ICRW report: Intel teach program transforms classrooms, girls and women

Article Date

05 November 2013

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

There was a hum of discussion as I entered the classroom at an all-girls school in Jordan, where walls were decorated with cutouts of bumblebees. Girls were out of their seats, hovering over each other’s desks. But they weren’t misbehaving; they were discussing project findings and comparing results with their classmates. I concluded that this level of activity should be expected among a class that nick named itself the “busy bees”.

When I asked students about different lessons they have done in class, hands eagerly shot into the air. These girls were excited about school, and wanted to share their thoughts and opinions – even with me, an outsider. This is not the norm for a classroom in a government school for girls in Jordan. What made this setting different was the influence of their instructor who had graduated from Intel Teach, a professional development program designed by tech giant Intel. While many education systems emphasize memorization, structure, and obedience, Intel Teach is changing the game by encouraging teachers to put students at the center of the learning process. And, importantly, the program is also training teachers to incorporate technologies into lesson plans in an effort to better prepare young girls and boys for the 21st century workplace.

Intel Teach has trained more than 10 million teachers in over 70 countries. My colleague and I visited three of those countries – Chile, India, and Jordan – to speak with male and female school administrators, teachers, and students about the program. Our goal was to better understand how Intel Teach is making a difference for female teachers and students. Specifically, we wanted to know how the program creates an enabling learning environment for girls; how it may contribute to female teachers’ personal and professional advancement; and finally, how Intel Teach enhances female students’ learning and whether they’re applying these skills to their everyday lives.

We chose to anchor our study in Chile, India, and Jordan because of the diverse geographic locations they represented. Another criterion was varying levels of gender equality as determined by the Gender Inequality Index, a measure that represents women’s disadvantage related to their reproductive health, economic empowerment, and labor market participation. Our findings are now available in a new report, Preparing Girls and Women for 21st Century Success: Intel® Teach Findings.”

Launched in 2000, the Intel Teach professional development program is transforming the classroom environment. Teachers motivate students to think critically and creatively. They encourage students to work with their peers. They learn about their students’ interests and tailor lessons based on this knowledge. These approaches are complemented by the use of technologies, including podcasts and SMART boards. Students not only use word processing, but also the Internet and PowerPoint to independently find information and create content. Taken together, Intel Teach approaches are equipping educators and students with new skills and helping to open doors of opportunity. The program is also changing the student-teacher relationship, and changing individuals, too.

For instance, within seconds of entering the classroom in Jordan, it was clear to me that the barrier between the students and the teacher had crumbled – students were walking up to the teacher to ask questions, the teacher smiling down at them. They were challenging each other’s findings and asking classmates for input. These girls were confidently communicating their thoughts and sharing their ideas – again, not the norm in a country where women are often taught to be submissive.

We found that Intel Teach is also fostering an entirely new level of innovation among teachers. Neither they – nor their students – rely solely on a textbook to learn. For instance, in India, students spent the summer tracking the number of wickets and runs while watching cricket games on TV. But it wasn’t just for leisure; it was also for math class. Their teacher, who had participated in Intel Teach, had incorporated a creative project-based lesson into her classroom, one of the primary features of Intel Teach.

Upon returning to school, students eagerly recorded cricket statistics in Excel spreadsheets. They then conducted calculations to understand players’ batting averages, plot frequency curves, and draft bar graphs and pie charts.  Through this hands-on math lesson, students learned to navigate the Internet to find information, to use computer programs to convey ideas, to collaborate with each other, and to think critically – all key objectives of Intel Teach. 

While Intel Teach targets male and female teachers who teach all students, not only girls, our research found some program attributes that seem particularly beneficial for women and girls. Among them:

  • Teachers’ use of student-centered and project-based teaching methods helped reduce the power imbalance between students and teachers, which allowed girls to feel more comfortable asking questions and communicating with their teacher and classmates. Projects also gave students the autonomy to discover information on their own, instead of relying on their instructor. Many teachers also set up blogs and websites to communicate with students – another method that helped to shift the traditional dynamic between students and teachers.
  • Participation in Intel Teach facilitated female teachers’ access to resources, networks, and support. In turn, they became more confident using technologies in their personal and professional lives. Some educators expressed to us that they were no longer intimidated by the Internet or by conversations about technology. We found that this new knowledge and confidence also translated into greater respect from teachers’ peers and led to promotions.
  •  We determined that a focus on project-based learning, problem solving, and collaboration had special relevance for girls who are more likely to face gender-related barriers that limit their voice, aspirations, and access to resources. The skills girls gained through project activities built their self-confidence to communicate with family members, convey their ideas to others, and be active participants in their communities. Girls became more curious and motivated to learn. And they told us that learning about various technologies like the Internet made them feel more independent.

Our study found that the innovative teaching methods promoted by Intel Teach are contributing to empowering women and girls for success in today’s increasingly interconnected, digital world. Indeed, governments, corporations, and organizations committed to advancing women and girls through education and technology would benefit from building on Intel’s experience.

Read ICRW’s assessment of another Intel educational initiative: “The Intel Learn Program Through a Gender Lens”