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Design Validation

For the third round of design validation, with the help of Mr. Noble Thomas of DPS Bopal, we conducted a group discussion with teachers who are also parents of students in classes 6,7 and 8. It was an information group discussion meant to provide valuable feedback on the design of the report card and to open up a debate around student evaluation from both perspectives.

The discussion was conducted with a group of seven teachers, and to start it off, I explained to them in brief the problems my research had shown (specific to the report card).

IMG_6709 copyAs has been the case with the feedback on the report card with other parents and teachers, the positioning of the grading scale next to the corresponding sections of the report card and the horizontal alignment of the two terms was greatly appreciated.

They brought to light the fact that although projects were inducing stress on parents, and in some cases, students were buying projects from various sources—it was fostering a culture of cross-subject learning, as students were required to apply their learning from different subjects to create projects and presentations on topics such as female foeticide.

IMG_6706 copy There was a unanimous consent about the fact that the co-scholastic indicators were extremely fuzzy and both confusing and not fruitful for students and parents. The CBSE mandate that nothing negative should be written in the descriptions limited the teachers’ ability to give correct feedback and often there is a mismatch between the grades and the written description. As parents, they did not pay attention to the section at all, unless in the case where the student is not strong academically and these indicators helped him or her get a better overall grade.

My take on the overall grade, that it is not an accurate representation of student learning was completely rejected, as teachers said that it helped them in understanding the position of students in their class, and created a benchmark and motivated students to work harder to fall into the performing students category (A1 / A2 grade). However, they agreed that it does induce a sense of competition and labels students but that is not a big enough reason for the overall grade to be removed from the report card, as such.

IMG_6708 copyThe last thing that was appreciated was the inclusion of the “Teacher’s Message” where they felt that parents and students would only take that bit seriously in terms of what the teacher had to say—it also becomes memorable to some extent for the students. It is more effective and meaningful than the automated sentences listed out to be filled in the descriptive indicators.

This round would successfully end the design validation stage. I would now be preparing a document of the research, insights and design outcome to present it to the CBSE with an aim to call for a debate and critically reason the methodology of student evaluation and the requirement of appropriate tools and resources for parents and teachers to make student evaluation a far more useful process to aid student learning.

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Its time to get the design validation under way—to get feedback from parents and teachers about the redesigned report card, and include their views to guide the future of the report card. I met with Dr. Niyati Lakhani who is the mother of Kahan, a 13 year old boy in class 7. She was very welcoming and we discussed at length about the project and coming from a  background of healthcare & pedagogy, she was quite spot on with some of her observations and suggestions.

IMG_5022 copyI had initial trouble explaining to her how redesigning the report card would change anything with respect to the education system and CCE, but gradually she understood some of my ideas, concerns and constraints as well as appreciated the fact that I acknowledged those.

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Key Points from the Interview:

– Most parents have a very hard time understanding the report card, lose interest and concentrate only on the scholastic areas since the children do not care about the other indicators, and the teachers have no fair justification or standard methodology to grade other areas.

– The placement of the grading scale for different sections right next to the display of grades made it a lot easier for her to refer to the scale and derive meaning out of the report card.

– The inclusion of progress bars and the shift of focus from the overall grade to progress over time is also a good change. However, she found it hard to comprehend the report card without the overall grade, since that is the first-go-to indicator for parents.

– She also said that since there is no fair basis for evaluating students on co-scholastic areas and especially their life skills, it becomes rather mind boggling for parents to understand, and it becomes an extremely complex array of information to comprehend. She suggested reducing the number of indicators drastically instead of increasing them. Also, to re-examine the indicators that are being evaluated, or at least provide an explanation of what is expected out of the student since the descriptive indicators and the grade often are not synchronized in meaning.

– The concept of sorting the subjects in order of the highest to the lowest grade was taken well but she raised a very important point that it isn’t easy to understand the report card and people have developed a mental model with the standard order of subjects. Rearranging those might distort their perception and would confuse the parents even more. This would need to be included systemically and explained to the parents and students by the school.

– She mentioned that teaching is a side-profession for most people (especially women), and since there aren’t enough teachers and most women move along with their husbands, they usually do not take ownership of their profession. This leads to a lack of understanding of the student and a disconnect between the teacher and parent.

– She suggested studying the perception of parents from different backgrounds as those who are professional are more concerned about maths and science because they want their children to be able to sustain themselves at a later stage and make a career for themselves, where as parents with businesses wouldn’t be as concerned since the child is expected to inherit the family business. Certain subjects are also neglected because of this mindset.

IMG_5040 copyApart from the validation of the design, she spoke about the influence of technology and gaming on student psyche and time spent with parents – raising the point that there is a need to understand the difference between a “degree” and “education”, and education goes beyond school into homes. A generation gap was clearly felt (even with me), in terms of ideology, belief systems and values. I might not be in a position to agree or disagree with her having my own set of perceptions and beliefs, the concern of a parent came through very clearly.

I would conclude saying the interview left me with mixed feelings about the design of the report card. What was very clear though was that presentation of student learning on one side, the very content being presented needs to be examined and teachers need to be sensitized and motivated, more importantly need to realize that they are grooming the future of the country, and have to take ownership and responsibility of the fact.