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Research Brief
Teacher and students in their classroom

Photo by Teach For Nigeria

Key Findings

  • Student academic achievement in literacy and mathematics improved more for students taught by Teach For Nigeria (TFN) teachers than for those who were taught by non-TFN teachers.
  • In interviews, a sample of parents and head teachers recognized that students of TFN teachers developed increased abilities in speaking, reading, and writing in English as well as in the manipulation of numbers.
  • Parents, head teachers, and other teachers noticed substantial social and emotional development in students of TFN teachers, although quantitative data analysis found no differences in such growth between students taught by TFN teachers and students taught by non-TFN teachers.
  • Parents, head teachers, and other teachers appreciated TFN teachers’ student-centered approach to teaching.
  • Parents, head teachers, and other teachers perceived strong relationships with TFN teachers, noting their professionalism, openness to collaboration, and dedication to teaching and their students.

Classroom teachers play crucial roles in students' lives, shaping their academic achievement and social and emotional development. Teach For All is a global network of organizations in more than 60 countries working to ensure that all can fulfill their potential. Each organization recruits and develops promising leaders to teach for two years in their nation’s underresourced communities and to work throughout their lives to improve education and expand opportunity for children. As of 2024, the "Teach For" model has been adopted by more than 60 independent, locally governed organizations worldwide through the Teach For All network.

To assist Teach For All network partners in understanding their successes and challenge areas, RAND researchers are conducting evaluations of Teach For All programs in developing countries. As part of this effort, the researchers conducted a two-year mixed-methods study of the Teach For Nigeria (TFN) leadership development program. There were three areas of focus for this evaluation: the effects of the TFN program on (1) whole child development that encompasses both student academic achievement and social and emotional learning, (2) teaching quality, and (3) school community.

How the Study Was Conducted

The study took place during two school years: 2021– 2022 and 2022–2023. The quantitative part of the study used data collected from 80 head teachers, 183 teachers, and approximately 5,900 students in grades three to six from 80 schools in Ogun State, Nigeria. Half of these schools employed at least two TFN teachers (treatment). The other half were comparison schools with no TFN teachers. These schools were selected because of student demographic similarities and geographic proximity to a TFN school. Data included mathematics and English literacy assessments and student, teacher, and head teacher (school leader) data and survey responses. By comparing the TFN and non-TFN data, the team was able to see what effects the TFN program had on students' academic achievement, social and emotional learning, teaching quality, quality of the learning environment, school climate, and more.

The RAND team conducted interviews with TFN teachers and head teachers from eight TFN schools in both years of the study. They also held focus groups with non-TFN teachers and parents of children taught by TFN teachers. The qualitative data gathered from these interviews and discussions gave the team insights into how TFN teachers were perceived to have contributed to students' development and into their relationships and impact within the school community.

There are several limitations to note while reviewing the study findings. First, the quantitative and qualitative samples are not fully representative of all TFN schools in Ogun State. The quantitative sample excludes schools in which TFN teachers do not teach in grades three through six, and the schools were purposefully selected to be included in the qualitative study sample. Moreover, the study focused on schools in three urban areas, and, although some rural schools were included in the sample, schools that were far from the three cities were not included. In addition, schools in which teachers were participating in other teacher training programs, such as the Ogun Teach Interns project, were not included.

The environment we are in . . . about 60 percent of the parents are [illiterate], and it has its effect on the learners. But now that we have the fellows . . . they have been helping the pupils in their reading ability.

Parent of TFN-taught student

Findings

Summarized here are the effects of the TFN program on (1) whole child development, which encompasses student academic achievement and social and emotional learning, (2) teaching quality, and (3) school community.

Whole Child Development

Student academic achievement improved more for students of TFN teachers. A comparison of TFN teacher-student assessments and non-TFN teacher-student assessments showed that those working with TFN teachers performed better in literacy and mathematics than students in the comparison group. In fact, the results for both literacy and mathematics were positive and statistically significant (p < 0.05). Specifically, students working with TFN teachers scored higher than their peers by about 0.07 standard deviations. In mathematics, students taught by TFN teachers outperformed their peers by about 0.11 standard deviations.

Interview and focus group participants viewed TFN as having a positive effect on student achievement. More specifically, parents and TFN head teachers noted that TFN students improved in their ability to speak, read, and write in English as well as in the manipulation of numbers. Both TFN and non-TFN teachers noted TFN students' improvement.

Interview and focus group participants noticed social and emotional growth in students of TFN teachers, although quantitative data analysis found no differences in growth between TFN and non-TFN students. More specifically, the quantitative analysis demonstrated no meaningful differences between TFN teacher-student development and non-TFN teacher-student development in growth mindset, self-efficacy, or social awareness. However, parents, TFN head teachers, and teachers both participating and not participating in the TFN program discussed the ways in which TFN teachers had made significant contributions to students' social and emotional development. They discussed how these students came to possess greater self-awareness, which led to better behavior both in and out of school. Parents and some teachers also noted that TFN teacher-taught students demonstrated self-awareness and initiative by learning when they needed additional help in school and asking for it. Others discussed the ways in which TFN teachers fostered a growth mindset as students diligently completed schoolwork. Teachers and head teachers highlighted that students in TFN teachers' classes spoke more confidently than they had previously.

Second-year TFN teachers were more effective than their first-year TFN peers. This finding was demonstrated especially in relation to math achievement. Similarly, there was some evidence that more-experienced TFN teachers had a greater effect on students' social and emotional learning when compared with less-experienced TFN teachers.

I've seen them grow in team spirit. . . . I've seen them become a leader. When you throw an activity at them, someone will stand up and say, 'I am the team leader.'

TFN teacher

Teaching Quality

Survey data suggested no difference in how students of TFN and non-TFN teachers perceived teaching quality or their learning environments. The research team first used student survey data to understand individual students' perceptions of teaching quality and the quality of their learning environments. The team then aggregated the student-level survey scores to assess classroom-level outcomes. This part of the study found no major differences in how students perceived TFN and non-TFN teacher-led classrooms.

Interview and focus group participants appreciated TFN teachers' student-centered approach to teaching. A student-centered approach entails closely observing each student's strengths and challenges and using this information to offer tailored feedback and discuss concerns with parents. Some parents noted ways in which TFN teachers helped them help their students better by providing them with related insights. Some head teachers and non-TFN teachers noted that TFN teachers provided instructional time after school had closed for the day and that some TFN teachers paid for additional instructional materials and student learning incentives out of their own pockets. Other positive student-centered qualities were noted among TFN teachers, including positive relationship-building between students and teachers, nonphysical discipline measures, and engaging lessons that appealed to student interest.

I noticed that the teachers study the student . . . and they understand the student's weaknesses.

Parent of TFN-taught student

School Community

Beyond the students and families they worked with directly, TFN teachers' impact on the wider school community was less clear. Through the quantitative study, the authors examined both student- and teacher-reported measures of school community around relationships, physical safety, emotional safety, and school climate and did not find large differences in these measures in schools with TFN teachers compared with schools without TFN teachers. Through the qualitative study, the authors explored whether TFN teachers would have an influence on stakeholders and authorities to positively affect learning outcomes for students. It is not clear from information collected from the qualitative study that TFN teachers exert such influence, beyond inspiring other teachers to adopt some of their innovative, student-centered practices.

In interviews, head teachers noted strong relationships with the TFN teachers in their schools. In general, the head teachers described their relationships with TFN teachers as cordial, friendly, and respectful. Many praised the TFN teachers' selflessness and dedication to teaching and their students. Others spoke of times where they accommodated TFN teachers' innovative ideas or engaged TFN teachers to solve school challenges. In turn, most TFN teachers reported positive and often collaborative relationships with the head teacher of their school. Only a few TFN teachers noted that their relationships with head teachers were uninspiring.

In focus groups, non-TFN teachers generally described good relationships with TFN teachers. Non-TFN teachers described cordial, supportive, and collaborative relationships with TFN teachers. Both TFN and non-TFN teachers reported "rubbing minds together" to improve their instruction and better support students. Non-TFN teachers described the TFN teachers as humble, open to feedback, and ready to assist in any way they could.

In focus groups, parents described open and collaborative relationships with TFN teachers. Many parents noted that "they talked often" with the TFN teachers. Other parents discussed how TFN teachers would visit students' homes to check on the well-being of their children and to discuss academic or behavioral challenges with the parents and offer possible solutions. Likewise, TFN teachers noted often seeking the collaboration of parents to help the students adopt better learning and wellness habits.

I give kudos to the TFN organization in terms of the way they impart knowledge to the learners. . . . They interact with the learners in an accommodating manner.

Head teacher

Recommendations

The findings from this study suggest ways in which TFN can continue to grow to support TFN teacher success.

Consider adopting targeted social and emotional learning interventions and curricula to improve such skills. Prior research shows that explicit instruction is the most effective way to improve social and emotional skills. TFN might wish to pilot test such an intervention to ensure that it is appropriate for Nigeria.

Continue to encourage TFN teachers to engage in key TFN practices, such as fostering students' sense of self and collaboration, engaging students with interactive lessons, providing support to ensure that every student learns, and building positive relationships with parents and students. These practices were identified by multiple stakeholders as notable for improving whole-child outcomes.

Offer more direct action to improve school climate. Such actions can include training and supporting school leaders whose main job responsibility is for the entire school, placing TFN alumni as school leaders, or grouping many TFN teachers in a single schools.

Consider pairing first- and second-year TFN teachers together in the same school. A new placement strategy would allow more schools to employ more-effective TFN teachers and provide continuity in the schools.

Consider using multiple modes to measure student outcomes to obtain a comprehensive understanding of their progress. Surveys are a good tool but have limitations, especially when it comes to students self-reporting on their social and emotional learning. TFN leaders might wish to consider alternative ways to collect data, such as performance-based social and emotional measures or third-party independent observations.

Research conducted by

This report is part of the RAND research brief series. RAND research briefs present policy-oriented summaries of individual published, peer-reviewed documents or of a body of published work.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.