Provide a one-line summary of your solution.
Integrated tools to help education systems rollout teacher coaching programs that improve learning at scale.
What specific problem are you solving?
Ugandan children have missed 57 of their last 68 weeks of schooling. They are the victims of the world’s longest closure but even before the pandemic, many were falling behind in their classrooms.
Although Uganda's national policies recognised teaching quality as a key factor determining how much children learn in schools, its systems were failing to give teachers the support they needed to provide quality education.
The national strategy was to combine cascaded training with coaching provided by a workforce of 525 field staff distributed nationwide.
In reality, 4 persistent problems prevented Uganda teachers from actually receiving the support and undermined efforts to improve learning in schools:
Teachers weren’t given a clear vision for effective teaching. Unclear goals led to theoretical training and made it practically impossible to measure and deliver program success.
Districts had too few coaches and those they had were ill-equipped. Each was responsible for >30 schools and without the transport or tools to do their work their jobs were impossible.
School leaders were undertrained and weren’t supported as instructional leaders. As a result, in-school professional development was rare and most teachers reported receiving little to no coaching.
System leaders had no visibility over delivery because data didn’t flow. Paper processes meant managers didn’t get the insights needed to oversee implementation. There was low accountability.
Uganda’s pre-pandemic teacher development programs model left officials disempowered and teachers discouraged. It was practically impossible for officials to ensure that teachers got the intended support.
These challenges are not unique to Uganda. They plague similarly structured systems across the continent, undermining programs that could be lifting learning for millions of children in the most vulnerable communities.
At Inspiring Teachers, we see these problems as the result of the ‘innovation gap’: a critical need for better-designed approaches to teacher support in low-resource settings.
What is your solution?
The Inspiring Teachers Platform is an integrated suite of android apps, dashboards, printed tools and videos that combine to help Ministries of Education rollout and run data-driven teacher coaching and support programs that are evidence-based, systematic, scalable and resilient to the realities of implementation.
Our platform brings four tightly linked components together to solve persistent problems:
The Inspiring Teaching Framework. A set of 27 powerful techniques organised around 9 classroom challenges. Each technique is illustrated and made vivid with videos available in our app. → A clear vision for effective teaching.
The Peer Coaching Guides. Structured tools to steer teachers in observing each others’ lessons, giving effective feedback. → Democratising coaching by overcoming capacity constraints.
The Inspiring Leadership Program. Blended training, printed guides and a Head Teacher App empowering headteachers to rollout peer coaching in their schools. → Building ownership for teacher development in schools.
School support app and data dashboard. Apps for field staff that guide coaching and, enable geolocated teacher observation data collection. → Enabling data-driven adaptive programming targetted to teacher needs
Our tools are user-centric, and designed to be rolled out through and strengthen existing system structures. Our android apps work offline with full functionality and include coaching decision support and video caching. We build them specifically for low-data environments and android phones. They can be deployed on smartphones or tablets.
We design everything to be modular and adaptable and we work with our partners to co-design variants of our tools that can be integrated into their existing programs including through QR codes embedded in training materials.
Our approach is of continuous adaptive iteration and was inspired by our pre-pandemic programs which reached 5000 teachers across 10 countries. We are constantly developing and testing new tools and features based on feedback from our NGO and Ministry of Education partners.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
Our tools are designed to help systems support teachers to improve learning outcomes in their classrooms by dramatically increasing the quality and quantity of coaching their teachers get.
Everything we build is designed to be efficiently deployable in low-resource education settings (like Uganda) even in rural, hard to reach settings where teachers are otherwise almost entirely neglected and get very little if any instructional support.
By guiding teachers in the process of peer coaching through focused, structured tools, our approach turns coaching from being the preserve of specialists to being an empowering and logistically manageable part of every teacher's weekly routine.
In democratising coaching, and making its implementation through data-driven program rollout practically feasible in even the most resource-constrained settings our tools have the potential to transform the effectiveness of other teaching change initiatives including curriculum reforms and interventions.
Finally, because we develop our tools for implementation in partnership with other organisations there is a whole ecosystem of potential implementing nonprofits running programs that could be made more scalable and cost-effective with our tools.
How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
Our team brings program staff with lived experience as teachers in Ugandan schools together with product designers, software developers and teacher development experts to build user-centric products and programs that get to the root of the problems holding back teaching and learning in classrooms.
Some of us worked together for over a decade on pre-pandemic ventures while others are newer to our team. What brings us together is our shared belief that teaching is noble work and that every teacher deserves the support they need to get inspiring outcomes for every child — even in the most marginalised contexts.
Our Uganda program team includes two experienced teachers (Gloria and Frank) who oversee a wider group of teachers who test our tools in schools. Our Uganda Country lead (Charles Oloa), brings a decade of learnings from his experience managing randomised control trials of teacher development programs to our team.
The insights Charles surfaces feed into program design work which is led by Simon Graffy and Dr Christine Giece and informs our product roadmap which is led by Tom Lewis (our Head of Product) and delivered by our tech team which includes our Lukasz Labedzki (Lead Engineer), Fred Parry (UX & Engineering) and Igor Maiba (Devops)
Having users (Frank and Gloria) as part of our core team keeps our design process proximal and enables us to run rapid feedback loops between product development and testing.
We are now working to replicate this approach with our implementing partners the PEAS (Africa’s largest network of secondary schools) and STiR Education (a large NGO) as well as find ways to involve Ministry Officials more closely in our design processes.
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?
Lift administrative burdens on educators and support teacher professional development for schools serving vulnerable student populations
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Kanungu, Uganda
Our solution's stage of development:Pilot
How many people does your solution currently serve?
In 2022, our tools are being rolled out to 1300 teachers who teach ~40,000 children through a combination of our own direct testing and implementation and rollout in 80 secondary schools with PEAS (Uganda’s largest secondary school chain). We also plan to pilot our tools across two districts (approx 200 schools) at primary level in partnership with the Ministry of Education via our partnership with STiR Education. This could take our 2022 reach to a further 60,000 children. --- Our work today is different but we draw on our (pre-pandemic) experience running programs that reached 5000 teachers and ~125,000 children between 2010 and 2019.
Why are you applying to Solve?
We are applying to become MIT Solvers to:
*build a network of technical advisors, and peers who can help us find ways to go further, building better products faster.
*get exposure for and share our work so that we can build relationships with more implementers and financial backers.
*Connect with researchers so that when our programs are ready for rigorous evaluation we have the right partners in place.
*win recognition and bolster our credibility so we can build, more government partnerships and attract more investment
*shine a light on and galvanise our team by expanding our community and getting recognition for our combined efforts
To fuel and accelerate our progress towards achieving our goal of improving learning for 10 million children by 2030.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)
Who is the Team Lead for your solution?
What makes your solution innovative?
Before the pandemic, education systems across low-resource settings depended on opaque cascade-based training models.
Our innovations empower systems leaders to replace these ineffective programs with clear systematic, teacher support led by school leaders, rolled out through peer coaching. Our approach digitally empowers workforces and embeds feedback loops within systems, enabling data-driven continuous adaptive improvement.
Our CLEAR approach combines five innovation levers:
*Clarity. We codify and capture target teaching via videos; helping systems communicate their vision for success.
*Learning. Our school leader program moves teacher development inside schools, expanding opportunities for learning.
*Empowerment. Equipping, elevating and supporting every teacher as a peer coach enables 10x more coaching while sharing the load.
*Accountability. By making data flow our approach creates transparency over the delivery and with that accountability.
*Resilience. By providing dashboards we get insights into officials so challenges can be resolved as they emerge.
Rather than being a single thing, what makes our approach transformative is how each of these elements combines to enable a sustainable shift from the drift and drudgery of bureaucracy toward a situation where programs are continually improving and teachers get the support they need to achieve inspiring outcomes in the classrooms.
What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?
In 2022 and 2023 we are running two programs with the Ministry of Education in Uganda reaching 180 schools reaching 1800 teachers and 60,000 children. Our programs goals are to:
Increase the quality and quantity of coaching teachers get in government schools.
Increase frequency and effectiveness of professional development in schools.
Increase the frequency of district support structures.
In delivering these objectives we aim to:
Increase the quality of teaching in classrooms.
Improve learning outcomes and recovery.
Learning and iterating at every step we aim to refine and improve our tools. In parallel, we will work with the Ministry of Education and our implementing partners to plan and secure resources for scaling, initially through replication in more regions of Uganda.
Within 5 years in Uganda we aim to have:
Proven the effectiveness of our program through a randomized control trial with a leading research partner.
Rolled out evolved versions of our tools in half of the Ugandan schools reaching 200,000 teachers.
Developed curriculum-aligned teacher guides that integrate with our coaching program.
Demonstrated our approach as a cost-effective way for low-resource education systems to deliver improved learning outcomes at scale.
In parallel by 2027, we aim to replicate the above journey in three other sub-Saharan African systems, contextualising and adapting our approach.
By 2031 we aim to have demonstrably improved learning outcomes for well over 10 million children. At that point, we will have scaled our program in three of the four countries and created a thriving learning network among our partner staff.
If we can successfully replicate or better the effectiveness of today’s top programs we will estimate we will have delivered Ministries of Education learning outcomes that would today cost them 1.5 billion dollars to deliver. Most importantly, we would have dramatically expanded the life chances of millions of children whose educations were stymied by the pandemic.
How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?
Our approach is to measure program effectiveness using indicators at three levels: teacher support, teaching quality and finally learning. We work with our ministry partners to identify indicators they value at each level:
*Teacher support. We measure the quality and quantity of coaching and in-school training using a combination of triangulating data generated as our tools are surveys data. As well as creating accountability that enables targeted support.
*Teaching Quality. We use the World Bank’s Teach observation tool to measure the quality of teaching in classrooms. This tool enables field staff to track the extent to which teachers are using proven practices. Programmed into our apps it can be used both as a diagnostic and to track teaching change.
*Learning. Our ministry of education partners track the quality of learning in school using annual exams. These provide an efficient and comparable way of monitoring learning in schools. Our intention is to also work with evaluation partners to assess the impact of our program on other standardised tests.
We design our products to generate data as they are used so that teachers, school leaders and field staff can focus on making sure great teaching is happening rather than on reporting.
Today we use Salesforce to turn these data into insightful dashboards and focus user attention on the most salient and actionable indicators. Our goal is to empower system leaders with the tools they need to make data-driven decision making the norm at every level of their systems
What is your theory of change?
Our theory of change operates at three levels: The classroom, teacher support and the system.
The classroom is where impact happens so that’s where we start: With a recognition that “effective teaching is hard and that and improving teaching is perhaps even harder”...
Teachers need to:
Understand what their students need to know.
Find out what they actually know and can do.
Craft learning experiences to close the gap.
Keep them motivated along the journey.
Self regulates and learn as they go.
With 20+ deadlines (lessons) each week teachers' roles are extremely challenging — especially in low-resource settings.
Fortunately, there is strong evidence as to (1) which teaching approaches most effectively support student learning and (2) how programs can most effectively activate mechanisms that bring about teaching change.
The problem is that in low-resource settings today, structural barriers prevent systems from providing effective teacher support.
We map these structural barriers and design programs and interventions that can be rolled in ways that overcome or bypass them, making it feasible for teachers to be consistently supported to use the most evidence-based approaches.
The techniques we promote are underpinned by cognitive science and we design our programs based on behavioural science, research on adult learning, lessons we’ve learned through our own programs and others we have analysed.
Finally, at the system level, we’ve seen countless programs struggle with implementation because they fail to embed a systematic mechanism for delivery. Our approach to solving this is to enable systems to roll out apps and dashboards so that data on delivery can flow, establishing accountability for performance, and enabling course correction during implementation.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
Our Teacher App, Head Teacher App and Field Officer app are all built using React Native. Our apps work offline and use background syncing when data is available.
These tools feed into our database and we parse the data to Salesforce via an API so that we can use it for rapid dashboard development.
We use compression technology to ensure our videos require only low levels of data access.
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?
A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
What type of organization is your solution team?
How many people work on your solution team?
5 full time staff, 5 part time staff, an army of volunteers .
How long have you been working on your solution?
2 years (since the pandemic) in its current form. 10 years in previous form.
What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?
Our programs help teachers make their classrooms more inclusive and tackle bias and stereotypes in the classroom.
Meanwhile, in our own team, one of the core tenets of our culture (The Inspiring Way) is that diversity makes us stronger.
Today, our team spans 5 nationalities, a breadth of skill sets and includes 3 longstanding Ugandan team members whose work influences our product strategy. Our board of trustees is 50% female.
We take a proactive approach and have built mechanisms into our ways of working that nudge us to ensure everyone's voice is heard.
We have much to learn, but our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion has been long-standing. For 3 years before our pandemic pivot, we ran an equity grant program that increased the representation of minority groups in our teacher Fellowships.
We are signatories of the dignified storytelling pledge and are deliberate about the narratives we convey through our work.
Finally, we recognise that inclusion is an important part of our internal learning agenda so we run internal surveys that track how inclusive our team really is. We take action on the results.
What is your business model?
We use a hybrid business model, generating income through a mix of consulting, licence fees and philanthropy to sustainably make progress towards achieving our mission.
Consulting enables us to adapt our tools, creating bespoke, co-branded versions for integration into our partner's existing programs and aligning them to local system structures.
We charge affordable licence fees for our tools so that we can provide them sustainably on an ongoing basis while aligning incentives with our implementing partner NGOs.
Longer-term, as we continue to expand our offer to include a fuller structured pedagogical program with guides for teachers, we intend to participate in outcomes funded programs.
Finally, we raise unrestricted grant funding which we use to strengthen our platform and finance our operations and do the (initially loss leading) partnership and market development groundwork. As a nonprofit social enterprise, we intend to continue to raise unrestricted funding even beyond our reaching break even.
Overall, we aim to become sustainable by empowering the world's most effective teacher support programs and helping systems sustainably improve learning outcomes at scale.
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?Government (B2G)
What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?
We will achieve financial sustainability, by running system embedded learning labs in partnership with Ministries of Education and through a mixture of product licensing and outcomes funding.
Developing our tools in close collaboration with Ministries of Education and established NGO partners will help us ensure that we keep building tools that there is a strong demand market for and quickly achieve product user fit.
By supporting partners and Ministries of Education in multiple sub-Saharan African countries in parallel we ensure that our income streams are adequately diversified while expanding our impact and creating cross-subsidies between programs that enable us to provide our tools more affordably than they could be built by anyone partner.
As we increasingly generate rigorous evidence of the efficacy of our approach we will be able to attract investment from larger funders and we will secure larger-scale implementation opportunities. As our offer grows, and we demonstrate the value our tools deliver, we convert our pilot projects into rolling government contracts making our approach fully sustainable.