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Small data and its significance in terms of feedback to improve teaching, learning, and assessment outcomes
The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) implements a myriad of data collection systems and tools at school, district, provincial and national levels with the intention that both big and small data retrieved through the various examinations and assessments can be triangulated and used to better inform – and impact on – teaching, learning, and assessment outcomes in the classroom.
The Central Education Management and Information System (CEMIS) is the cornerstone of the provincial big data hub which, at a glance, is able to provide information on all 1466 primary and high schools in the province in terms of the number of learners in each class, per grade and per school, the performance levels of each learner, and whether the learner has been promoted or has progressed at the end of the academic year. However, a major shortcoming of the current CEMIS system is its failure to provide small data on each learner at a micro level for each school term.
The micro-level data per learner, per grade, per school extracted at provincial level is not only useful to track performance per learner, per term and make judgements in terms of targets that have been set, but most importantly it also assists the Department to address immediately any downward tendencies in examination and assessment outcomes from term to term.
In the absence of such a provincial data system, a separate stand-alone electronic tool for grades 1-9 has been developed to capture small learner data per subject at a micro level for all assessments conducted in the classroom. The tool, which is referred to as the “Recording and Reporting Schedule”, has been in use provincially for the past three years and has been most welcomed by the teachers. The first part of this paper provides an overview of the tool, its design, and benefits to both the teacher and the subject advisor supporting the teacher.
The second part of this paper focuses on the question-by question capturing of marks of the grade 12 external examination question papers set by the National Department of Education. The purpose of this data extraction tool is to identify areas of the curriculum per paper and per subject where performance is unsatisfactory and would require further intervention in the following year. The tool is also able to compare the examination outcomes of a school in a particular subject to those of all the schools in a district and to the provincial performance. This useful data is used by subject advisors to plan teacher development exercises in order to improve teaching, learning, and assessment outcomes in the classroom.
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