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STRATEGIC ASSESSMENTS FOR TEACHER AND LEARNER

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Assessments serve to evaluate the learner across the different domains. They can be pen and paper based, or based on teacher’s observation of activities and performances, external reviews, and so on.

There are three main types of student assessments, all aimed at achieving best possible educational outcome for the student.

In the past, assessments were seen as an activity done once in a pre-determined while, and usually scheduled to hold at the end of certain teaching and learning periods. They mostly took the forms of grading tests and examinations.

The aim was to determine what he child had been able to learn and retain within the assessed period, and therefore to confirm the level of his qualification or not, for the next class, academic level or some academic awards.

Things have, however, since changed, and assessment is now a practical and an essential tool to facilitate and support effective teaching and learning.

To this effect, every education provider and facilitator must know how, when and where to apply each assessment method in order to achieve best results for the learner.

Each assessment type must be approached with time-tested and effective strategies.

The Assessment for Learning: This comes in two parts, respectively called the diagnostic assessment and the formative assessment.

The diagnostic assessment is done prior to commencement of the actual lesson, to confirm what the student already knows about the topic, identify and diffuse any previous misconceptions on the topic, note the psychological and mental disposition of the students, and generally be able to identify the take-off point for delivering the topic, as well as mode of delivery.

The formative assessment comes in the form of interjections, which run throughout the entire period of taking the topic. It is an ungraded assessment that enables both teacher and learner to know how much learning is actually going on in the classroom.

With this assessment, teacher confirms to himself if indeed learning is going on. It is therefore, more or less, a process by which the teacher ascertains the effectiveness of his own teaching style or method, to determine what changes or adjustments, if any, he should make.

The teacher uses the students’ learning skills, abilities and understanding to determine if he needs to change, adjust or continue with his chosen lesson contents and delivery method or approach.

The assessment for learning constantly goes on during the course of delivering the lesson, at the end of the lesson, weekly, or as often as the teacher or the school authorities believe it to be necessary.

Both types of assessment for learning, especially the formative assessment, are essential because, they alerts both student and teacher on the likely result of any form of grading tests or examinations which the child is likely to face at the end of the academic session.

With formative assessment both the teacher and learner are pre-warned of any lack of or deficiency in learning, and have the timely notice and opportunity to resolve these before any grading assessment.

The Assessment of Learning:     This assessment is done in longer intervals – possibly every ten weeks, or at the end of each school term. It is a grading assessment.

With this assessment, the teacher uses evidence (students’ performances) to confirm achievements based on the set learning objectives and output standards.

The assessment of learning serves to determine how well a student has assimilated and the lessons for the period being assessed, in comparison to the last results of his previous assessment, his peers, or more importantly, in comparison to the stipulated standard expectations set by the school or education system.

This assessment grades the students, and determines each student’s qualification or preparedness (on not) to move on to the next educational level.

Question during an assessment of learning must target to establish or confirm that the student has a full grasp of at least eighty percent of all of the topics taught during the learning period.

The Assessment as Learning:     This is an assessment as learning occurs, and is a self-assessment by which the student monitors his own learning, by asking questions, setting assignments for himself, and applying certain other strategies to know how much of the topic he has grasped, what he can or cannot do per that topic.

To make the most of this assessment process, a teacher has a duty to actively guide the student, especially the much younger ones.

Summary

Education facilitators must remember that assessments are primarily a part of the teaching and learning process, and not merely a summary for learning, and therefore, should utilise assessments for their most constructive purposes, which is, to ensure that learning goes on.

SETTING STANDARD EXAM QUESTIONS FOR PRIMARY AND POST PRIMARY STUDENTS

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In March, I had the opportunity to review for approval. the end of term questions set for primary school pupils of schools other than mine; and what I saw prodded me to do a piece aimed at enabling schools, especially the much older ones, with the knowledge of what assessment questions should look like.

Parents too should, by merely looking at their children’s exam questions, determine the true academic standards and performance of their child’s school.

An end of school term examination is classed under the assessment of learning. Its aim, unlike other assessments, is to grade the student, and determine how much learning he has earned in the given or assessed period, and how prepared he is to move on to the next academic level or qualification.

To make for an effective assessment of learning, which delivers an accurate grading outcome for the student, the examination questions must come in the forms which are precise in achieving that aims of establishing the students’ overall learning and abilities on the topics covered in the assessed period.

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS exam questions must have the following key features:

  1. Multiple objective questions must be present. In this case, the options provided must be such as would test the accuracy or exactness of the student’s knowledge of the topic.
  2. Questions without options should be there, which require the children to fill in provided gaps or blanks, with correct information. These kinds of questions challenge the students’ unguided knowledge of the topic learnt.
  3. There should be essay-type questions in English Studies, or questions (in Math) that require the child to glean information from the text, and demonstrate knowledge by showing work process or sequence to answer given. In other subjects too, essay questions are essential. For example, a question under National Values may require a student in primary four to write a short note on the effects of drug abuse the child.
  4. Measurable terms must be used in phrasing the question. Such words as define, explain, find, calculate, draw, and so on are recommended.
  5. The questions must be age appropriate. For instance, in setting the question, “Briefly discuss on the menace of drug abuse in the society”, a child in lower primary may be asked to write three sentences on the effects of drug abuse on people, while an older child may be required to write twenty sentences, or certain numbers of paragraphs, depending on class and age.

It is also not right to set questions that are obviously beneath standards for the age or class of the students being assessed. For instance, while the teacher may, for a primary one class set 5+10+2 = _______, it may be more appropriate for a primary two teacher to ask the children to provide “the sum of fifteen, ten and twelve”.

  • Examiner should ask open-ended questions, or if asking apparently close-ended questions, they should be such that, although they are grammatically close-ended, they are conceptually or cognitively open-ended, requiring additional information from a better-informed student.

Example, the question, “Did the tortoise behave well in the story?” may be regarded as grammatically close-ended; but, for the teacher to test the student’s cognitive content or demand more from the student, he should expect the student to go beyond the, “yes” or “no” answer, by providing answer to  the question, “Why do you think so?”

  • Avoid questions that require subjective answers, unless the subjective question is requiring the child to write an argumentative essay, supporting his opinion on a subject.
  • Do not ask a question which already answers all or parts of the question. For instance, “Add 10+2” is not a good question, because, the question 10+2 = ______, ought to assess both the child’s recognition and understanding of the addition and equality symbols, as well as check the child’s ability to do the sum.
  • Questions that do not offer any direction, or whose answers are only in the examiners mind, notebook or textbook should be completely avoided.

A live example of such questions happened years ago. The question was, “____________ is _________ in ___________.”  Needless to say that none of the assessed students could provide any answers to the question.

When questioned, this teacher explained that the answer she expected was, “wind is air in motion”, apparently because, that was how the information appeared in her notes or textbook on the topic.

Exam questions must be such that a knowledgeable scholar on the topic should be able to decipher what the examiner seeks, and respond appropriately, even when he had himself, never attended the examiner’s class.

  • Exam questions must not be such that the only possible correct answers must invariably come from what was done in the classroom. They must be such that encourage the learner to research beyond the classroom, or that acknowledge and reward the student’s incidental or experiential knowledge or learning.
  • Each examination paper must cover question on at least 80% of the curricular or lessons contents for the assessed period.

The teacher owes it as a duty to both the institution and the learner to present questions which do not undermine the learner’s capacity or the professional image of the brand represented, that is, the school; and every administrator worth his salt must be knowledgeable enough to ensure that only standard questions are ever put out of his school.

LITERACY IN CHILDHOOD & EARLY CHILDHOOD -Has That Child Really Learnt to Read?

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What is Literacy?

In most of our schools, in Nigeria, especially in the early childhood classes, there is a subject called Literacy. In some schools, it is erroneously called Language and Communication.

As a teacher, I am particularly interested in this subject, Literacy, especially in the early childhood and childhood classes, because, it is indisputably a sine qua non for learning to be unhampered and fun for the child. Without literacy, a child cannot really “know book”, because, he will lack the relevant communication skills, which is the fundamental ingredient for full participation in class and for learning in all of the other subject areas.

Literacy is the ability to read, write, speak, listen and understand in a particular language, for effective communication.

There are different types of languages. We have national languages, local dialects, and even professional language; and for one to be able to communicate with understanding in the relevant setting, he must be literate in that language. In a professional setting, for instance, he must understand the language (the jargon and terms) of that profession.

For us, as schools in Nigeria, Literacy generally refers to the fundamental ability to read, write, understand and communicate correctly in in the English Language.

To equip the child with the ability to also speak the language such that he can easily understand and be understood when attempting to communicate orally with the owners of the language, should be the ultimate higher aim of any good education provider.

When Has the Child Attained True Literacy in the English Language?

In the early childhood stages (age 0 to 6 years), the objective of the Literacy activities is to help the child to be able to speak, read and write in the Language.

Literacy can, therefore, be said to have been attained when a child can independently perform certain literacy tasks, including hearing, articulation and isolation of the sounds in given words, as well as the syllables found in words, and eventually write dictated words and decode or read written words.

Children as young as three to four years old, who have been properly exposed to functional curricular contents in literacy, should be able to hear and articulate their sounds well enough to read written words and write dictated words of any length.

I will always want to remind educators and parents of our clime that, apart from sight or non-phonetic words, memorisation or mere recognition of words does not translate to an ability to read, nor does it show that literacy has been achieved. For instance, if indeed a child can read c.a.t as cat, he should be able to read the words act and tack. He should also be able to read the word attack. If he cannot do all, that child has merely memorised the word spelling, and cannot actually read.

Going from the above, it can be expected that by late early childhood, a child who has consistently been in a “good” educational environment, with a knowledgeable key person, should be able to read full sentences and even age-recommended storybooks, with reasonable fluency. He should, in particular, especially in our country where English is an acquired language, be able to hear and use certain commonly confuse sounds as distinct from one another. Examples include the regular sounds made by the letters and letter-combinations i, e, ee, o, oo, u, and so on.

Between the start and the end of the childhood phase (age 6 to 12 years), that is elementary one to six, a child must have learnt to speak and decipher and use English words such as to be able to seamlessly communicate with a person who knows and speaks English as his first language. And by this, I do not mean speaking with certain affected foreign intonations, as many schools and parents in Nigeria have often been confused into embracing as “Phonics”, “Diction” or “Phonetics”.

What this means, therefore, is that the child should have practical knowledge and use of the letter sounds in words, hear them and say them with good understanding of the clear differences between all the sounds which make up each word of each sentence. He should, for instance, at this stage, know that the oo may sound one thing in one word, and quite another in another word; as it does in the words room, book and blood; or be able to tell and demonstrate the differences between the sound made by the i and that made by the ee or the ea in words. He should also know that the last three letters in each of the words “bare”, “bear’ and “beer” have totally different sounds. Very importantly, he should also know the ways to correctly differentiate and pronounce the short sounds of the a, the u and the o, and so on.

For us in Africa, learning the sound symbols and paying close listening attention to fluent speakers are essential to the child achieving these levels of literacy. Therefore, contrary to the usual practice observed at schools, not just “any teacher” is okay for primary, nursery or pre-nursery.

Practical knowledge of expressions and their meanings are also parts of the literacy skills which the learner of the language must achieve by the time he is closing in on primary five and six. Some common expressions such as, “to look a gift horse in the mouth” and “much ado about nothing”, are ingredients that add colour and spice to the spoken word, especially in creative writing.

Of course, it goes without saying that, in addition to all of the above, the child should, at both the childhood and the early childhood classes, speak and write with impeccable grammatical accuracy. That too is a duty for the education provider.

In all, every institution worth its salt as an education provider, must build its literacy curriculum in such a way that it ensures, as much as is feasible, that the child is provided the enabling environment to achieve all of the above, within the recommended or expected time frame.

BEFORE YOU ADMIT THAT SPECIAL CHILD IN YOUR SCHOOL

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A school owner once asked me what to do with a special needs child who was, according to her, highly and easily irritable, which irritation he expressed with out-of-control screams and aggressive acts of violence, all of which she said disrupted the general school and classroom activities.

Educational and other special needs or challenges in children can present in varying forms and manners. They are many, and there are so many varieties of each, that few, other than a special needs educator, doctor or other specialist may be able to grasp and handle them.

A child with special educational needs, even when placed in a regular school, will still need the special attention of trained and certified professionals who understand the peculiarities in the particular challenge which that child may have.

As a school, if you do not have the knowledge, skills and facilities to manage these children, you must immediately indicate that fact to the parents, when they come seeking enrollment, so that they can go find and enroll in an organisation which can be of real help to the child. But, if you must admit a special child in your school, then, you must provide the necessary support facilities, and engage the services of special teachers and trained professionals that can handle whatever particular needs the child may have.

In Nigeria, because of schools’ drive for that one more enrollment, and the ignorance of parents who insist that “anything goes”, schools admit these children to whom they can offer little or no help at all. This is unethical, to say the least.

Remember that, as an institution, once you admit a child in your school, you have indirectly or tacitly given to the parents a guarantee of your expertise and competence in the area of service required. You have promised results. Therefore, you must be seen to deliver on that promise.

Yes, it is recommended that those special ones school and work together with regular children who are their peers. But, it is even more so to ensure that they receive the specific support and assistance they require in order to thrive.

If as a school, you cannot or are not equipped to cope with special children, please, do not admit them. Refer them to better-prepared schools, where they stand the best chance of achieving their best potentials.

Parents with a special needs child must stop looking for cheaper or “anyhow” options for these children, and must be made to seek the right kind of help and support for the child. Much as they hated me for it, when the special needs parents I had in my school insisted they did not want to pay to have the relevant professional help, and demanded that I just “do it anyhow”, I had to turn all nine of them away, with referrals to professionals who could help. It was then up to them to comply with better reason, and do the right thing by those children. And I sincerely hope that they did…

About Me

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Hello, Esteemed                       

I’m your host at Share To Learn…

My name is Nkem; a very enthusiastic and constantly-learning educator. And I’m all eager to share with you, all of the relevant experiences I gathered while serving in both the education and other sectors of our economy.

I have a natural passion for education, information and knowledge; and my hope is to help Nigerian schools better-understand and embrace the twenty-first century education concepts and approaches.

My early career started as a full-time legal practitioner, called to the Nigerian bar in 1995… (I guess that puts me in the category of “learned, as well… lol?).

From years of engaging law practice, I moved into the entrepreneurial and private sector, garnering invaluable experiences working for several years, respectively as a business development manager, copy-writer, brands activation and development director, head of legal services in a banking institution, editor and publisher, in a publishing outfit, publisher of ‘Nemdi, a proudly-Nigerian gloss magazine for women.

I am a published author of a number of books for children and young people (written in both the English and the Igbo languages). I’m also an experienced school proprietor, school administrator, and a devoted teacher at the early years and tertiary levels of education.

A fantastically proud mother of five, and a stubborn believer in the Self, I know there’s nothing I cannot achieve, once my heart is set on it. And my first and second encouragement to people with whom I’m privilege to meet, especially my students, are, “never say I can’t, until you’ve given it your uttermost best shot” and “never you ever stay down, where you’ve fallen; because, now, you’re re-equipped to start over again and do it even better!”

I invite you to join me at www.sharetolearneducators.com where we can refresh and re-energise one another with information and ideas, for the benefit of our learners.

Share to Learn is a town hall meeting for parents and all other providers of educational service; and I’ll be here to pilot our activities…

                                                                                     

WHY SHARE TO LEARN

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A teacher is a constant learner. She remains hungry for more, and keeps acquiring and renewing knowledge and information, to the benefit of the learner.

Since a true educator is not a rusty warehouse of ancient and outdated ideas and methods, there is the serious need for every educator to maintain a continuous flow of information and re-information, through constant training and re-training.

Share to Learn is an educators’ Town Hall gathering, where we aim to encourage and support the Nigerian educator to understand and embrace the 21st Century educational concepts and approaches, and shoo stagnation and mediocrity out of every level of our schools system; and at the end of the day, raise children who are equipped with the skills necessary to thrive in their own world.

Who is invited to Share to Learn Educators?

Every educator or aspiring educator is welcome. Educator here includes potential school owners, who are wondering if, how, where and when to establish and run a viable school; owners of young schools, who want to know the next steps to take towards becoming the giant institutions of their dream; already-established, giant and advanced schools who are keen to keep up with the fast-changing events in the education sector, and who also want to share their experiences to enrich the rest of us on the platform. Share to Learn is also for teachers, who are eager and ready to give more, learn more, to earn more; as well as for parents and would-be parents who must always make right choices in finding the perfect-fit school for their children.

Indeed, Share to Learn is for anyone who needs the 4-1-1 on how to put together and provide the best educational packages for today’s intensely-knowledgeable and information-hungry learner.

Here, we will also learn about our respective rights, obligations and duties under the Law, as facilitators of education or recipients of educational services.

This town hall, with your host, Nkem, will also provide you the opportunity to advertise your school, educational services and materials, and receive, as a parent, advice on the best(endorsed) schools in which to enroll your child at the size of your pocket.

Looking forward to having you’all!