Micro-Innovations in Students' Assessment and Attendance - II

Continued Theme: Assessment and tracking of Student Attendance, progress and achievement

Being aware of where your students are – both in terms of academic progress and their literal attendance in class – is one of the most important roles a teacher plays. All too often, even the simplest form of student tracking is not taking place, and where it is, consistency and effective monitoring is not guaranteed. The proof is in the empty chairs: Delhi, for example, has an average attendance rate of less than 70%, with up to 10% of students dropping out of school before even completing primary. With the focus on “education for all” in India, STIR has been investigating the innovative approaches teachers and principals have taken to ensure an enrolled pupil is not just a number on a page, but rather, is on a rigorously assessed journey of progression.

For #1 to #7 of the micro-innovations, click here.

#8: Stars for skills

Context: Sangeeta, a teacher at the Nagar Nigam Pratibha Vidyalaya school in Pushp Vihar, found that she was finding it hard to keep track of which students had mastered which skills and that they were not as motivated as they could be in class. 

Micro-innovation: description, implementation and impact (according to the teacher): Sangeeta has introduced a skill based ‘star chart’ into her class. Students are awarded a star whenever they exhibit any skill listed on the chart and children receiving the maximum number of stars are given an award at the end of each month. This micro-innovation not only motivates students but gives Sangeeta a clear visual reminder of which students still need to develop certain skills. She can refer to the chart during lessons when asking questions and while provide assistance for students on a one-to-one basis.
To be genuinely useful, teachers will need to ensure they make full use of the chart in planning lessons and during class. This may require some training. Sangeeta has noticed that children are motivated by the drive to gain more stars and try hard to exhibit the skills listed in the chart.

#9: Pupil attendance scanner

Context: Sacred Heart Public School is a co-ed school located in the middle of a crowded market on South Anarkali Road. Many students at Sacred Heart were consistently absent from school, and teachers were finding it difficult to keep track of student whereabouts. Ajay Garg was also receiving many complaints from parents whose children were returning home hours after school had finished and who were accusing the school of keeping their children late.

Micro-innovation: description, implementation and impact (according to the teacher): The micro-innovation designed to overcome this involved re-organising the school finances with a small increase in fees, in order to invest in a new technology to track student attendance. Ajay invested in a biometric fingerprinting system, which every child must use to 'touch in' and 'out' of school each day. The technology then automatically sends an SMS to their parents' mobile telephone to let them know the exact time at which the children arrived and left school. Ajay is now able to identify students who are consistently absent or late and, therefore, can provide extra support and discipline. It also enables him to provide parents with clear information about their children’s movements.
This micro-innovation not only provides solid data about student attendance that can be used to plan more effective support for individual students, it also increases communication between parents and the school, helping them to be more aligned in the education of their children.
There is potential for children to ‘game’ the system by arriving in the morning, signing in and then leaving again. If the scanner is to be successful, it will need to be part of a wider student and parental engagement strategy. Ajay reports that attendance levels have increased, and student safety has been ensured after school. Students now feel more accountable for their attendance.

#10: Getting Kids to School

Context: Nagar Nigam Pratibha Vidyalaya is a school run by Municipal Corporation of Delhi and is located in the semi-urban area of Kalkaji, South Delhi. Pritam Kaur, the Principal, realised that the low attendance in all classes was hampering the overall learning levels at the school and a regular daily register, although useful in terms of information, was not useful in increasing the attendance of the students in the school.

Micro-innovation: description, implementation and impact (according to the teacher): Pritam introduced three kinds of badges to increase student attendance– Red, Green and Black. Red badges are given to the students who have full attendance in a month. Green badges are given to the students who are absent for a day or two and black badges are given to students who are absent for many days in a month without any prior information. But Pritam has not yet given any black badges as she feels it might demotivate the students. This micro-innovation is interesting because it uses the coloured badges as positive reinforcement to improve attendance.
Giving badges to the students will require the school to invest certain amount of money. Further, additional research is required on the potential effects of giving a black badge to children. Pritam noticed that students have started coming more regularly to school and try not to be absent. There is healthy competition among students to get a red badge in her school now.

#11: Science Fair and Drawing Competition

Context: Happy Time Public School is an Affordable Private School in the semi urban area, Bhajanpura in East Delhi. Rupali Rastogi, a Grade 5 teacher, noticed that student attendance in the first few days after vacations is usually very low. Even after having many meetings with the parents, she hardly saw any improvement.

Micro-innovation: description, implementation and impact (according to the teacher): Rupali started holding some events like Science Fair and Art Competitions in the week after vacations, to ensure that the students come to school. On the first day just after holidays she announces the event to be held on the following Saturday. Rupali helps them prepare the projects/models in that week – models that they will showcase in the exhibition. She also invites the parents to such events and the students with the best work are awarded by their parents. This not only improves attendance early in the term but also provides an opportunity to engage parents at the start of the new term.

Spending three days preparing for such events after each vacation can be time consuming and would also demand resources that all the schools might not have. Rupali reports that students are excited to present their work, which builds their confidence, and, in particular, enables them to speak in English in front of others. Parents also like attending such events and ensure that they send their children to school even after vacations.

#12: Incentive Chart

Context: Vivek Modern School is an Affordable Private School located in the semi urban area, Subhash Vihar in East Delhi. Meenakshi, a grade 3 teacher, was finding it hard to keep track of student progress and realised that her students were not as motivated as they could be in the class.

Micro-innovation: description, implementation and impact (according to the teacher): With the help of other teachers in school, Meenakshi has introduced an ‘Incentive Chart’ in her class. Students get a Smiley drawn in front of their names on the chart if they exhibit good behaviour and finish work on time. Students receiving 10 Smileys get a ‘Smiley Badge’ which they can put on their uniform for a week and after getting 30 Smileys on the chart, they get a ‘Feel Proud Card’ in the assembly by the Principal. This micro-innovation is interesting because it not only motivates the students but also gives the teacher a clear visual reminder of which students still need to improve in certain areas. She can refer to the Smiley chart during the day and support students one-on-one. It also makes peer recognition the highest honour, therefore reinforcing the idea that progress and learning should be celebrated.
To be genuinely useful, teachers will need to ensure that they make full use of the chart during class. This may require adding more structure to the process. Meenakshi has noticed that students are motivated to gain more Smileys and Feel Proud Cards from the Principal and try hard to improve. Students love to be appreciated by their teachers and their peers.

#13: Let’s Complete Homework

Context: Satya Elementary School is run by Bharti Foundation in a rural area, Budhakheri in Punjab. Mr. Baldev Singh, a Grade 6 and 7 teacher, noticed that many of his students were not serious about completing their homework on time. He found it difficult to keep a check on which students have and which students have not completed the assigned tasks.

Micro-innovation: description, implementation and impact (according to the teacher): Mr. Singh prepared a homework task checklist for each term. The checklist has details of all the chapters or tasks to be covered during the term, the expected completion date for the task and the names of all his students. Every time a student completes his assigned work, he comes to the checklist and signs and dates the task in front of his name. This allows Mr. Singh to see which students have completed the set tasks on time and whose task is pending. The checklist visually reminds the students about the chapters to be completed in the term and helps them to see the learning coming up and what’s expected of them. It also helps both the students and the teachers to keep a check of whether they are managing to complete their work on time and enables teachers to spot the need for an intervention with particular students early on.
Although the students are signing in the checklist, the teacher also has to create systems and block time in his own schedule to check the work in the notebooks and closely monitor the quality of completed work by his students. Completing work on time is just the first step in terms of monitoring students’ learning through homework. Mr. Singh says that a new realisation has dawned upon the students about the need to plan carefully to manage their workload. After checking the pending work list they have started completing their tasks on time. The checklist is also being used as an assessment tool to assess whether the class is meeting the term goal of finishing different topics in time.

#14: Tracking and encouraging student success

Context: Iram and her colleagues at Majeediya Madarsa-e-Jadeed noticed that students would sometimes give up too easily when facing difficulty rather than persevering and that their behaviour was solely focused on academic results rather than a more holistic concern for their own development.

Micro-innovation: description, implementation and impact (according to the teacher): To overcome this, Iram introduced Smiley Cards. In order to encourage students who show improvement in their whole development and to persevere in their studies, the school gives a smiley card to the children on showing improvement. Each smiley card holds a value of Rs. 10 and the students strive to collect as many smiley cards as possible during an academic session which can be redeemed at the end of the session. Smiley cards are given, for example, for improved academic performance, participation in extra-curricular activities and helping others or volunteering. This micro-innovation is interesting in that its emphasis on improvement, rather than end results, helps students to focus on continued learning not just on achieving a certain grade. Some research on cash-based incentives for students suggests that they may not lead to sustained behaviour change. Iram has noticed that students have become more engaged with school since smiley cards were introduced and that their all-round behaviour has improved.

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