Programmes

Improving Pedagogy Through Assessment

This research project focuses on improving teaching practice in the area of learner assessment. Specifically, it will assist teachers to use assessment to improve learner performance. The project will work with 240 Grade 2 teachers across 160 schools (80 interventions schools and 80 control schools) in the Soshanguve and Atteridgeville districts of Gauteng. 

Name of Organisation/service provider: Department of Educational Studies:
Tshwane University of Technology (TUT)

Name of Project/intervention: Using assessment information to improve learner performance

Duration of Project: January 2015 - January 2017

Geographical area of project: Gauteng

 

Background

There is no doubt that South African learners are underperforming in both literacy and numeracy. There is also increasing evidence that teachers’ lack of assessment practices results in poor quality engagement with learners which in turn affects learner performance. Therefore improving teachers’ assessment practices is regarded as an important game changer by education departments and academics in many parts of the world, including the Department of Basic Education (DBE) in South Africa.

This research project focuses on improving teaching practice in the area of learner assessment. Specifically, it will assist teachers to use assessment to improve learner performance.
The project will work with 240 Grade 2 teachers across 160 schools (80 interventions schools and 80 control schools) in the Soshanguve and Atteridgeville districts of Gauteng.

The Theory of Change underlying the interventions is based on the notion that appropriate use of assessment information will enhance effective engagement with learners and will enable teachers to identify and address specific learning needs of their learners, which in turn will lead to improvement in teaching and learner performance.

Scope of Research

The programme will focus on identifying answers to the following research questions:

• What impact does a teacher training programme on assessment have on quality learning and learner performance in numeracy and literacy?
• What is the impact of enhancing learner engagement and effective use of assessment information on teaching and learning in the classroom?
• What is the impact of enhancing learner engagement and effective use of assessment information on learner performance?
• To what extent is the impact of the intervention sustained after the completion of the Project?
• What are the key features of a successful large-scale professional development programme for supporting teachers and enhancing their classroom practices to improve learning?

The programme will comprise:

Year 1

• The revision of training materials that were developed for the pilot study. The training materials will include guides for facilitators, practical tools and templates for teachers as well as videos to supplement training provided.
• The selection of 160 schools of which 80 will serve as a control group (this group will be offered the programme in year two if successful). These schools will be selected by the districts and will sign an agreement as a sign of their willingness to participate in the Project. Each of the districts has an average of 220 schools.
• Two workshops with management teams to obtain buy-in and introduce them to the programme. Workshops will be organised in four clusters of 40 schools each. This includes both the 80 control schools as well as the 80 experimental schools.
• Ten contact sessions for teachers in the experimental schools for a period of one year. This will take place in eight clusters of 30 teachers per session. All Grade 2 teachers in the 80 experimental schools will participate in the Project. This is estimated at three per school. Where possible, the Head of Department for Foundation Phase will be encouraged to be one of the selected teachers.
• District officials will work with the TUT staff to prepare the materials and design the training programmes. In year one, district officials will serve as assistants to the TUT staff as they are mentored.
• District officials will work with the TUT staff to provide on-site classroom support to teachers. This will occur two times per month.
• TUT staff will monitor the Project activities.
• Pre- and post-evaluation will be conducted in the schools to establish impact.

Year 2

• One workshop with management teams to plan for year two. Workshops will be organised in four clusters of 40 each. This includes both control and experimental schools.
• For experimental schools, one teacher per school will receive further training and for control groups all Grade 2 teachers will be trained if the intervention has been successful.
• Experimental schools: Ten contact sessions for one teacher per school in clusters of four for the 80 experimental schools. This programme will train the teacher to serve as a lead teacher for his/her school.
• Control schools: Ten contact sessions for three Grade 2 teachers per school in the 80 control schools for a period of one year. This will take place in eight clusters of 30 teachers per session.
• District staff will lead the training of the control group schools with the support of TUT staff.
• District officials and lead teachers will provide on-site classroom support to teachers in the experimental schools. District officials will work with TUT staff to provide support to the control schools. This will occur two times per month.
• In year two a post-programme evaluation will be conducted in the 80 experimental schools to establish whether any learning and teaching gains have been sustained beyond the support of TUT.

 

Criteria for Success

The success of the interventions will be measured along four key criteria:

1. Change in teacher knowledge regarding the value of enhanced engagement with learners and effective use of assessment data and development of quality assessment tasks.
2. Change in teacher classroom practices as measured by improved engagement with learners, and use of assessment data for improving learning.
3. Change in learner classroom behaviour as measured by greater understanding of lessons and increased participation in class activities.
4. Change in learners’ learning scores as measured by performance on the Annual National Assessments and Project tests.

Conclusion

This project can make a valuable contribution to the teacher development sector. International examples suggest that this approach can improve learner performance, and this project could establish whether this is also the case in the South African context.

The project is aligned with the Zenex Foundation’s strategy to support knowledge development in Foundation Phase numeracy and literacy. All materials developed during this process will be accessible for public use.

This project will also support the development of the capacity of TUT, a historically disadvantaged institution, to build its research profile. The project will provide experience for the staff to work on a large-scale research project and engage with large quantitative data sets. It will also result in the production of at least two research papers.

 

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