Friday, October 22, 2021

Long term improvement in Mathematics classes through an evidence based approach.

The health of a faculty can be measured in a number of ways:

- Student Behaviour

- Staff Morale

- Student Achievement / Student Progress

- Engagement

Measuring these is a complex and time consuming task.

- Student Behaviour (no. of behaviour reports)

- Staff and Community Perception (perception surveys, anecdotal evidence)

- Student Achievement / Student Progress (student class results, standardised testing)

- Engagement (student perception, participation rates, student success)

Each term, we focus on one of the measures and identify where focus areas are, possible measures for improvement and where success has been found.  Currently we are working on engagement in classrooms.  The chosen metric is success that a student is experiencing.

For instance, a class with an average of 50 under assessment conditions has half of the students in the class feeling unsuccessful as they have not been able to complete half of the assessment set.  Given that 50% is a common indicator of where minimum performance is expected, it is a fair indicator that engagement rates are poor and/or declining.

To drive improvement and increase engagement, a target of 85% of students achieving at least 50% on assessment tasks was set for the team.  Classes and teachers reaching this target were identified and then examined for practices that could be developed across the team.

Eyebrows were raised that such a high percentage was set as the target off a relatively low base.  Students entering high school experience success in Year 7 & 8, as work becomes more difficult and adolescence in Year 9, engagement can fall if not attended to and then lead to Senior school where students are placed in courses doing work predominantly covered in Years 7-10 and engagement rates rise.  Achievement of WACE is a siginificant motivator for staff and students given it is a highly monitored metric.

The forgotten middle is another area to target as often high achieving (and motivated) students and low ability students are given additional attention.  Students at a C level are often banded together and reinforce average performance with lower expectations (and subsequent class averages) experienced.  By encouraging higher levels of success (by increasing expectation and modifying grade cutoffs/assessment difficulty) it is hypothesized that higher overall achievement can be achieved (a concept at the heart of pathway grades in public schools).

Classes averages of 65, with SD of 12 indicate success levels commonly experienced in Methods and Specialist classes.  Averages of 60 with SD of 10 indicate levels similar to Applications classes.  Low SD indicate that assessments or instruction may be too narrow and skills based, pedagogy change may be required, wider may indicate that sections of the class require additional attention. Both cases may indicate that streaming processes need review.

Given 85% of students achieving passing grades is difficult to achieve, it requires attention at a student level, analysing individual student performance/underperformance, how it can be measured and how it can be improved. This can be done vs standardised testing or class averages longitudinally by teachers to identify students that require additional attention.

Where students experience legitimate, well explained succcess, senior school Mathematics participation, retention in courses and course achievement should improve.  The cycle of improvement is long, with 5-7 years to see significant change in results and culture of achievement.  Short term gains at a year or class level need to be celebrated to maintain the focus on improvement.

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