School Leaders' Weekly
We are halfway through Term 2 and we hope that all pupils, parents and staff are doing well. For this week and the upcoming weeks, the P1 and P2 pupils will be having their Holistic Assessments and the P3 to P6 pupils their SA1 Examinations. Often the examination period is an exciting period for pupils and parents, so let us talk about assessment and learning this week.
Purpose of Assessment
Whenever we hear someone talk about school, they never fail to also talk about examinations. The conversation usually centers around preparing the children for examinations and how to ensure that the children do well for it. Let us suggest that we reframe, and go back to the purpose of examination or assessment.
When I was a child, my parents were very supportive and encouraging. What they always looked at was the final marks I obtained and patted me on the head when they knew I had done my best. But what they forgot to ask was whether I enjoyed what I have learnt and whether any of the topics were of interest to me. My parents’ response is typical of many parents. The focus would usually be on the assessment outcomes rather than the process of learning. It is no fault of theirs though as those were common focus areas for most parents.
Often, we are not as worried about the assessment as the outcomes of the assessment. In other words, we worry more about the marks we will get and how others will respond to them. Many children often tell us a few days before an exam that they are worried because they do not think they will do well. My response to them is always the same: If you have been working hard all along, you should not be worried. Children tend to think that an assessment is a judgement of them, hence leading to a lack of motivation to learn and unnecessary exam anxiety. So, how can we reframe their thinking such that they see assessment as part of their growth in learning? One way to do this is to focus more on learning and the process of learning, in which assessment plays the part of informing the extent of learning.
From the school’s perspective, assessment is one of the ways in which we gather information about the children’s learning. Assessment tells us how much the children have learnt and understood, the learning that they have mastered and those that they have yet to master. But what we want parents and children to know is that it is not only tests and examinations that tell us how much the children have learnt. In class, teachers use various modes of assessment to determine how much the children have learnt and design lessons that can help close learning gaps. We can assess children’s learning through their response to our questions, seatwork, homework and group projects. All these provide the opportunity for children to know how much they have learnt and how they can improve. So, rather than focusing all our energy on just preparing to do well for a test or an exam, let us focus on developing a good learning disposition in our children so that learning becomes meaningful to them.
Good Learning Disposition
Having a good learning disposition means that one has the positive attitudes and behaviours towards learning. These attitudes include being willing to learn new things, taking responsibility of one own’s learning, willing to learn from mistakes and being resilient. When we have these attitudes, we demonstrate behaviours and actions such as paying attention and asking questions when learning, and gathering feedback on our learning so we can improve. A good learning disposition allows us to have more control over our learning, be more confident when learning and reduces stress.
How can we encourage and instill a good learning disposition in our children? For a start, be interested in your child’s learning but do not just be focused on the marks obtained. Encourage him/her to share with you what he has learnt in school every day, not only on the examinable subjects, but also other subjects such as Art, Physical Education and Music. Discuss good work habits with your child, such as having a daily timetable for doing homework, revising, play and rest, and keeping his/her learning materials in an orderly manner. Encourage your child to ask his teachers questions to clarify his/her doubts and discuss how he/she can improve. Celebrate with your child when he/she makes an improvement. Make learning fun and meaningful for your child. For example, sit with your child when he has an upcoming spelling test, and learn the words together. Test each other on your way home or when you go grocery shopping together. Use the spelling words while conversing with your child so that he/she understands why knowing these words are important. Celebrate after the test and when the spelling book comes back, look at the mistakes together and discuss how he/she can get the spelling right.
Take time to build a good learning disposition in your child. With a good learning disposition, children will grow to be more accountable for their own learning, be less stressed by tests and examinations, and embrace them as opportunities for them to learn and grow further.
Every Child is Unique and Special
In my family, there are four of us. We are all different and our teachers always tell my parents different things about us during parent-teacher sessions. My eldest sister was the creative one, I was the avid reader, my third sister likes to dream and my fourth just liked to go with flow. So, whenever my parents sit us down with our report books, we were always treated differently. They looked at us as individuals with our own strengths. Comparisons were made based on our attitude towards learning, rarely based on our marks. I really appreciate my parents for that. The simple act of acknowledging that I am my own person made me feel special and loved.
So, let us make our children feel unique. Let us encourage them to continue to strive for their personal best. Do not use someone else’s achievement as a benchmark of our children’s success.
We would like to wish all children and parents a good few weeks ahead. Remember to set aside ample time for work, play and rest. We hope to see all of you soon at our upcoming Parent-Child-Teacher Conference in May to further discuss your child’s growth and development.