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Monthly Archives: October 2013

The first round of design discussions ended with the identification of a need to run the re-designed report card with school teachers, especially those who are involved with the evaluation process. Tarun managed to set up a meeting with one of the teachers (by writing a beautiful e-mail) at DPS, Bopal–Mr. Noble Thomas, who has been working on creating systems (as excel spreadsheets and web based) to make it easier for teachers to handle evaluation data and remove the burden of making all the calculations to convert marks to aggregated grades.

It was by chance that there was also a PTA meeting at the school on the day I went to meet Mr. Noble. So after a nice ride on a bike with the wind blowing across my face, I got the opportunity to sit on some parent-teacher discussions. Since it was the middle of the academic year, the report card was not out yet but I could observe the concern on the parents’ faces and the yearning for some kind of feedback from the teachers. It almost felt like the teachers were counsellors for the parents–they just needed someone to talk to about their children.

Meeting Mr. Noble, who is a physics teacher (and extremely enterprising) proved to be extremely insightful. He confirmed my understanding of the evaluation system by drawing a simple flowchart to explain its various components and weighting. He showed me how teachers fill in evaluation data into the web-based system that the school has developed and how that gets reflected into grades.

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IMG_6831 copyWhen I shared the design of the report card that I had come up with, he was quickly able to identify areas that were ambiguous–the representation of the grading scale. I had not taken into account decimal points, so my grading scale would create confusion about the grade for a student who has scored marks between 90 and 91 (for example). Would he be given an A1 or an A2? Mr. Noble clarified that in their school, a student would be awarded the higher grade only if they score above 90 and anything up to 90 would be awarded the lower grade.

IMG_6826 copyThe web based system that they used required teachers to fill in about 5 to 10 questions to decide a grade for each indicator, which made it about 60-70 questions for each student. So it still took quite some time to evaluate each student. He also mentioned that the descriptive indicators were not entirely true or reflected the grade of the student as the CBSE mandate requires the descriptive indicators to be only written on a positive note, but the grade might not comply with what was written. Therefore, teachers get limited with their choice of words and parents are usually confused due to the conflict that this presents.

The inclusion of progress bars was something that he thought made a lot of sense to give an idea about the progress made by the student at a quick glance. So, with some refinements and careful consideration, the design should add value to the existing report card.

Now to the next iteration of the design of the report card.

I had a discussion with Tarun regarding these explorations, and he identified key issues with the layout, naming and information hierarchy.

IMG_6809 copy The most important part was the visual representation of the grading system, which was not consistent through different sections of the report card, and the thickness of the lines that was used to demarcate sections and subject fields.

IMG_6812 copy IMG_6814 copy Descriptions for Formative and Summative Assessment need to be added.

IMG_6816 copy Tarun suggested that term 1 and term 2 be joined horizontally so as to signify the continuation of the same subject field instead of separating them via the center-fold.

IMG_6817 copySection 3A & B need to be redesigned in the same format as the other sections with the two terms in horizontal alignment with each other instead of the vertical hierarchy as shown above to maintain consistency. Further, details of health status can be given to reduce confusion.

Another interesting thing that came up was the usage of horizontal lines above and below a label. Since the report card has boxes, as well single horizontal lines that create areas that need to filled by the student or teacher, will they fill the area above or below the line? This would also have to be made consistent and perhaps tested, to find the right solution.

My second round of explorations based on these discussions will begin today.

 

Based on the design considerations mentioned in the earlier posts, I started exploring possibilities of restructuring the information hierarchy and visual elements to make it easier both to fill, as well as comprehend and analyze the report card. The constraints of which were that it had to be a double sided A3, black and white (could be printed on any colour paper), used fonts that were available on Windows operation systems and designed in Microsoft Excel.

Exploration 1: I started off using two typefaces, Arial & Georgia–a standard serif and sans-serif pairing. My main aim was to figure out a way to remove the need to flip pages to read the legend while having to analyze the grades, and to make it easy to see the progress over the two terms.

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This exploration was too heavy on the eye, and there seemed to be too many lines that were obstructing the reader from the content of the report card.

Exploration 2: I set the entire report card in varying weights and styles of Corbel in the next exploration which is a clean sans-serif typeface and works well in print. I also removed some of the boxes around the subject fields to make the layout less claustrophobic. The grading system and the section indicators were made grey to reduce the attention being grabbed by them.

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Exploration 3: This is the same as exploration 2 except that the grading system is enclosed in a grey box to separate it from the rest of the content.

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Exploration 4: Some of the descriptions have been taken to the opposite page under the life skills section to free up more space to add more indicators, and health status now uses the left column on the last page and frees up space to include a section on parent’s observations. Inclusion of progress bars on the right side of term 2 to indicate ascent or decline in the grades for each subject.

RC_Exp_Mocks_High10 RC_Exp_Mocks_High11 RC_Exp_Mocks_High12

 

These were the first set of explorations that I took to my guide. Although this seemed like the right direction to take, there were quite a few hierarchy and comprehension issues. The representation of the grading system was not consistent, and section 3A & B, since they were on the last page, did not have a similar format for the two terms as in the other sections. One common denominator in these explorations is the absence of the overall grade (culmination of all formative and summative assessments for all subjects as well as co-scholastic activities), for which justification has been provided in an earlier post.