We set out to help teachers and schools across Kenya’s primary schools to simplify the processes of assessment and record keeping. Why? Kenya’s Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) came with elaborate requirements for teachers to use formative assessments and to keep the records of all those assessments. And because there are hardly any tools for the job, our teachers have suffered; the work is burdensome and this has led many teachers to question the need for it all.
Our objective coming up with the CBC App was therefore very simple; to make it ridiculously easier for teachers to create formative assessment records.
If you have a bit of an imagination, then you can see that keeping formative assessment records of every activity for each learner, across all learning areas (subjects), across the entire time the learner is in school, means lots and lots of data, which can be mined to give us never before seen insights into student learning.
The first term of the 2021/22 academic year starting in July 26th 2021, gave us the opportunity to test out end to end, what keeping of formative assessment records can mean. From the simple act of a teacher keeping assessment records on the CBC App, we got to learn so much about individual learners, individual teachers, each learning area and the collective information associated with these entities.
Let us take the example of one of the primary schools we serve, whose learner population of 326 learners between Grade 1 and Grade 5 is double the national average of approximately 160 for the same class range. We analysed all the data to try and obtain some insights and, in this article, we share some of those insights.
Kiswahili had the highest number of assessments performed
Kiswahili is one of those learning areas which is taught from Pre-primary 1 (PP1) all the way to Grade 5. It is also one of those learning areas which is taught every day of the week, meaning more assessments are likely to be performed. The two preceding statements are also true for Mathematics and English, which came second and third respectively in the number of assessments performed. So, what could have led to Kiswahili having more assessments done? A closer look points at teacher engagement as being the main reason for Kiswahili having more assessments; the Kiswahili teachers across all the classes were more engaged than the other teachers in performing formative assessments and keeping their records using the CBC App.
In the early years, Movement Activities rule and religion is weird
The early years of learning begin at pre-school (PP1 and PP2) and end at Grade 3.
Analysing all the early years data as one block revealed that Movement Activities accounted for most of the assessment activity. The most compelling explanation we have for this statistic is that Movement Activities appear every day in the timetable, especially for PP1 and PP2.
The red parts of the chart refer to the number of learners who were deemed not to be meeting expectations. Notice that Language Activities have the highest number of learners not meeting expectations followed by Christian Religious Education (CRE). What could be the reason?
For Language Activities, it is likely that Kiswahili and English could still be relatively new to some of the children in early years, making it likely that more children will be observed not to be meeting expectations.
The more interesting insight though could be found in trying to explain why CRE has the second highest number of learners not meeting expectations. If you have ever been around a child below the age of 9, then you will know that explaining how religion and spirituality works can be very difficult. I have heard many stories about children of this age treating adults to hilarious logic and questions as they try to understand how religion and spirituality works.
English and Mathematics starts to be a problem in upper primary
Being learning areas that are taught every day, it is statistically expected that more assessments will be performed and consequently, more learners will be seen not to be meeting expectations. But then, end-term exams, mid-term exams and even national exams have also traditionally told us that Mathematics and English present difficulties to many learners, so this insight is consistent with what is to be expected at the end of the term and in national exams.
As much as teachers already do a good job of identifying the learning activities which present the biggest challenges to learners, the CBC App makes it possible for teachers and schools to back their instinct with data. Formative assessments offer more opportunities for closer assessment and keeping these formative assessment records in an easy to analyse format as the CBC App does, only enhances the chances of teachers to catch problems early.
Number of assessments teachers can perform
How many formative assessments can a teacher can perform in a school term? At the school we are analysing, Teacher 5 performed the highest number (115) closely followed by Teacher 4 (114) and then a bit of a sharp drop to 90 assessments by Teacher 6. It might be important to know that both Teacher 5 and Teacher 4 teach four learning areas in three different classes while Teacher 6 (90 assessments) teaches five learning areas in four different classes.
We really can’t tell much from this data but the most noticeable probable reason for the relatively high number of assessments performed by Teacher 5 and Teacher 4, was their engagement. These teachers were simply more willing to use the CBC App to keep their assessment records than the others were.
The school had twenty teachers actively using the CBC App. We computed some averages for number of assessments performed, number of learning areas assigned to teachers, number of classes assigned to teachers and the average CBC score across all the assessments recorded. So, what did we learn?
The average number of learning areas assigned to teachers in the school is 3.2 learning areas; this for example means a teacher teaching the three learning areas of English, Kiswahili and CRE. These teachers are also assigned an average of 2.7 classes; this for example means a teacher teaching in Grade 3 East, Grade 3 West and Grade 4 East. The average number of assessments per teacher was 38 assessments throughout the whole term while the average score across all these assessments was 3.23, which corresponds with the score for meeting expectations.
Teacher engagement was the main reason some teachers used the CBC App more than others. For any given learning area, the more the lessons, the more likely it is that the number of assessments will be higher. Besides those two statements, we really can’t tell much else.
We need more data to gain true insights. We have learnt a lot and we continue to learn a lot more now that more and more schools are starting to use the CBC App.
What insights would you have liked to see?
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