A Different Approach to Teacher Development and Training

The Read Haiti teacher training program is made possible through the support of USAID, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and an Anonymous Foundation. Program materials were developed by USAID in partnership with Haiti’s Ministry of Education.

Meet Marie Irmine, a first grade teacher from Centre Educatif Le Reconfort! From a young age, Marie remembers having a deep-seated desire to give back to her community; however, it was not until she volunteered at her local church and school that she realized she was called to do so through teaching. During her shifts as a volunteer, she recalls noticing the skill and expertise of the teachers around her and thinking that if she ever wanted to be as good of a teacher as them, she would need to work hard and seek out as many opportunities to learn as possible.

Despite hard work and the best of intentions, Marie, and countless teachers like her in Haiti, face seemingly insurmountable obstacles in their goals to support their community through providing students with a rich and relevant education. In Haiti, many teachers are not paid a living wage, are poorly trained and supported, and work in extremely challenging conditions teaching classes of well over 40 students, most of whom live in extreme poverty and have an array of learning needs. Furthermore, only 20% of teachers in Haiti are trained in literacy instruction, and only 25% of teachers receive an education beyond eighth grade (IDB, 2007).

The University of Notre Dame’s ACE Haiti program, working with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the National Office for Catholic Education (CEEC), has led the most successful literacy intervention in Haiti to date in an effort to address the challenges Marie and her peers face on a daily basis. The Read Haiti Teacher Training Program focuses on delivering a quality curriculum with ample support for teachers to ensure effective implementation, yielding highly promising results. What is most interesting about this approach to teacher professional development is the multiple forms of support for teachers to strengthen their instruction over time. 

Research reveals that “one-off” professional development is ineffective at improving instructional practice and changing teacher behaviors in the classroom, while ongoing, job-embedded professional development is effective at changing teacher practice and improving student outcomes (Bean, 2014; Kaft, Blazar & Hogan, 2018). Given the needs of teachers and the challenges they face in the Haitian context, the program includes various forms of job-embedded, ongoing professional development for teachers to provide multiple levels of support. These include: 

  1. Highly elaborated curriculum guides: The guides model and support effective instruction. 
  2. Annual summer training: 1 week annually of training each summer on the basics of the program and effective literacy instruction. 
  3. Ongoing job-embedded, professional development: Monthly instructional coaching from regional experts. 
  4. Supplementary training: 3-4 days of mid-year, supplemental training on targeted skills. 
  5. Cluster meetings (i.e. Professional Learning Communities): Monthly meetings of teachers and school directors from nearby schools led by regional instructional coaches. 

Learn more about the levels of teacher support.

Since joining UND’s teacher training program, Marie has noticed a shift in her teaching. Not only is she able to better support struggling readers in her classroom, but she is also able to more effectively manage her classroom. Using strategies explored in the Read Haiti teacher training sessions, Marie is able to detect what is at the root of her students’ behavior and feels empowered to accompany each student on his or her individual academic journey. Along with attending teacher training sessions, Marie receives individualized teaching feedback from a teacher coach in order to keep building on her skills. “Thanks to the training I received,” Marie explains, “the children are more independent. They are more engaged in their lessons, and they are reading and writing better than they ever have.” 

Marie is not alone in her journey to becoming the best teacher she can be. Around 850 other teachers like her in the Read Haiti program have taken up the call to learn more, expand the limits of their teaching, and inspire future generations of learners.

You can learn more about the impact of the Read Haiti teacher program here.