What we’ve learnt

The learning trajectory of the Learners for Excellence programme (catching up 4-6 grades over a single year) can be replicated using a more scalable approach using personalised content guided by a facilitator.

By focusing on the most fundamental concepts (the Numbers thread), some learners experienced a knock-on effect other, more advanced, concepts creating an accelerated impact.

Student engagement was observed to be a significant moderator to improvement, with the family circumstances contributing toward decreased levels of motivation.

The background

As part of their commitment to the community after building a windfarm in the Northern Cape province, a renewables construction company partnered with Harmattan Renewables and a local high school to invest in the education of young learners. With only eight learners in Grades 10 to 12 studying pure Maths as a subject in 2018, the school identified that increasing this number, along with improved achievement in Maths, as key goals for the programme.

The baseline results

At the start of June that same year, Reflective Learning diagnostics were run as a baseline with Grade 8 and 9 learners. The High School diagnostic benchmarks each learner’s mastery of 81 critical Maths concepts, plotted along seven conceptual threads. Their overall results showed that the majority of learners (71%) functioned between Grade 3 and 6 level, with 5% being below Grade 3 level. There also appeared to be difference in the base levels of learners across the two Grade 8 classes. The average attainment for the Numbers thread was 48%.

The intervention

Based on the learning gaps identified by the diagnostics, Reflective Learning provided personalised catch-up material in print form to build the learners’ conceptual understanding in the Numbers thread of Mathematics, while embedding self-reflective activities to develop metacognitive skills. The teacher for the Grade 8 and 9 classes created opportunity for the learners to work through the modules in a self-study format on two afternoons and a Saturday morning each week, assisting them where required. The regular school curriculum was followed in class time, while an additional tutor was employed to assist learners with grade-level content on a monthly basis.

Overall improvements

The overall mark of learners increased by 12% on average, equating to an advancement 1.25 grades in the space of four months. Grade 8A had the largest improvement (17%) while Grades 8B and 9 had a lesser improvement (9% each). The majority of learners functioned between Grade 6 and 9 level (up from 23% to 54%) with no learners below Grade 3 level anymore.

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Problems of engagement

It should be noted that some learners scored below their original score. This appears to be due to a lack of engagement across the two lesser-performing classes both during the intervention and when performing the summative assessment. When investigated further, it was discovered that the majority of these learners had specific family circumstances which is likely to have been a moderating factor.

Improvements in Numbers

When examining the Numbers thread (the specific concepts targeted for remediation), average achievement increased by 16% across all classes, with Grade 8A improving by 25% on average. Again, Grade 8B and 9 improved by lesser degrees. Perhaps a telling figure is that 55% of learners achieved more than 70% for the target thread (up from 15%) indicating that the majority of learners had reached a suitable level of mastery to move onto further work.

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