantaged learners often face poor quality teaching: many teachers are recruited without having a basic subject knowledge themselves, receive inadequate training with limited attention to strategies to support children from diverse backgrounds, and weak incentives and poor teacher governance can lead to low motivation and high levels of teacher absenteeism.
The research will, therefore identify which aspects of teaching are most important for improving all children’s learning, and so inform governments on the strategies needed to support children who face multiple disadvantages.
Ethics statement submitted as part of the Je-S proposal
Our team has extensive experience of undertaking research in low income countries, in particular with groups which face exclusion including exclusion related to disability, gender and poverty.
Formal approval: Ethical support will be first sought at the institutional level, by ensuring that we gain approval through existing formal structures within the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. The Faculty’s ethical clearance form is in line with the British Educational Research Association (2011) guidelines. In addition, our developing country partners will apply for appropriate in-country ethical approval. We will not be undertaking any interventions- medical or educational.
Confidentiality: All data collected will remain strictly confidential and this will be stressed in the research training programmes undertaken with the partners. All schools, households and participants will be assigned unique identification numbers that will be used throughout the data analysis process and reporting. The team will draw up an ethical strategy for confidential management of data, clearly listing stages of anonymisation. In the field, during interviews we will outline how we will achieve confidentiality and anonymity to our research participants. In addition, when undertaking student focused observations in the school setting we will ensure that these are conducted in a discrete manner so as not to make an individual child stand out.
Obtaining informed consent: We will ensure that all participants – adults and children – receive structured and age appropriate information about the purposes and procedures of the research. These will be made available in accessible format (eg braille) and if needed, explained through a translator or sign language specialist. With regard to children we will seek their agreement, as well as consent of parents/carers. In addition, we are mindful of the fact that ethical procedures need to be culturally and contextually sensitive (Robinson-Pant and Singal, 2013). For instance, we will provide household members living in poor communities, who may have none or little schooling, a range of opportunities to express consent, such as giving their signature, thumb print or verbal (which will be audio-recorded) approval. Seeking consent to undertake fieldwork in a community is a staged process, where we will seek appropriate official approval and also identify local key personnel, such as the panchayat and/or other community elders, who we will engage with and explain the purpose of our research, doing so will help facilitate the research process.
Working with vulnerable groups: Members of the team have significant experience of researching with people living in poverty, and those with disabilities (our work in the Research Consortium on Educational Outcomes and Poverty, DFID, 2005-2010 is a testimony to this). Children with disabilities are central to our focus and we will ensure that we conduct our identification surveys in a sensitive manner drawing on the latest approaches in the field (WHO, 2002). All our survey instruments, assessment tools and qualitative research tools will be suitably adapted for full participation of all children. While we intend to include children with different types of disability, we acknowledge that it will not be appropriate for us to assess children with severe mental disabilities. All our field researchers will be trained in undertaking disability sensitive research (Singal, 2010). We also recognise the difficulty in undertaking disability identification surveys. Following ethics guidelines, we will not give feedback on the results to parents unless the child’s condition is life threatening.