From assessment to action: lessons from the development of Theories of Change with the People’s Action for Learning Network
In recent years, much attention has been given to extremely poor levels of learning outcomes in low-and lower-middle income countries. Citizen-led assessments have played a vital role in highlighting this ‘learning crisis’. Having developed these citizen-led assessments, members of the People’s Action for Learning (PAL) Network are now increasingly devising and implementing actions aimed at tackling the learning crisis in different country contexts. This article documents the process we undertook of developing theories of change with PAL Network members across 10 countries to inform their shift from assessment of children’s learning to action aimed at raising learning outcomes. The article highlights in particular the importance for theories of change to take account of context in identifying appropriate actions. Based on their country circumstances, the actions identified by PAL Network members vary, for example, from using assessment data to influence national government reform, to more localised activities associated with ‘teaching at the right level’. For appropriate actions to tackle the learning crisis to be identified and successfully implemented, an important lesson from the PAL Network experience is the need to enable South to South learning and adaptation. As such, the article highlights a pressing need for flexible and iterative theories of change that reflect contextual realities.