Showing posts with label student performance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label student performance. Show all posts

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Performance Anxiety and measures of success

Anxiety is a two edged sword.  Can't perform without it, can't perform with too much of it.

Understanding how success impacts anxiety is an important part of the performance anxiety picture.  Where we set the bar for students is important as it provides them with what sort of performance constitutes success.

One measure of success is achievement - this is where a student is able to do something expected at a prescribed point in time.  A student that can write their name consistently is an achievement in pre-primary, but an area of concern if they were still trying to do this in Year 4.

Another measure of success is progress - this is where a student is able to do something later that they could not do at a previous point in time.  A student that could not tell the time in Year 6, but can do so in Year 7 is an indicator of progress.

A third measure of success is a normalised ranking.  With normalised ranking, a student doing better compared to their peers longitudinally over a period of time.  A student was 5th in the class for spelling in test 1 but was 1st in test 2 and consistently in the top 10 for the year.  Achievement is measured for each test, progress is monitored as they move up and down the class ranking.

Traditionally schools have used normalised ranking to give students feedback as to how they are progressing towards year level achievement standards.  This allows students to feel successful as they measure themselves against peers and do better or worse dependent on effort (something that they can control).  Whether a child is meeting the Year level achievement standard is irrelevant as long as they are making progress with their peers. 

Movement to a national achievement standard changed this to having an achievement focus, and as consequence a large group of students would now encounter constant failure with D/E grades.  In extreme circumstances, students would also face failing assessment after assessment being measured against grading standards that they had no ability to reach to support the awarding of D/E grades.

This focus on achievement rather than progress increased performance anxiety and is currently at epidemic levels in schools.  Success lowers performance anxiety and anxiousness caused by the fear of failure.  If students only face constant failure then anxiety will rise to unbearable levels preventing progress.  It needs an outlet for anxiety to be released.  This is where we are today and it will take academics to prove this true with the benefit of hindsight.  

Should we set student success to be:

- achievement of excellence (eg. through a focus on Year level Achievement Standards);
- progress (eg. improvement in a skills over time); or
- ranking (eg. position in a class of similar students).

Should we frame this within and understanding of:

- Constantly seeking excellence (with an understanding that the bar moves with the definition of developmental "excellence");
- Always doing your best (with an understanding that continuous effort is required); or
- Putting in the effort where required (with an understanding that you can only do what you can do and develop reserves where possible).


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Closing the gap in student performance

 


The blue graph represents a learning curve of an average student
The red graph represents a learning curve of a student that has fallen behind
The gap between A and B / C and D represents how the gap grows between two students over time.

If nothing is done, the red student falls further and further behind the blue student.

To bridge students from A to B or from C to D requires a level of intervention - doing something beyond classroom teaching. Either focus on blue students and allow red students to fall further behind, focus on red students and slow the curve of blue students or differentiate and allow both to progress.
  • Students need to do more (not less) work to catch up
  • It needs to be focused on developing current skills required and addressing gaps in skills
  • Intervention available needs to be targeted to where formative assessment identifies issues and pre-prepared resources are available to address common issues outside of classtime
Streaming and Differentiation (typically applied as mutually exclusive strategies) attempt to address the issues faced by a teacher of students with different learning requirements.

One method of addressing the needs of both groups is to ability stream, putting students together of like abilities.  It can reduce the load for a teacher in a classroom by reducing what needs to be taught to a narrower band.  One issue with this approach is the low expectation/low ability bias - students that are behind have lower abilities so we should have lower expectations - thus learning is slower and below ability levels.  Overcoming this bias is difficult but can be done.  

Deficits of streaming
  • Tendency for lower expectations
  • Fewer positive role models/peer support
  • Re-inforcement of the difficulties faced rather than successes
  • Normalising absences/poor behaviour/low effort
  • Lower classes typically given to less able teachers
  • Transition between streams can be problematic (difficultly leap, unsupported during transition, infrequent restreaming)
  • Typically delivers to the bottom/middle of the class
  • Individualised support is not a focus (the focus is identifying work at level for the class) thus bridging the gap is less likely to address issues at a student level
  • Little/No support in Research to support an increase in learning for streamed students in average schools (Hattie)
Differentiation is a possible alternative where students are covering same topic in class but at different levels.  Rather than a structural/environmental change, this is a change in approach of the teacher.  This requires a higher level of teacher skill, organsation and discipline to do effectively.  Signs that this is being done:
  • Strong communication between teacher/student/parent.
  • Diagnostic assessment completed prior to each topic
  • Identification of gaps and remedies identified for gaps
  • Students completing different work based on ability
  • Assessment provided at multiple levels
  • Addressing students that have gaps with clear measurable strategies typically outside of the classroom
  • Requires advanced knowledge of scope and sequence of topics beyond year level
  • Safe learning environment where all students are confident to ask questions
  • Results of the group as a whole are increasing (fewer failing students)
It is possible to do both at the same time, but needs recognition that streaming alone does not address closing the gap between students - to do this requires going further than teaching bottom/middle of the class given and that differentiation when the gap is large in Mathematics is load intensive. That is streaming requires less work (class instruction is more targeted as there is smaller variation between students) and differentiation more work (increased variation between students decreases the effectiveness of traditional class based instruction).  Given class based instruction is the preferred delivery mode in schools, reluctance to differentiate can be considerable.

Intervention is the process of moving a student from the bottom curve to the top curve through action at a group or individual level (eg. from B to A or from D to C). This could include:
  • Pastoral support to assist in managing issues at home or incidental mental health needs
  • Tutoring outside of class time
  • Addressing individual needs within the classroom to increase learning beyond the average speed in the class
  • Catch up classes over the holidays
  • Work sent home to parents aimed at addressing gaps in learning
  • Acceleration of programmes of work
  • Changing focus of existing programmes to address student needs
  • ICT applications aimed to assist particular types of students
  • Withdrawal from options classes or creation of options classes to focus on Literacy and Numeracy or Extension (eg Period 25, Period 6)
  • After school classes
A major feature of intervention is that it is above what is done for the average student and is able to be stopped once the student has caught up.  This allows catch up (rather than falling behind) as students are still progressing to a greater or lesser degree with the rest of the class (as opposed to a withdrawal/differentiated/streamed model.  Students are doing more in order to catch up and once on the curve are able to stay on the curve as the reason for learning more slowly than the rest of the class is overcome and the intervention is able to stop and be redirected to another student.   Where it can't end with the student on the leaning curve without ongoing intervention to prevent falling behind again, the strategy I think it should be defined as differentiation as it is an ongoing need of the student.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Measuring Performance of Upper School Courses

Participation, Retention and Achievement are three measures I look at in Upper school to measure the health of our Learning Area.  These summary statistics should not be treated as a goal or KPI, but instead as a way of identifying areas of investigation for improvement.  All too often summary statistics hide the actual situation found if an investigation into raw data is done thereafter.  With relatively small samples the summary statistics may not be reliable or valid.


1. Participation (Course Entry)

How many students enter a course?  It is not compulsory to do a Mathematics course in Year 11 and 12, they can opt out if they wish.  My belief is that all students should complete Mathematics courses in Year 11/12 as a life skill.  Any number lower than 100% indicates that improvement can be achieved.

To keep it simple, I check RTP for the course at the end of S2 and count total students.  The total number of students in the cohort is found in schools online or SIS. Divide these and you have the participation number. Participation should be measured at the end of each year of Upper School.  Participation data should be compared with standardised testing data (NAPLAN, PAT etc) to validate participation results.

This is a measure of the success of creating an appeal to enter the course.  Factors impacting participation could include past performance, lower school pathways, reputation for success, teachers in lower school, teachers in upper school, how well the course is sold to students, course counselling techniques, course counsellors, trends in careers post schooling.


2. Retention (Course Completion)

Are students staying in the course from the beginning? Students are able to change out of the course if they wish. Students swapping and changing courses is not optimal. Any number lower than 100% indicates that improvement can be achieved.

Again, to keep it simple I check RTP for the course at the end of S2 and count the withdrawn students. Participation numbers are found in (1.) above. Divide these and you have the retention number.  Retention should be measured at the end of each year of Upper School.

This is a measure of success of the Upper School Course, course recommendations, teaching methods and course counselling.  Factors impacting retention could include mental health of students and the teacher, teaching pedagogy, student ability, lower school preparation, parental support, resilience and the difficulty level set for the course.


3. Achievement

Are students achieving at the level expected for the course?  Students need to achieve a meaningful result for the course to be worthwhile. For Methods and Specialist the mean is 65 for an average student, Applications is 55 for an average student.  In each case about 57 will contribute to a 70 ATAR score. C grades or higher for General students are useful for demonstrating competence.

To measure achievement I count how many students in RTP are achieving above 57 and divide it by the retention rate (2.) including withdrawn students.  I also calculate the Mean result for both years (without withdrawn students) and check the exam results in both semesters. If there is a large deviation from other assessment scores it provides an avenue for investigation.  It is also important to check the SAIS Year 12 report to check school vs external exam results. If students need recounselling this is done at the end of S1 and S2 Year 11 and at the start of S1 Year 12.

This is the end goal, how many students performed within the expected parameters of the course after completing the course.  Factors impacting achievement could include study skills, exam preparation, engagement with schooling, student motivation, course counselling/ability, cohort strength, work ethic,  extracurricular activities, sickness/mental health/misadventure, 5th/6th course bias and teaching pedagogy.


With these three measures, the health of a course can be established.  It is important to not only look at achievement as it can hide strategies that fail the student interest test - such as counselling students out of courses to boost achievement figures (low retention rates) where standardised testing indicates that students should pass.