Roseau Preparatory (not its real name, and not to be confused with Roseau Primary School, an existing school that is also performing well nationally) is a Catholic school for boys and girls, from Pre-K to Grade 6. It is well-known for its exemplary educational program, having produced alumni that later on succeeded in secondary school, college, and even university. The school is known to top inter-school competitions, including recent Reading and Spanish ones where its students placed first or at least a runner up position. It also usually does very well in national examinations. This school year is no exception: the Grade Six graduating class produced more than twenty scholars and almost twenty bursars, out of fifty one graduates in all. The Student of the Year has received four As, the highest possible set of grades for Common Entrance. This school year, for the first time, all the grade levels have two classes each. The second grade classes each have twenty plus students of varying intelligences and behaviours. This is an improved setup as previous setups of forty plus or fifty plus seven year olds in one confined space could be very overwhelming and even chaotic for both teacher and students. Renewed interest from prospective parents and students, however, is placing the school in the same danger of overpopulating each class. The second grade classes, just like the school as a whole, have a predominantly Afro-Caribbean population, with a few Caucasian, Asian, and those of mixed descent.
SITUATION/HUMAN PERFORMANCE Though Roseau Preparatory generally does well in academics, especially in national exams, it has recently done less satisfactorily in the Mathematics Third Grade National Assessment Exams. This has a significant impact in the second grade classes because Third Grade National Assessment covers second grade school work. Poor performance may also put into question the performances of the teacher or teachers involved, although the students’ capabilities and interests in Mathematics may also be strong factors. In Roseau Preparatory, some Mathematics concepts are better-received than others. One of the main causes of this is that more fundamental concepts should have been mastered in First Grade and not crammed in the already packed Second Grade syllabus. Two meetings had been held just to address this disparity between the much relatively easy Grade One syllabus and the challenging Grade Two one. A note on how easy the Grade One syllabus is the fact that the Grade K classes are using the same textbook with little to no problems among the younger group. The school places great significance in Religion and Mathematics in particular. Religion is placed at high esteem due to the fact that it is a Catholic primary school. Mathematics is also regarded as a very important subject, more likely due to it being the foundation of several technological subjects that the children may encounter in secondary school, college, or even university. Therefore, if Roseau Preparatory is expected to really show competence, the school should be able to produce students that excel in Mathematics.
GLOBAL ISSUE/PROBLEM “A good understanding of mathematics not only enhances learning in science and technology subjects, it is also a fundamental skill relevant to many aspects of everyone's working and social life” (The Guardian, 2016). In this day and age, when technology has been undoubtedly ruling and continuously improving our way of life, we can thus see just how more important a role Mathematics is playing and will continue to play. Many countries are underperforming in the subject, unfortunately. The Guardian article also mentions the UK as one of the places where the students have the resources but are not performing according to expectations in the said subject. Therefore, the problem is not present among third world countries alone. It is a global issue with repercussions in many fields. As mentioned earlier, science and technology are reliant on Mathematics skills. Grade Two Mathematics is especially important because it is fundamental and it is at the cusp of more difficult and more important concepts. For example, it is at this grade that addition and subtraction should be mastered and multiplication and division should be introduced. These basic operations are needed in functioning better at more complex formulas. PURPOSE The study’s purpose is to discover whether disparity in terms of intelligence and attitude towards studies among the children, unsatisfactory strategizing among the teachers or the crammed syllabus is most to blame for the performance gaps. Is this even a matter of a performance gap among the children or a performance gap among the teachers? Aside from shifting some topics to the Grade One syllabus, Grade Two topics should be taught with more care and more creativity. More than half of the Grade 2 classes have to make use of tallies and drawings just to understand the main operations, especially multiplication and division. As not to discourage the young learners, the teacher should be able to make use of different ways of teaching each topic. To better cater to the different learning styles of the children, a survey of how each child learns can be conducted. The strengths of the teachers should also be assessed through lesson plan monitoring and class observations. They can be assessed against the children’s Mathematics results. The consistency of the child’s performance can be assessed, based on each topic. To better understand the situation, let us take a look at the desired and actual performances of Roseau Preparatory. Present outcomes Present outcomes have been identified through the collating and recording of the results of Mathematics tests, quizzes, and exams from both the second grade classes. Some are observations of actual classes being implemented and the discussions among the teachers involved: teachers from Pre-K to Grade 2.
About 50% to 60% of the class shows that they have a strong grasp of the more difficult topics, such as Multiplication and Division.
About 12.5% of the class shows that they have not grasped even concepts that were passed on from First Grade and even Grade K. A proof of this would be a student who needed to be prompted with objects or fingers just to figure out what 3 + 1 was.
The children are excited about Mathematics, but would either be strong at mental mathematics (memorized), or mathematics with visual aids. There are a few of them who are strong at both, more likely the same 50% to 60% that are doing well.
While class recitation and board work reveal a good understanding of the concepts, some students can only work well when with a group while being encouraged by the rest of the class. On their own, some of them falter during the actual tests.
The National Assessment Tests showed poor showing in Mathematics, a little on par with the Grade Six National Assessment Tests, which showed a 65% national score in 2014. Concepts received varying results, such as 67% in Number Concepts and 58% in Measurement, according to the Curriculum, Measurement, and Evaluation Unit. (Dominica Ministry of Education, 2014).
Desired Outcomes: Desired outcomes are results of applied expectations, the current grading system, and the national performance/comparison with other schools. They are strongly tied to the mission and vision of the school and the set of rules that had been established since the institution’s foundation.
At least 70% of second graders should be able to receive a Grade I (85% or higher) in Mathematics.
Second graders should be able to finish the prescribed syllabi without feeling rushed and forced.
Second graders should be able to transition to third grade without having lessons completely or largely repeated the following year.
Second graders must be able to explain what they have learned to younger students, such as first graders and grade K students.
During their first few weeks of Third Grade, the students must be able to showcase that they have retained the previous year’s concepts through earning passes of over 75% or better for 75% of the two classes combined.
The students are not mastering the Mathematics concepts that they need to excel in the Grade Two National Assessment taken during Third Grade.
The students are struggling with abstract concepts, when unsupported by visual aids.
The teachers are trying to adjust to varying intelligences and behaviors in class.
Participant Selection Procedures
There are only two classes and the total Second Grade population is at only 52. So, a total population type of purposive sampling can be applied to the study (Laerd Dissertation, 2016). This type of sampling comes with it the benefits of “deep insights”, especially since the two classes are mixed in terms of gender, behavior, and intellectual capacity. While the classes are predominantly Afro-Caribbean, there were a few mixed children, as well as one Caucasian child. That may not apparently show any importance at this point of the study, but by studying all 52 students, there may be some trends that could help better understand the second graders. The same sampling can be done if the study’s point of view swerves towards the two teachers, as there are only two Second Grade classes.
Learning about the Problem
The teacher and researcher will submit a formal letter of request to the deputy principal (the principal is on leave) to conduct the research. A carbon copy of the letter will be given to the other Second Grade teacher. This research will involve the release of Mathematics test results of the current Second Graders through the three terms. Questions for the Deputy Principal
What were the general expectations in terms of Mathematics test results?
Have the trends changed for the better or worse lately, or has there been no change?
What is considered a competitive Mathematics grade?
Has Roseau Preparatory done better than the national average every year?
Questions for the Second Grade Teachers
What techniques work best when teaching Mathematics?
What do you do to bridge the gap between more intelligent and less intelligent children?
How has Mathematics performance change throughout the years? (She has been teaching primary school for seven years)
Would collaborating with the First Grade and Third Grade teachers help in improving transitions?
Making Sense of Data Collected
Data collection graphs can be found under the appendix. They tackle the different ways of collecting data, specifically for obtaining information on whether the general performance of the students is meeting the desired outcomes. The graphs depend on the following types of analysis in order to ensure that the results are comprehensive and complete:
Extant Data Analysis: involves existing company records (archived file retrieval, in the form of report books)
Needs Analysis: involves what people think they need right now (interview)
Knowledge Task Analysis: involves asking experts as to what knowledge is required (interview with experts)
Procedural Task Analysis: involves usual procedures in the organization (interview, observations)
System Task Analysis: involves responding to abnormal situations (interview, observations)
The objective archived files/extant data will tell the story of how things are without any commentary. At Roseau Preparatory, this refers to old records of students’ grades. The office keeps all copies of the children’s marks in all subjects. There is a physical storage room that contains years and years of grades. Unfortunately, I have not yet asked as to how far back the records can go. With our principal’s much-needed vacation leave in effect, the deputy principal had been too overworked as of late to be bothered by inquiries into the archives. Roseau Preparatory is understaffed. Knowledge task analysis can be performed by asking local education experts as to what knowledge is needed to improve Mathematics teaching. The Dominica Association of Teachers can be consulted as to who should be interviewed about it. Reading problems are ready to be addressed by a specialist, but Mathematics does not have the same luxury. Tasks analysis, both procedural and system, may be done through interviews of the teachers and the deputy principal and the observation of the workplace: how the subject is taught and how the children respond to the concepts taught in an ideal setup (children are behaved and listening) and in a problematic setup (children are restless). It is not just about the data collected, but also about the techniques used. There is a need to go through the following, as well (Abernathy, PHD, May - June 2010):
Conducting a survey about the practices in the whole organization (this can be done through surveying the second graders as well as all Mathematics teachers in Roseau Primary)
Conducting an objective analysis on performance improvement opportunities (this can be done through a check on whether there are opportunities for workshops that would upgrade the teacher’s knowledge of Mathematics teaching)
Conducting a performance constraint analysis (this can be done through checking the needs of the school that could have improved Mathematics teaching e.g. not having a projector in school that could spark interest in the subject, especially for the young ones)
Selecting or designing a performance design approach
The data collected can support either the actual performance or the desired performance. Surveys on the second graders and studying archives would show actual performance. Interviews with the teachers and the deputy principal would provide an idea as to what is the desired performance. After results had been tallied under actual performance and desired performance, only then can the gaps be identified.
Analysis/Summary WorksheetBusiness Need 1.0The National Assessment and general Mathematics results of the Second Graders of Roseau Primary must be boosted from the usual 50% to 60% average to at least 75%,
Performance gap 1.0 Students are earning 50% to 60% in the National Assessment tests, though it is an average that is higher than the National average. In class, while about 20% of the class earns test marks of 90% and over, there are some stragglers that receive marks as low as 30%.
Cause(s) of gap 1.0 The classes are a mix of highly intelligent, average, and struggling students. It is not easy to pace the lessons to suit everyone.
Until this school year, the class has forty plus or even fifty plus students. This year, the second graders have been divided into two classes of twenty plus students each.
Intervention 1.0 Learning interventions that could be applied would be weekly sessions wherein the classes are grouped according to ability. The children will not be aware of the categorization. They would be given worksheets according to what they can handle.
Students with difficulties may also be given extra drills and practices to be taken at home.
A separate remedial class for those having problems should be given more regularly. There was a remedial teacher but the school is short-staffed so said teacher had become a substitute teacher for some sick teachers. This could be resolved by employing the help of more student teachers, who should be given some sort of stipend to meet their daily expenses (transportation and lunch)
Depending on the results of the interview and the surveys, the teachers could attend more workshops on creative teaching. Students require a lot of visuals. If training is enough, then budget should be provided for more art materials that could supplement teaching number concepts. A projector would be preferable, but would depend highly on government support and school budget.
Summary To improve the general and national performance of the Second Graders of Roseau Primary, each child should be given worksheets that would suit their abilities. The lack of teachers could be addressed by requesting more student teachers from the local college. Researcher’s Motives A few months ago, the principal and deputy principal had arranged for a Parents-Teachers meeting wherein the results from the 2015 Second Grade Assessment was discussed. The children from Roseau Primary had performed above the national average in all the subjects, but the performance was still considered poor in Composition and Mathematics in terms of objective standards or purely looking at the numbers. This has made all teachers eager to improve the performance in all subjects, especially in the two highlighted subjects. Between the two, Mathematics can be more easily observed. It also has the greatest weight among all subjects. Performance Analysis
Gap Analysis Table 2.1 of the appendix shows the disparity between expectation and reality. The gap may not be too wide in some areas, especially since expectation does cover the possibility of distraction and noise during some of the classes but it is still a gap that could be bridged by human performance improvement.
Organizational Analysis –
Roseau Preparatory has always been focused on goals that will continue to improve the performance of the students in whatever subject or field. It is an organization or institution that continually reviews its performance, not relying upon a laissez-faire attitude. Teachers and administrators see children as young people that needed to be molded not just in terms of academics but also in terms of behavior.
Roseau Preparatory prides itself in being one of the best schools in Dominica. It has achieved quite a status that Catholic Dominicans readily turn to the school during registration period. This reputation, however, places a continuous challenge for the school to maintain a certain kind of level in all aspects of learning and competition. While Mathematics may seem like a small sore spot among a myriad of laurels, especially this year after the school wins reading competitions, Princess shows, sports meets, and more, performance in this subject still ultimately decides what the school is all about. Work EnvironmentHowever, visual aids from manila paper cutouts and other materials from both office supplies and everyday objects may be used to emphasise concepts. The second graders are mostly still very visual learners. Having two spacious classrooms to house two second grade classes definitely improves the possibilities of earning better grades in not just Mathematics but in all the other subjects as well. Teachers are hoping that the school will not be forced to admit more students just because there are two classes now. Some has expressed their concerns about each class ballooning back to forty or more. WorkWhat makes teaching Mathematics sustained and continuous in Roseau Preparatory is that the subject is taught every day, first thing in the morning. It is easy to check if the children are having a hard time with homework given the previous day, for example. It also makes more practice possible, as long as the children are paying attention and raring to go for the day. WorkerThere are two second grade teachers at Roseau Preparatory. One is a certified teacher and one has units in Masters of Mathematics. Both are capable of changing strategies by applying newly researched and discovered tools and styles. While the school would certainly benefit from owning a projector, the budget would not allow it. Both teachers are handy with arts and crafts and are therefore making do with producing visual aids that would intensify the children’s interest in Mathematics. Cause Analysis and Intervention SelectionThe gap and cause analysis has shown that there is a gap between the desired student performance and the actual student performance in Mathematics. However, it is a gap that has been expected and had been showing up on the official records for some time. It seems second graders at Roseau Preparatory [not its real name] do not like the subject that much or at least like it but are somehow intimidated by it. This does not mean that this should be allowed to continue. After all, other countries, such as Japan, Finland and Hungary have been producing impressive results (The Guardian, 2016).
What makes this a little complicated is the fact that children – ages six to eight – still rely so much on what the teacher can do. A mixed bag of intellects is also placed in merely two classes. On the other hand, this may be a healthy mix as placing children in sections according to their intellect can be discriminatory, although there is a good reason for this – pacing according to what the children can handle. Homogenous classes have already been explored by the school. Even when it has not announced that one class is slower than the other, the parents managed to catch on and it became detrimental to the social relationships at school. It was also bad for the children’s emotional states. Some schools in other countries, for example one that I attended as a primary school student, are able to handle it well enough. However, cultural factors may have come into play. Some parents can become very competitive that they would actually “become jealous” when other children are excelling better than their own children. This was an observation given by a co-teacher who has almost ten years of teaching primary school students under her belt. InterventionSince the environment is a classroom and both teachers and students need to upgrade their performance, instructional intervention will be applied. Dominica may not have the resources to train teachers in the Finnish, Japanese, and Hungarian way, but research, aided by their superiors could help in implementing a part of the teaching methods that are used in the said countries. One of the noticeable practices that Hungary uses is the teaching in a “calm, unhurried manner” (Burghes, 2012). It seems that Roseau Preparatory can start doing well in second grade Mathematics if the topics are just right for the days of school. In Japan, one good practice that deserves a nod is student self-evaluation. It sounds like a good idea to see if children are aware of their status in their Mathematics classes. Their self-evaluation will not, of course, be a basis for marking them, but it will reveal just how self-aware the children are.
An ongoing intervention that is happening in Roseau Preparatory is that all the grade level teachers are coming together to share what Mathematics concepts they are teaching in their grade level. This will ensure a smooth transition from one grade to another. Grade K and Grade One teachers used to share a textbook. This time around, however, the Grade One teachers will supplement the prescribed textbooks, Bright Sparks Book One student’s book and workbook, with various other Mathematics sources. They will push the counting and addition/subtraction with no regrouping to totals up to 100, instead of the usual 20 or 50 that they have tried before. This way, there will be more room for more complicated topics when the students are in the second grade. Revising past topics will then be faster because the foundation is stronger.
ImplementationTo be able to get the successful ideas in Mathematics teaching from other countries across, a proposal of teaching plans and aids may be submitted to the deputy principal during the summer. This is, however, a more organised look at what could happen: - Share research studies, cases, and reports from other countries on how they handle Mathematics teaching - Relegate simpler Mathematics topics to First Grade, which has been considered very basic during a Staff Meeting among Mathematics teachers - Among the topics left to be covered by Second Grade, the Second Grade teachers can design sample lesson plans to be implemented over the course of a week (using fast-paced but repetitive lessons, discussion, debate among students, and other practices used by more successful countries/schools) - Present lesson plans to head teacher and to deputy principal - Implement the lessons during the School Year 2016-17 - Supervision should be made at least monthly to see how well the new strategies work - Monthly meetings in which the Grade One and Grade Two teachers should sit and review the effects of moving some topics to Grade One should be held. This way, Grade Two teaching can improve without being detrimental to Grade One teaching. The main problem with this set of interventions is that school academics have officially ended, and would resume this coming September. The good news is that a meeting has already been held in which all Mathematics teachers in Roseau Preparatory met to discuss the concepts that should be tackled in each grade level. Textbooks had been chosen and written in the textbook lists for the parents to buy during the summer.
This study has begun as a theoretical approach towards improving Second Grade Mathematics, albeit with the support of ongoing moves towards improving the instruction. Though the tangible movements towards boosting Math instruction have been underway, supporting the actions with theory thus provide some confidence and credence to what is being done. Primary school teachers of the Roseau Preparatory are also tired of carrying out haphazard and undercooked plans towards performance improvement among both teachers and students.
Though still reeling from recent National Assessment Results for Mathematics among the Third Graders, teachers are actively pursuing higher marks for the next school year. The topics had been laid out for both Grade One and Grade Two teachers, through the active participation of all four. Supplementary textbooks have also been selected, though the old ones could not be replaced because book lists had already been distributed to the parents of the incoming Grade One and Grade Two students. Additional interventions will be the applied strategies from the studies in countries such as Japan, Hungary, and Finland. Why is the intervention very limited? Well, the school’s budget is also limited. The school fees are low, at approximately $500 EC a year, and many students have outstanding fees because students and their parents are always priorities for the government-subsidized, semi-private Catholic school. The school delivers quality instruction for a low cost. As far as experts are concerned, the school is only in contact with a reading specialist. Apparently, Language Arts concerns will be addressed first. The good news is that the Mathematics teachers, with some advice from the Dominica Association of Teachers, are capable enough to conduct research and apply strategies that could benefit their students. Anyway, each child is unique. Even experts have to focus on each individual child when planning out the most effective strategy for him or her.
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