Readiness Grouping in Schools

Grouping of students in the class is practised in all schools where remediation is implemented based on student performance data available from a diagnostic test. Grouping is a critical element of remediation as teachers need to instruct at a slower pace—providing more repetition and reinforcement—with a group of students who have learning gaps than s/he would with a group of high achievers. Grouping in the schools is therefore based on objective criteria of Diagnostic Assessment and is customised by subject because a student who is advanced in one subject may require remediation in another.

Readiness Grouping practised in the schools in Sikkim uses a flexible grouping method used to match a student’s readiness for learning with the instruction provided, delivering the right content to the right student at the right place and at the right time. Flexible readiness grouping, as its name implies, is an ongoing process where student assignments can and do change based on performance, requiring teachers to be on the lookout for signs of improved competency and skill development in their students.

In Government Senior Secondary School, Rangpo, when students are assessed, they are assigned different groups based on the learning levels assessed. The school takes into account that each student may not have the same learning level in each subject. Therefore different permutations in the learning levels in different subjects are taken into account so that student groups may be created. Student in Class 9 with the learning level below Class 5 (Junior category) in Maths are grouped with students who are in the Intermediate level in English. This encourages differentiated learning within the classroom so that heterogeneous groups of students may learn from each other. In Government Secondary School, Pakkigaon where differential instruction within the same classroom is practised; when whole classroom instruction is practised, students in the Junior group sit in the first few rows, the next two rows are reserved for the Intermediate group and the last rows are for the Senior level students. The teachers focus their attention on the Junior students when they are completing complex competencies while the Senior and the Intermediate students are allowed more freedom to complete their work. When students are allotted activities where pair work is required, students in the junior and intermediate category are paired with Senior students so that peer learning ensues.

Remedial Education promotes Flexible Readiness Grouping as it supports students to practice competencies at their own pace therefore allowing them to attain the learning levels at their own comfort. The grouping also allows students to learn from each other’s strengths where each student can help the other with ideas on key concepts as well as provide the confidence of asking questions to ensure that learning takes place.

Instructional Leadership boosts Remedial Education

The three important on-the-job supports for school Teacher: supervision and feedback, mentoring and professional development. Professional development increases teachers’ capacities and keeps them updated on key skills and knowledge. While professional development builds teachers’ capacities, real-life implementation of newly learnt skills in the classroom can be challenging. Mentoring, therefore, provides a powerful opportunity to improve implementation of newly learnt skills through teachers learning with and from each other. While mentoring goes a long way in ensuring teachers learn from each other, supervision by Head Teachers and feedback enables teachers to reflect on their practice and to question what they do as they go about their teaching.

Mentoring of Teachers by teachers as well as supervision and feedback by Head Teachers during Remediation is particularly essential so that teachers are continuously supported and receive feedback to improve transactions in the classroom.

Mr Rajesh Thapa, Head Teacher, Government Secondary School, Langang, observes teachers who are responsible for remedial classes. He recalls Mr P.T. Bhutia’s Mathematics remedial class. Mr Thapa talks about how Mr Bhutia started with the concept of Shapes and Understanding of Shapes to consolidate prior learning allowing students to collaboratively complete simpler exercises before moving on to complex concepts in Class 9 Geometry. Mr Narayan Basnet, Head Teacher, Government Senior Secondary School, Soreng recalls the class on Fractions by Mr.T.R.Karki who used a hands-on method of teaching Fractions using a  BREAD to demonstrate the concept.

Several schools in Sikkim have created the culture of providing continuous support to their teachers through classroom observations, feedback, mentoring and support. The Professional Learning Community in the Girls’ Senior Secondary School, Namchi is an advantage as it helps teachers balance regular as well as remedial classes. The Professional Learning Community is a platform where teachers are mentored by Senior teachers and are provided with space where problems are shared, teaching techniques are reviewed, and methods to increase student learning outcomes are discussed. This community mainly helped teachers where they received regular mentoring support from Senior teachers when they were delivering Remedial classes.

Instructional leadership in these schools have created a community of learning. Teachers require additional support to transact the Remedial Education curriculum as it includes delivering earlier competencies in an interactive manner which will engage students. The Head Teachers of the schools have ensured the following so that teachers are supported effectively:

  • The lesson timetable is matched to the Teacher handbook and My Workbook.
  • Teacher handbook and My Workbook are available and used by the teachers and students.
  • Teachers are supported to interpret and use the content of the lesson plans effectively.
  • The Head Teachers have arranged opportunities for teachers to share their knowledge and ideas on lesson plans with one another through Professional Learning Communities.
  • Head Teachers have discussed informally with teachers and have made sure teachers are teaching to the learning outcomes.

When Head Teachers observe classes and share feedback with relevant teachers or Senior Teachers mentor teachers to deliver remedial classes effectively, it creates teacher support environment as teachers deal with a challenging situation to address prior competencies in a class that has learning gaps.

Engaging parents in schooling

It is widely accepted that parental partnership with the school can ensure that parents are more responsible and realistic about what is best for their children. According to Goodall and Vorhaus, “School improvement and school effectiveness research consistently show that parental engagement is one of the key factors in securing higher student achievement. (“https://education.gov.scot/improvement/Documents/par2-section1-Feb17.pdf )

Improved student achievement includes the provision of high-quality instruction along with sensitive teachers and parents’ responsibilities for supporting their children’s learning. Student attainment also includes the importance of ongoing interaction between teachers and parents including parent-teacher meetings, frequent reports to parents and reasonable access to staff.

Government Senior Secondary School, Soreng, has a culture of encouraging parental participation in students’ education so that they are aware of the development of the student all the year round. In 2018-2019, after the baseline assessment for the Remedial Education and first Periodic Assessment was completed, all the Parents/Guardians were invited for a Parent Teacher Meeting. The score sheets from the Baseline Assessments and Report cards from the Periodic Test were handed over to the students and their parents who were asked to discuss their results in details. The students were encouraged to express their feelings about their results, the quality of teaching in the classroom and any other issue that was bothering them. On the basis of the discussion with their wards, parents had a further discussion with the subject teacher and discussed the successes of their ward as well as problems that they were facing. In turn, teachers also informed parents about particular students who would require additional support in the class. This relationship between the parents and the teachers continued the entire year where the progress of the student has been continuously discussed with parents based on their performance in the remedial as well as regular classes so that parents are aware of the growth that they are undergoing.

While parents know about the critical role they have in a child’s life, they are unequipped to explain child behaviour and attitudes or why a child is unable to achieve the learning outcomes that they should. Schools that work on building relationships with parents ensures parent-teacher communication that can motivate students to complete their assignments, which result in better results and ultimately help them develop holistically.

Remedial Education improves student non-cognitive skills!

Imagine a classroom where students do not understand the lessons that the teacher delivers in the class! Most of these students are unable to participate in class activities as they do not have the grade level competencies. The Learning Enhancement Programme, which commenced in 2017-2018 in Sikkim, includes Remedial Education as a means to bridge learning gaps of students of Class 9 to remedy this situation. The programme aims to consolidate prior competencies connected to the curriculum of Class 9 so that grade level learning may be achieved. In 2018-2019, while the schools continue to consolidate key implementation processes, teachers are improving transactions in the classroom by working with students to strengthen prior learning through interactive methods that make learning more enjoyable. While the schools still have a long distance to travel till processes and classroom transaction together yield the desired learning outcomes, there are some initial changes in non-cognitive skills that have been observed by teachers.

C. Gurung, Science Teacher, Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Gyalshing says, “Before starting any chapter, I work on previous knowledge in an interactive manner. When I taught “Cell”, I used paper cuttings to help students grasp the concept.” Research is showing that there are concrete benefits to non-cognitive skills, both in education and labour market outcomes. The World Bank’s STEP survey work, for example, has found concrete payoff for skills such as “grit” (a combination of passion and perseverance), conscientiousness and decision-making in the labour market.

( http://blogs.worldbank.org/education/non-cognitive-skills-what-are-they-and-why-should-we-care)

Science Teacher Deependra Sharma of Government Secondary School, Darap says that some of the boys in class 9 did not understand key scientific concepts and were unable to respond in the class. The boys expressed that they felt neglected in the regular classes. The remedial classes, supported the students to understand simpler concepts and these same students became more interested in Science and started responding in the classroom. In Sakyong Senior Secondary School, Leela (name changed), a student for class 9, now responds to teachers’ questions in the class with confidence. In Langang Government Secondary School, Shirin (name changed), Class 9, has started asking and answering questions in class without hesitation. In Senior Secondary School, Pelling, Sandeep (name changed) was arrogant and was keen to disrupt classes rather than participate in them. After the remedial classes, he raises queries related to mathematics and has become interested in the subject. Tashi (name changed), Government Senior Secondary School Soreng had discipline issues and was sent to the Head Teacher’s office for a time-out very regularly. Mr. Narayan Basnet, Head Teacher, Soreng says that the visits to his office have reduced with Tashi showing an interest in Mathematics, Science and English. In Government Secondary School Tumburburg, Teachers Om Prakash Dahal and Shashi Hangma has said that for a group of 6-10 students, reading level and pronunciation has improved and these students are able to read in the regular classes using correct grammar and pronunciation.

Teachers in these schools have started providing additional attention and support to students who have learning gaps and thereby ensuring that their self-confidence increases. When students are confident, they are able to achieve requisite learning outcomes expected of them. Supporting can-do attitudes and continuous praises along with positive feedback helps teachers motivate students which ultimately helps them become academically proficient. Therefore the accomplishment of Remedial Education is that it has built the confidence and motivation of students and have put them on the path to achieving  academic success.