The Carey Institute for Global Good (original home of the CPL) commissioned RTI International to conduct an evaluation of the pilot of the Refugee Educators Foundation of Practice (REFP) online course. Initially, the course was offered to 3 cohorts over 2.5 years in 3 states – Arizona, Washington, and New York. RTI International surveyed over 300 course participants and compared pre- and post-course responses for those who took both surveys. They also interviewed all 9 course facilitators and 22 educators across the 3 cohorts and states. The evaluation was completed on 29 June, 2021 and is available for download.
Three key takeaways from the evaluation:
Despite the COVID pandemic, educators volunteered for this 9-month, online course plus coaching and a striking 43% completed it. The numbers defy the dismal 5% – 15% average completion rate for free online courses, and at a time when educators were overwhelmed with “emergency teaching” in response to the pandemic.
The course had a significant impact on teaching practices, beliefs, and preparation to work with refugee students and their families, even for the most experienced educators working with refugee students. Educators who completed the REFP course felt more prepared to work with refugee students, their families, and students whose primary language is not English after taking the course. Moreover, beliefs about refugee students and their families changed significantly from pre- to post-course, in favor of more positive, empathic, and asset-focused beliefs. The biggest changes in beliefs were about serving the whole child, beyond just their academic needs, and the importance of recognizing and valuing each child and what they bring to the classroom and their learning. Psychologists know that what we believe influences how we think and act. REFP focused on educators’ beliefs about students and how those beliefs impact relationships and influence teaching practices. In this study, educators’ beliefs were significantly and strongly correlated with their teaching practices. Educators reported significant changes in teaching practices designed to support refugee students, English language learners, and, in many cases, all learners. Changes in teaching practices were strongly related to the supports they provided and the extent to which they felt prepared to work with refugee students, their families, and English language learners.
Participation in the course resulted in a significant, second-order effect of systems impact, with many participants taking action beyond their own classrooms. The education of each child should be viewed as a collective responsibility, which includes supports at all levels of the system. Our study found that participants saw significant positive changes in supports for refugee education at the teacher, school, and district levels after taking the REFP course. Changes in these supports were significantly correlated with educators’ preparedness to work with refugee students and their families. REFP supported teachers in designing and implementing projects that had an impact on school and/or district policies and practices focused on supporting refugee students and families. Projects ranged from creating new curricula, to professional development for colleagues, to changing how the district conducted new student and family intake with refugee and multilingual students and families.