In 2012, the foundation approved a grant to the Shiur Acher organization to pilot test a program integrating volunteers from the high tech industry to serve as teaching assistants in mathematics and sciences classrooms. The goal of the effort was to provide teachers with in-school assistance to give more individual attention to each student, ascertain different student abilities, and adapt content and teaching methods to suit them. The hope was that this sort of pedagogic work would then be translated to an increase in selection of mathematics and science majors and a decrease in dropout rates.To date, the program, which is titled ‘Shiur Beyachad’, has harnessed 100 volunteers who spend a minimum of two weekly hours in the classroom over a period of one school year. The Ministry of Education joined in and claimed responsibility for funding the 40 hour training of the assistants which is carried out by Levinsky College of Education and Oranim Academic College. Intel also joined in by funding an additional 30 volunteers. An interim evaluation report which surveyed the participants found out that in classrooms where assistants volunteer, there is indeed more individual attention to student learning and difficulties.
At this point, Shiur Acher and the foundation were approached by the Ministry of Education. The Ministry is considering a new policy of regulating the service of volunteers in schools, and before doing so, wishes to learn from our joint pilot program. The Ministry claimed that today, there are thousands of volunteers scattered in schools, offering a diverse range of supplementary services, and only a few provide classroom-based pedagogic support.
In consultation with the Ministry, it was decided to approach Dr. Yael Steimberg, an education evaluation expert, who heads the measurement and assessment department at the Institute for Democratic Education. Steimberg was asked to execute an evaluation study of the ‘Shiur Beyachad’ project, looking into the processes of selection, training, placement and coaching of the volunteers; the pedagogic methods which the teachers and their assistants use in the classrooms; and the effects of their service on student selection and retention in the advanced five-unit majors of mathematics and the sciences in upper-secondary school.
In addition, videos from the classrooms capturing the interaction between teachers, assistants and students, will be filmed. These films will be used by Steimberg to create a database of case studies, which will be available to the professional community via a designated website.
* The text above shows the grant as approved by the Foundation’s Board of Directors / Grant 149