Multiple Consultants-Leveraging Technology to Support Reading/Literacy Outcomes for Learners with Disabilities

Chevy Chase, Maryland, United States
Apply by 4 July 2018
Mid-level , Short-term contract assignment
Posted on 4 June 2018

Job Description

**The following is a recruitment for individual consultants to work on a task. Please note that URC cannot sub-contract this work to a firm. Consultants may choose to apply as a team, or apply as aligned to one of the qualification profiles outlined within. The candidate review team will consider interviewing individuals who express preference to work as a partner team, however reserves the right to hire the most highly qualified individuals. This position recruitment closes on June 1, 2018.

Division & Project Overview: Global Reading Network (GRN) – Reading within Reach Project (REACH) URC’s Reading within Reach project serves as a secretariat for the Global Reading Network, and is based on URC’s International Development Group (IDG), one of three international program divisions at URC/CHS. The aim of this USAID-funded 5-year initiative is to build a Community of Practice, a professional network focused on improving reading outcomes in the primary grades. This network brings together governments, practitioners, civil society organizations, academics, funders, UN agencies, and other stakeholders invested to work collaboratively to improve quality and expand the reach of reading interventions around the world. Introduction One hundred fifty million of the 1 billion persons with disabilities around the world are children, with 80 percent living in developing countries. An estimated 90 percent of children with disabilities are out of school; they are less likely to enroll and complete a full cycle of basic education. Persons with disabilities, including children and youth, are at a disproportionate risk for violence, including gender-based violence, and are over-represented among the poorest of the poor. In countries which are forwarding early grade reading reforms, children with disabilities are often at an acute disadvantage in terms of accessing quality learning services. A 2017 report by the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Education notes the gap in primary completion rates between children with and without disabilities has increased over time from a few percentage points a few decades ago to 17.6 points for boys and 15.4 points for girls. In large part due to the tendency of children with disabilities to drop out or not participate in schooling, the disability gaps for literacy also grew over time, reaching 16.2 points for boys and 15.5 points for girls. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have been shown to advance high quality and equitable access to instructional and learning resources for supporting learners with disabilities. Depending on the infrastructure of the area in which the learner is situated, technology-leveraged resources could be used to support learners, educators, and other community stakeholders including parents and other caregivers. REACH/GRN are preparing a toolkit with broad guidance on the teaching of early reading to children with physical and intellectual/cognitive disabilities. This consultancy will prepare a situational analysis and research agenda with a deepened focus on the role of ICTs in supporting learning. The review and research agenda are part of a broader envisioned change process being led by USAID, World Vision, and other stakeholders to further pilot and scale-up use of technology to attain Sustainable Development Goal 4.1 and 4.7 (ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning). Scope of Work In consultation with the international disability community, the REACH/GRN consultant will establish a baseline of knowledge on use of ICTs to advance equitable and efficient access to learning for children with disabilities, with a specific focus on existing program models and technologies appropriate for improved outcomes for learners with blind/low vision, deaf/hard of hearing, cognitive, learning, and/or physical disabilities in low-resource, developing country contexts. While the analysis focuses on how ICTs will address developmental, cognitive and linguistic dimensions of reading/literacy learning for disabled children, it should include a focus on ICTs which have greater impact because of the range of basic education skills and content (reading/literacy, numeracy, science) that can be supported. The analysis will also focus on ICTs that actively facilitate learning rather than strictly reduce physical barriers. Based on expert consultations, the consultant will recommend how variations of ICTs could be made even more accessible possibly through creative utilization of market-drivers and competition modalities. The consultant will complete a target literature review that contributes to a larger research agenda on EGR for the disabilities population, which will evolve from the REACH/GRN’s Disabilities Toolkit being prepared through mid-2018. Finally, the consultant will also contribute to REACH/GRN’s elaboration of diagnostic research that informs planning for future Disabilities in Reading program efforts. These objectives will be achieved through a participatory research process that will produce two interrelated products: a Leveraging Technology for Improved Reading/Literacy Outcomes for Learners with Disabilities situational analysis and the research agenda. The result will be a collaborative publication which is to be endorsed by All Children Reading Grand Challenge for Development partners (USAID, World Vision, and AusAID) and included among the mEducation Alliance’s ICT for education landscape series with its partners UKAid, and IDRC. The consultant is expected to expand upon the limited number of case studies currently being prepared for REACH/GRN’s disabilities toolkit. A related briefing series on disability and ICT focused education will be organized in collaboration with USAID, potentially in parallel to major regional/global conferences at which one or both consultants may be otherwise supported to attend. In addition, virtual webinars can be used to gain substantive key stakeholder input on all deliverables. A) Situational Analysis Through a literature review, case studies interviews and surveys, the situational analysis will cover the following:
  • ICTs currently or which can be designed/adapted for and deployed in developing country contexts – key features, uses, implementation models, availability and market potential, impacts (equity, quality, efficiency, cost-related)
  • Educational, infrastructural, technological, socio-cultural and economic factors which affect impact and sustainability of technology applications (focusing on both the micro- and macro level systems issues)
  • Key lessons in learning design, development, and delivery, to include discussion of gender- and language-related challenges with respect to access and learning
  • Digital-supported tools for reading/literacy assessment
  • Financing approaches which can support proof-of-concept, performance and cost-effectiveness studies of existing models, transition of models to scale and scaling market adoption of selected technologies
  • Promising areas for further research and evaluation
B) Key Stakeholder/implementer focused research agenda At least two expert consultations should be held during the course of the research. Through the above consultations, the consultant will prepare a clearly defined research agenda which prioritizes research and evaluation that are relevant and actionable for governments and implementers interested in leveraging ICT to support learners with disabilities. It will explore information needs and preferred means for receiving that information. The research agenda and situational analysis will be packaged as appropriate for different identified audiences. Deliverables The project is expected to start by June 15, 2018. The Research must be completed by October 2018, including all research and reporting. The level of effort for consultation activities is expected to be substantial. All activities must be conducted by an individual or team of consultants, each individually contracted, one of whom is expected to be the Project Lead. A currently hired Project Coordinator will support planning of consultations and other related meetings and events. Deliverable Estimated Due Date
  • Work plan
  • Final survey for implementers of ICT4D models and product developers
2 weeks after start
  • Draft literature review, noting globally applicable research and key research and evidence gaps
  • Examination of ICT models – type, purpose, availability, initial program list
  • Initial analysis of ICT market expansion potential
5 weeks after start
  • Research agenda consultations completed with review by targeted partners
  • Brief developed on diagnostic requirements for Disabilities program planning with integration of ICT
10 weeks after start Final draft Situational Analysis submitted -
  • ICT market analysis
  • Case studies and related narrative
  • Examination of issues of cost-efficiencies and possible innovative financing approaches
14 weeks after start Presentation of Situational analysis and research agenda virtually or in-person at up to two global meetings October 2018 Final Situational Analysis submitted 16 weeks after start Required experience and qualifications: The researchers are expected as a team to possess a mix of research and practitioner experience in special/disabilities education, reading/literacy and ICTs. Across the team, experience in both sensory (e.g. deaf/hard of hearing, blind/low vision) and cognitive disabilities (e.g. learning, autism) should be represented. At least one team member should possess understanding of the ICT industry, specifically procurement challenges and opportunities as experienced within developing country contexts. The team will have support of a Project Coordinator within the Reading within Reach team to arrange larger consultation meetings, as needed. The team members should fit one of the following qualifications profiles: Researcher 1:
  • Minimum of 10 years’ experience in education, across which the following is required:
    • Minimum of 5 years’ experience in programs for children with disabilities, to include experience teaching reading/literacy skills
    • Minimum of 3 years program experience in low resource/developing country contexts
  • Minimum 5 years’ experience in the development and management of education research (may include program evaluation, assessment or other diagnostic work, PhD research)
  • Demonstrated understanding of gender- and language-related challenges to access plus learning
  • Publications in peer-reviewed journals and conference presentations required
  • Masters’ degree in Education or Special Education required; PhD in education or related field preferred
Researcher 2:
  • Minimum of 10 years’ experience in education research required (may include program evaluation, assessment or other diagnostic work, PhD research), with at least 5 years’ experience dedicated to special education/disabilities or reading/literacy
  • Minimum of 5 years’ experience conducting research on education in developing countries required
  • Qualitative and quantitative experience required
  • Wide range of publications and conference presentations required
  • Masters’ degree in Education or Special Education required; PhD in education or related field preferred
To apply: Each researcher will submit a writing sample which allows the candidate review team to assess background knowledge and readiness for the task. The project start date will be June 15, 2018. All research activities must take place between June and October 2018. Any costs associated with travel and related administrative support to prepare for select global education events, where consultations and presentations will occur, are borne by the REACH project.
  1. Cover letter summarizing interest in the position, experience relevant to the qualifications listed, including research experience, publications and presentations.
  1. Statement of 3-5 pages, which provides:
  • Brief overview of the global evidence on ICT for Education and specifically reading/disabilities, to include relevance of language learning challenges to children with disabilities in bi-lingual and multi-lingual education systems
  • Short-list of ICTs to be researched with a brief explanation of procurement challenges/opportunities and advocacy efforts underway in developing country contexts
  • Recommended methodology and research focus for consultations with experts within interest groups, private, public and academic sector
  1. Curriculum Vita

About the Organization

University Research Co., LLC (URC)
URC is a global company dedicated to improving the quality of health care, social services, and health education worldwide. With a non-profit affiliate, the Center for Human Services (CHS), URC manages projects in over 45 countries, including the United States.

Established in 1965, URC offers a range of technical assistance to strengthen health and social systems and service quality by empowering communities and health workers to identify and scale up locally appropriate solutions to critical problems. Internationally, we expand access to and improve the quality of services addressing maternal, newborn, and child health; infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria; reproductive health and family planning; food and nutrition; and vulnerable children and families. In the US, we focus on improving communication related to issues like substance abuse, with a particular focus on reaching underserved populations.

URC’s mission is to provide innovative, evidence-based solutions to health and social challenges worldwide. Please join us in carrying out our mission (

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