Thursday, January 2, 2014

RESULTS: Significant improvement due to Resilient Refugee Teacher Intervention program!

 Sept. 1, 2013

Results Summary:
  •   Great news! Across all refugee teachers who were trained (i.e., both peer trainers and trainees), this refugee teacher classroom management and self-care training and consultation resulted in significant improvement in all expected outcomes -- confidence in usage and knowledge of classroom management strategies and in teacher self-care.
  •     The goal of this project was to test a refugee teacher-train-teachers model of intervention delivery. Our ultimate goal was to create an intervention that would be effectively employed by refugee teachers to train their peer refugee teachers. We were not sure whether or not the delivery of the training by peer trainers to peer trainees would be effective. Therefore, we were happy to find significant improvement across all outcomes from pre to post-intervention for the peer trainees. Note that the strength of the intervention effect was equally strong for the peer trainee as for the peer trainer groups.
  •       We conclude that this intervention can result in significant improvement in confidence, knowledge, and self-care when refugee teachers are trained by their peer teachers in their schools. Indeed, peer trainees reported in post-intervention focus groups that their peer trainers were able to make the material much more relevant, in comparison to previous trainings by outside, non-peer teacher “experts” who had trained them outside of their refugee schools (i.e., in a conference room).
 A total of 124 teachers were trained through the 2013 AEIF refugee teacher training intervention; about 40 additional teachers were trained in our 2011 pilot. The following first describes the participants. Then, we detail (1) the training intervention statistically-significant results, and (2) the qualitative focus group feedback results from the peer trainers and trainees on the strengths of the training process and how the trainings could be improved. We consider these results to be preliminary before they are ready to be published.


Refugee Peer Trainers
Twenty four (24) teachers, 11 males and 13 females, were trained as “Peer Trainers” were refugees, themselves. Their ages ranged from 19 to 45 years of age (M = 32 years old). These teachers largely came from Myanmar, also known as Burma (70.8%), from various Burmese ethnicities (e.g., Chin, Rohingya and Zomi) and most of the remaining trainers came from Middle Eastern countries (21.2%) such as Iran and Pakistan. Some have at least a college diploma (37.5%); the rest had less than a college diploma.
Non-Refugee Peer Trainer Teachers
Twenty one non-refugee peer trainer teachers, 3 males and 18 females, participated in the peer trainer training; they ranged from 24 to 66 years of age (M = 45 years old). These non-refugee peer trainer teachers were largely Malaysian citizens (N = 12) and 9 non-Malaysians (i.e., Australian, French, German and Singaporean). Some had at least a College Diploma (38.1%) as their highest qualification.

The 79 peer trainee teacher participants (i.e., 34 male, 44 female) were teaching at refugee schools in Malaysia. Their ages ranged from 16 to 61 years of age (M = 30 years old). Only one was a Malaysian citizen: 57 were Burmese; seven were Palestinian, Syrian, Iranian or Iraqi; two Sudanese; three Afghani; six Pakistani; and three from other Asian nations (i.e. Korean, Filipinos). 95 % (N = 75) were refugees and have held the UNHCR refugee card for an average of 15.5 months, ranging from less than a month to five years. The majority of the teachers were Christian (73.4%), while 19% were Muslim, 3.8% Buddhist and 1.3% Agnostic. In terms of educational level, 36 had completed high school, while 38 had a college diploma or higher (20 with a Bachelor’s Degree and one with a Postgraduate Degree) and only two teachers had less than middle school level education.

We hypothesized that we would see an improvement in confidence in and knowledge of usage of classroom management strategies and self-care, for both peer trainer and peer trainee groups. We did not expect depression, anxiety, and stress to change as a result of the training. Using t-tests with significance level of p < .001 to test our hypotheses we confirmed these hypotheses.

The following details the results:
Confidence in Usage of Strategies
There was significant improvement across all the trainees’ confidence levels in using the strategies, from before training (M = 39.96) to after training (M = 46.58. The peer trainer subsample showed a significant increase from before training (M = 40.05) to after training (M = 45.45). The peer trainee subsample also showed a significant increase from before training (M = 39.91) to after training (M = 47.13).
Strategies Knowledge
There was a significant increase in all trainees’ knowledge of classroom management strategies from (M = 3.86) before training to after training (M = 5.51). In the peer trainee group, all teachers all made a significant gain in their knowledge of strategies, from before training (M = 3.77) to after training (M = 5.55). In the peer trainer group, there was also a significant increase from before training (M = 4.05) to after training (M = 5.42).
Depression, Anxiety, and Stress
All teachers (i.e., peer trainers and trainees) showed no significant improvement in their emotional distress from pre to post training.
There was a significant increase in all trainees’ caring for themselves from before training (M = 27.24) to after training (M= 28.8). The peer trainers increased in self-care from before the training (M = 27.21) to after the training (M = 29.42). As for the peer trainees, they also increased in self-care from before the training (M = 27.26) to after the training (M = 28.5).

Peer trainees’ focus group feedback on the training by peer trainers (9 peer trainees from 3 refugee schools):
  • Peer trainee participants reported that training delivered by their peers was far more practical and relevant than any other training the teachers had attended before. The role plays and the participatory nature of the training made it more interesting for the teachers.
  • All peer trainees found it helpful to be trained by their fellow teachers because it was in their own native language which made it easier to understand. The peer trainers also understood the teaching styles and behavioral issues in the school and the management rules, which made it easier for them to adjust the materials and methods to suit the school environment. It was also helpful to have their fellow teachers as trainers because some teachers gave the trainees hands-on feedback in the classroom as the teachers practice the skills. Having trainers who understand what the teachers go through on a daily basis made them more receptive towards the skills shared. Having the materials in English and their native language was also very helpful.
  • All participants found the self-care information to be the most helpful. Specific self-care information that was useful for most participants were the deep breathing exercises, knowing yourself, positive thinking and ways to relax. The physical exercises had mixed responses with some participants finding it very useful and even sharing it with their students, while others found it difficult to carry out due to limited space and they did not
Overall, peer trainees felt that their classroom management and teaching improved the most in these areas: they reported having a better understanding of their students, improving their student-teacher relationships, and the need to practice empathy skills in the classroom.

Helping train new teachers was a goal of this intervention -- New teachers who were peer trainees found the training to be very helpful in guiding them on how to effectively punish and reward, how to appreciate students’ good behavior, and how to better organize the classroom to manage behaviors

Peer trainers’ focus group feedback on their experience as trainers and with consultants who were helping them be better trainers (9 peer trainers from 5 refugee schools):

 Peer trainers who were largely Burmese refugees acknowledged that this training in child-centered teaching is very different from the Burmese cultural approach to teaching that they grew up with, which they described as very teacher-centered, authoritarian, and reliant on the cane for physical punishment. The peer trainers, however, welcomed this training’s new style of managing behaviors as they are now aware of more positive ways of disciplining a child. In the past, teachers only knew the cane but now there are many other techniques at their disposal. Participants also recognized that as refugees who are hoping to be resettled to the U.S., they would no longer be able to use the Burmese style of managing behaviors and it is very important for them to get opportunities to learn alternative ways of managing behaviors. One teacher reported: “There is no choice in the classroom in Burma as a student. We dare not express as a student whether we agree or disagree. But it is better that students have the opportunity to express themselves – so we welcome training like this that shows us how we can encourage students to express themselves”.

 After all of the peer trainers completing their initial training in February, they received consultation from the facilitators who had led their initial training. The consultation process involved the facilitators going to the peer trainers’ schools to help the peer trainers plan and gain confidence and skills in running a peer training, themselves, in their school. The consultation process was reported to be a positive experience for all of the focus group participants. Consultants were described as having met with their peer trainers at least 3 times, and having provided a lot of encouragement, feedback, guidance, elaboration/clarification of the skills, and suggestions on how they can improve: “Our consultant gave us a lot of encouragement. Even when we speak poor English - … she still encourage us, she reads our body language and gives feedback. Overall it was a positive experience. I have experienced a lot since coming here and some people treat us like we are aliens, strangers, inferior, but all of you – the way you treat us are friendly… like we are the same.”

 All peer trainers described the process of training their peers as one that started out very stressful but gradually got better after the first few days of training. For all participants this was their first time training anyone.

 Regarding how likely the peer trainers are to train future peers -- Some peer trainers were excited and really keen to give more training and have more ideas now to implement during the training. Trainers also want to offer trainings because they want to continue to improve themselves and build their confidence. Some of the trainers also want to continue teaching when they get resettled, so having these skills will be helpful.

 Some peer trainers were not too keen to give training because of their time. Whether they offer training again would depend on support from management or the school, and if there was someone there to push them. These trainers were open to training new teachers who come into the centers but were not too keen about training outside teachers as they worry about their time and whether there is a coordinator to make the necessary arrangements.


 Peer trainees reported that training time was too short for most participants and they wanted more discussion and time for activities to process what was being taught.

 After the training, the peer trainees had questions about whether they were applying their skills correctly, or how to approach particular situations/children. It would be good to have some form of a forum for teachers to raise their questions (e.g., post-training peer supervision and discussion; further peer trainer training sessions).

 Peer trainees reported that it would be more helpful if the peer trainers not only did the training but also provided feedback in the classroom when the peer trainees were applying the skills learned. In other words, the peer trainees wanted more intensive supervision as training follow-up to better put their skills into practice.

 Note that there were a minority of peer trainees who could not remember the skills that they learned in the training and could only say, generally, that the training was positive. We need to better understand how to have more of an impact with this small group of trainees who felt like the training had less of an impact on them, compared to how it seemed to have a stronger impact on other trainees.

 Peer trainers reported that the next step for improving the consultation process would be for consultants to do in-class observations and more intensive feedback for peer trainers. They suggested that it would be helpful if consultants could sit in in their classes to observe students behavior, if they are using the skills correctly, and to provide feedback on this after the class. However, when consultants offered to give in-class feedback to the peer trainers, the trainers declined getting the in-class feedback. For the next iteration of this intervention, we need to work on getting buy-in and identify any cultural obstacles to getting in-class consultation on implementation of classroom management skills.

 Peer trainers wanted more videos and handouts on how to train to remind peer trainers how to do the training in the future with their peers.

 Peer trainers requested that more training be organized so peer trainers can continue to provide training. Participants felt they developed a lot and requested for there to be not too long a gap between the training they just completed and the next one: “Yes, that is why we don’t want to stop training so we can train more people and we hope Dr. Colleen and other people at the U.S. can continue or maybe pass the trainings to UNHCR but UNHCR may not know like you all.”

 Most peer trainers thought that this training would be useful for other people in the communities – social workers, community leaders, and parents. It should not be limited to teachers and should be used to build capacity of individuals and to help them in their relationships with other. They thought the self-care information would also be especially useful for refugees facing difficult and stressful circumstances in Malaysia. They thought that if one can control one’s stress, then the situation will improve for the children and other community members.


 Submit a paper to a journal explaining the training and consultation refugee teachers-train-teachers intervention and evaluation results.

 Given this intervention’s significant results, we would like to submit a grant proposal to UNHCR-Malaysia and to the U.S. embassy to obtain future funding to improve and continue this refugee teacher-train-teachers intervention.