Scaling for the Future

What we 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 student engagement to a greater degree. Students engaged more deeply with their mathematics, working slower with better precision and greater perseverance when a part of the catch-up process.

The background

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

The baseline results

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

The intervention

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

Overall improvements

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

Student Engagement Moderator

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

Improved Numbers knowledge

The Numbers journey (consisting of 20 of the 81 concepts) was the sole focus on the intervention. This showed an increase of 11% on average with quarter of the students improving by 20% of more. There was a significant increase in the number of students having achieved suitable mastery of 70% of the content (from 16% to 34%).

Improved learning behaviours

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

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