Improving Measurement Reliability For Child Learning and Wellbeing in Crisis Contexts: The MENAT Measurement Library
The lack of valid, reliable measures to capture meaningful changes in learning and well-being outcomes for children in crisis or conflict-affected contexts have been a long-standing barrier to implementing and investing in quality programs.
The MENAT Measurement Library offers one solution for those working in the humanitarian and development fields in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey. As the very first effort of its kind, the Library curates a collection of measures that supports researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to generate quality evidence on children’s holistic learning and well-being outcomes. These outcomes include academic subject matter skills, mental health, physical skills and health, social and emotional skills, and program implementation and quality. Users can search the MENAT Measurement Library by outcome, age group, purpose of the data, or language of the measures.
Each measure can be contextualized, adapted, and used within the context of psychosocial and educational programs to assess how well relevant programs are being implemented and the extent to which they are having an impact. The Library transparently reports the validity and reliability of each measure for a given context and purpose.
The Problem With Self-Reports in Conflict and Crisis-Affected Settings
This array of measures is especially useful for assessing or implementing social-emotional learning programs because it offers measures that go beyond self-report. Unlike assessments of literacy and numeracy outcomes, where programs often use performance-based tests to assess students’ knowledge and skills, self-reports constitute the majority of tools widely used to assess children’s social and emotional skills in fragile contexts. Self-reports have some research value but provide a biased picture of children’s social-emotional skills. By making other types of measures available to those working in conflict and crisis-affected settings, the MENAT Library facilitates a more complete understanding of children’s social and emotional learning and holistic development in crisis contexts by providing reliable measures specific to a regional context, specific ages, and marginalized populations.
The Library’s Many Resources
A consortium of MENAT-based research-practice-policy partnerships contributed to the measures that are currently available in this resource. This approach to partnership has led to a resource that is informed by the collective expertise of every participant. By committing to an approach of rigor, the Consortium produced materials with the potential to take this entire field to new heights of understanding and effectiveness. For example, a research advisor at an NGO implementing non-formal social and emotional learning programs with Syrian refugee children in Lebanon can use the Social-Emotional Response and Information Scenarios (SERAIS) tool (offered within the Library) for an evaluation, knowing it has evidence of validity and reliability for this context and is accompanied by a guide on how to best administer the measure.
The Library also includes measures that go beyond social-emotional learning to help practitioners build and maintain healthy, safe, and effective educational programs such as Academic Readiness for Children (ARCH), a performance and survey-based tool which assesses school readiness for children aged 4-8 with a partial focus on literacy outcomes. This targeted assessment holds the power to strengthen classroom environments by giving teachers and administrators information they need to bring previously out-of-school children up to speed with this foundational skill.
It is important to begin approaching humanitarian response with a greater emphasis on quality education and a deeper understanding of what it takes to achieve holistic learning outcomes for children. The MENAT Measurement Library sets the field up to achieve this. Part of how the Library works toward this goal is by creating the space for its users to share what they learn while working with the Library and specifically to hear more about the evidence they are able to develop on the measures’ reliability and validity across the different contexts in which they operate. In the years ahead, the hope is that the Measurement Library’s collection of users, the measures it supplies and the body of evidence behind these will only continue to grow.
The MENAT Measurement Library addresses a significant challenge to a culture of learning and improving within humanitarian and development work. Measure development requires many years of work, technical skills, and resources that may not align well with the primary purpose or timeline of an education program: to assure that children and youth gain social-emotional, literacy, and numeracy skills that are foundational to their future success and self-reliance. As you use the Library, please share the evidence that you have managed to acquire, how reliable you have found the measures you used to be across different contexts, and general insights about how you think the Library can improve.