An EIE Research-Practice Partnership
Learning to Improve Academic and Social-Emotional Outcomes
We present here as the overarching "promising practice" a research-practice partnership dedicated to iterative cycles of action and research. In 2016-2017, the IRC delivered non-formal retention-focused tutoring support, also known as remedial programming, to 6,400 children enrolled in public schools in Lebanon and Niger using its Learning in a Healing Classroom (LIHC) program. LIHC is an evidence-based approach to providing reading and math courses in safe and supportive learning environments. Sites were additionally randomized to embed low-cost, targeted social-emotional learning (SEL) interventions into the curriculum. TIES/NYU then conducted a site-randomized trial to provide the first rigorous evidence of whether and how non-formal, SEL-based retention support education programs can bolster refugee children's ability to succeed in formal education systems, as well as some of the first evidence globally on how targeted SEL practices can be embedded in curriculum to support children's holistic learning and development. We share the lessons learned from both the interventions and from the partnership, focusing on the work in Lebanon.
During school year 2016-2017, the IRC delivered retention educational support to over 4,300 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon's Bekaa and Akkar regions. As part of back-to-school campaigns coordinated with the Government of Lebanon, the IRC identified and recruited children enrolled in formal schools for the program. These students received eight hours of retention support in math, Arabic and second language (English or French).
Due to insufficient program funding to provide retention support to all 87 communities simultaneously, we allocated community access to retention support through a lottery. This resulted in three groups:
- Wait-List Retention Support group (J =21)
- Retention Support group (J =33)
- Retention Support Plus SEL group (J =33)
This site-randomized "wait-list control" design allowed us to experimentally evaluate the impact of LIHC and LIHC+ Targeted SEL programming (Aim 1), permitting the highest level of causal inference of program impact. In order to measure impact, local assessors trained by TIES/NYU assessed children, parents, and teachers at three points (Aim 2a-b): baseline (before the start of LIHC); midline (after the first 16-week cycle of LIHC); and endline (after the second 12-week cycle of LIHC). IRC staff additionally collected implementation data as part of routine monitoring and evaluation activities (Aim 2c).
Among Syrian refugee students enrolled in Lebanese public schools, access to International Rescue Committee's (IRC) Healing Classrooms program—a non-formal retention support program in Lebanon—significantly improved Syrian refugee students' Arabic reading and math skills after four months of implementation. Syrian refugee children who are enrolled in Lebanese public schools who have access to IRC's Healing Classrooms program, when compared to children who only have access to Lebanese public schools, are less likely to view interactions with peers as hostile in intent. Research in the United States has identified such "hostile attribution bias" as a common and debilitating consequence of exposure to violence and bullying and a major risk factor for developing conduct and behavioral problems.
Syrian refugee children who had access to IRC's Healing Classrooms program showed signs of recognizing and becoming more open to expressing their feelings, even their negative feelings. While Syrian refugee children struggled to attend the Healing Classrooms retention support program, the amount and quality of implementation of retention support programming mattered. While students on average attended 40% of retention support classes, in general, higher attendance predicts improvements in Arabic literacy skills as well as improvements on a range of social-emotional skills and outcomes.