The Breakthrough

What we learnt:

Learners have the ability to catch-up 4-6 grades of knowledge in Mathematics within a single year. Personalised diagnostic assessment can be used to actively engage learners in their own learning process. The building of knowledge along logical learning trajectories helps learners make sense of the subject they are learning. The catching-up of learning gaps can take place concurrently to other grade-level support.

The background

In January 2012, Uplands Outreach started a project called Learners for Excellence (L4E) in which five promising Grade 10 Maths learners from each of the 10 Insikazi circuit high schools were selected to participate. It was a 3-year Mathematics learner enrichment Saturday programme aimed at empowering learners to be ready for tertiary education.

The baseline results

Reflective Learning’s high school assessment assessed the across the seven conceptual threads, benchmarking them at Grades 3, 6 and 9 levels to expose any learning gaps. The results of the baseline tests results were disappointing especially considering that these learners were chosen to participate in the L4E programme either because of their achievement or interest in Mathematics. Overall, the learners achieved an average of just 23.8%. The highest achievement was 48% while the lowest was just 10%. In reality, this should not have come as a surprise because the South African Annual National Assessments (ANAs) had been administered for the first time in 2011 to Grade 3 and Grade 6 learners with disappointing results.

The intervention

There was limited time available for remediation as learners continued with the support provided at grade-level. As an integral part of the approach, these diagnostic results were shared with the learners to serve as a blueprint for personal remediation. The customised feedback identified individual conceptual difficulties which helped learners take responsibility and ownership of their personal learning development. Their gaps were then targeted by providing material specific to their needs on a weekly-basis while working with groups at various levels during a one-hour weekly Saturday lesson. Learners focused on developing deep understanding often from Grade 1 level up to Grade 9 level. Learners analysed their results each week which developed their overall learning skills as they learnt to identify, understand and conquer their own specific misconceptions and errors to attain Maths mastery.

Overall improvements

A year later, learners completed a post-intervention assessment to measure the progress made – and the results were incredible. Learners caught up an average of 4 grades, with one learner catching up more than 6 grades! Every learner improved significantly.

Thread improvements

When looking at the threads, improvements occurred across the board. It should be noted that Fractions and Problem-Solving were the most difficult threads to remediate.

The long-term impact

Those same learners went on to excel in their final school exams two years later. That group achieved 3-times the national average for Bachelor Exemptions and distinctions. 29 of them received bursaries for tertiary studies and they had 100% pass rate for their first year of studies! Years later, they have qualified in fields as diverse as engineering, teaching, pharmacy, IT and law.

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