Leveraging Assessment for Student Success: Enhancing Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving; the continuous assessment process
In the pursuit of nurturing well-rounded individuals, education has to go beyond textbooks and exams. Assessments play a pivotal role in shaping students' cognitive abilities, fostering critical thinking, and encouraging problem-solving skills. It is this process by which students and teachers gain insight into the learning and understanding of the concepts and activities delivered in their classroom.
At Vipasana, our afterschool education program for underprivileged primary school children, assessments are a critical component in the impact measurement process. We discern the beneficiary performance and final learning outcomes based on the robust process developed by subject matter experts in our Foundation. It is a “process of seeking and interpreting evidence by young learners and their teachers to understand where the pupils are in their learning, where they should be and how best to get there."
Vipasana assessments have been developed gaining inspiration from ASER (Annual Status of Education Report), an innovative framework that has revolutionised the assessment process that transforms teaching methods and individual student learning. Diagnostic assessments are initiated at every Vipasana microcenter at the beginning and end of an academic year. At the beginning of an academic year, a pre-assessment is conducted for the registered children to determine their learning levels. The outcome of individual assessments forms the basis for teachers to formulate a customised teaching strategy. The pre-assessment also serves as a referral point for gauging the child’s level and progress at the end of the academic year when a post (endline) assessment is held.
Assessment: A Catalyst Inspired by the ASER framework, we customised our assessment framework to make it adaptive and to evaluate the Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) skills of children from primary school. Earlier in our teaching approach, we designed our curriculum surmising that children in class 1 recognize alphabets and numbers. We started classes with phonics, counting etc. Our first assessment revealed that majority of the children were unable to recognise alphabets and numbers. This was a turning point in our content trajectory. We designed the NuLit (Numeracy & Literacy) module, a 45 sessions learning capsule where children are introduced to alphabets and numbers through activity based interventions. A subsequent evaluation showed significant progress in comprehension and letter & number recognition. Thus, our assessments go beyond testing rote memorization.
Assessment based on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Foundational Literacy is the ability of the child to recognize letters, read and understand simple text, write simple words and sentences. Foundational Numeracy includes number recognition, competence in counting, basic mathematical operations, and their application to real life problems. These foundational skills are the building blocks in developing higher-order skills and comprehending other subjects in the curriculum. They are crucial for the progress of children in school to enable them to handle day to day classroom activities. While traditional exams often gauge students' ability to recall information, limiting their scope for analytical thinking, our assessment is designed to encourages students to think critically.
Samacheer kalvi based Syllabus and Assessment Vipasana syllabus and assessment are devised based on Samacheer Kalvi, the Tamil Nadu state mandated curriculum. The social background of the children is carefully borne in mind while formulating both the syllabus and assessment to ensure positive learning outcomes. The literacy assessment content includes the selection of words, sentences and passages as laid out in the syllabus. Numeracy assessment measures children's foundational skills such as one- and two-digit number recognition, counting and the ability to perform basic arithmetic operations. We thus ensure that Vipasana program reinforces and compliments the young child’s learning at school.
Personalized Learning for Each Student The formative assessment is initiated at every Vipasana microcenter at the beginning of an academic year, from class 1 onwards. It begins with administering grade level assessments to the children and if their performance is not as per their grade level, they are administered the next level (lower grade) assessments and so on. Thus, the assessment is adaptive in nature, and strives to match the child’s actual ability. The personalised level of course then offered to the chid corresponds to his ability and ensures a smooth learning transformation. The baseline and endline assessment carried out for each child also gives us a clear picture on the child’s progress over the year and helps in measuring the impact and effectiveness of the modules. Through continuous assessments, teachers make personalised lesson plans for each student, and they receive individual feedback, allowing them to understand their strengths and areas for improvement.
Impact on Teaching Methodologies One of the significant advantages of our methodology is its ability to identify learning gaps at early formative stage, beginning with class 1. When teachers know the student’s actual ability, they can identify specific areas of difficulties. They devise teaching strategies such as reorienting, trying alternative instructional approaches using multiple intelligence, or offering more opportunities for practice to address individual needs. When we administered the assessments, we observed that largely, the literacy levels of primary school children from underprivileged segments were lower than the numeracy levels of the same children. Hence, we revised our learning materials, simplifying English words in science and value education content. This data driven analysis enables our teachers to identify learning gaps, adapt their delivery, make timely interventions to offer education with values to struggling students, thus preventing learning gaps from widening. By emphasizing on individual abilities, such as critical thinking and problem-solving, our approach goes beyond traditional methodology, encouraging students to become independent thinkers and problem solvers. These skills are not limited to the academic arena; they extend to all walks of life, enabling them to tackle challenges and make informed decisions throughout their journey.
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