What we’ve learnt

The personalised catch-up approach can be scaled across multiple schools and provinces to achieve significant results with only the weekly support of a facilitator.

The approach lends itself to an implementation that assures learner engagement to a greater degree.

Learners engaged more deeply with their mathematics, working slower with better precision and greater perseverance when part of the catch-up process.

The background

Since July 2017, the Telkom Foundation has invested its resources into supporting seven schools across the Gauteng and Eastern Cape areas. Their holistic programme includes upgrading infrastructure, providing teacher training and academic intervention, and psychosocial support for learners to prepare them for the tertiary environment. In terms of Maths, the project aims to increase the number of learners choosing core Mathematics in the final years of schooling while improving attainment.

The baseline results

Initial baseline assessments were conducted with more than 1700 Grade 9 and 10 learners at the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018 across the seven schools. It was found that the majority of learners were between Grade 3 and 6 level (69%) with 3% below Grade 3 level and 1% effectively ready for Grade 10. It was also observed that 93% of learner had low metacognitive skills, while 77% of learners were positive toward Maths. While 81% of learners completed the assessment at a pace required of them for school test, almost every learner exhibited significant careless errors.

The intervention

The existing programme was already implementing Saturday morning support for learners through external tutors in one-hour sessions. Recognising the need for learners to interact with the catch-up content for longer than these one-hour sessions, the intervention was designed to provide personalised catch-up material in print form based on the initial diagnostics that could be worked through during the week by learners independently. Facilitated Saturday sessions would act as a point for accountability and peer-tutoring of continued areas of struggle.

The improvement

At the time of writing, approximately 1000 summative assessments had been completed having worked through the catch-up content for the Numbers thread. These showed that 35% of the learners improved by 1 grade-level or more in the six-month period (twice the expected rate of learning), with 6% of them improving by 2 grade-levels or more (four times the expected rate of learning). The spread of improvements indicates that any learner has the ability improve significantly.

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Learner engagement moderator

It was reported by tutors that many of the learners did not complete the material during the week, possibly as a result of learner fatigue from the greater programme and/or the lesser-structured nature of the implementation. Unfortunately, engagement at learner level could not be tracked to examine this further but it suggests the reasoning for the distribution of improvements.

Improved Numbers knowledge

The Numbers thread (consisting of 20 of the 81 concepts) was the sole focus on the intervention. This showed an increase of 10% on average with quarter of the learners improving by 20% of more. There was a significant increase in the number of learners having achieved suitable mastery of 70% of the content (from 16% to 34%).

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Improved learning behaviours

The Learning Behaviour measures provided interesting trend insights. The proportion of learners that exhibited high levels of metacognition doubled showing that learners had a better grasp of their strengths and weaknesses. Learners also demonstrated slower pace, increased precision, and greater perseverance. This demonstrable shift in behaviour possibly indicates that learners sought to apply themselves in a deeper manner as they approached their Maths.