Learning Achievement: Engaging with Evidence

This paper, developed in-house by DFID staff, is intended to be the first iteration of a ‘living document’ to explore in more detail the Learning Framework themes (see figure 1 below) and their relation to learning achievement. The idea is for this paper to bring together in-house synthesis work on existing evidence and to act as a ‘go to’ document collating research and evidence commissioned by DFID (e.g. systematic reviews, rigorous literature reviews). While intended to inform policy and programming, the paper is aimed at an internal DFID audience.

DFID published an education position paper in 2013 stating that learning is at the heart of DFID’s approach to education. The DFID Learning Framework, presented in the position paper, illustrates the multiple and inter-related elements that impact on learning, based both on DFID’s own research and experience, as well as global evidence.

DFID learning framework

Figure 1 – DFID learning framework

The paper is organised into three main sections: introduction, evidence and reference. This introduction sets out the purpose of the paper, the methods used for the evidence synthesis sections and the limitations. Within the evidence section, there is a chapter for each theme identified in the Learning Framework. In this first iteration, evidence syntheses have been written on specific research questions under the themes of teaching practice, accountability and school environment. For each, a fairly narrow focus on the relationship between a particular factor (e.g. school leadership) and learning achievement is considered in the context of primary and lower secondary students in DFID priority countries. For the remaining themes, links and brief summaries to DFID commissioned research are provided where they exist. The final reference section includes further details on the process and a detailed bibliography, including hyperlinks to all the referenced papers.

It is envisaged that new topical research questions will be considered for synthesis work in the next iteration. Though initially focused on a series of narrow research questions, over time, this paper and Learning Framework should evolve as more of the evidence base is appraised and research commissioned which will build up a more nuanced understanding of what works to improve learning achievement. A broad Theory of Change may emerge that suggests the strength of the evidence across the inter-related factors that affect learning outcomes.

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