FEATURED: Rwandan math and science teachers undergo assessment training

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences’ (AIMS) Teacher Training Programme conducted a Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop on learner assessment for over 150 teachers in Rwanda to improve teaching and learning of mathematics & sciences in secondary schools.

The training, held in Kigali, on 22 and 23 June, 2019 was informed by the Ministry of Education’s (MINEDUC) competency based curriculum and new guide on comprehensive student assessment.

The TTP program is being implemented in partnership with Mastercard Foundation within the training pillar of the Foundation’s Leaders in Teaching Initiative (LIT). LIT transforms teaching and learning in secondary education across Africa, so young people have the skills and competencies they need to succeed in work and life.

During the two-day training which was co-facilitated by three faculty members of University of Alberta-Canada, the teachers explored different stakeholders’ perceptions, forms and goals of assessment.

“Taking into account the emphasis within the MINEDUC’s Competency based Curriculum for building higher level thinking amongst learners, the teachers were introduced to a simplified format of assessment frameworks. The teachers used the assessment frameworks to establish the levels of thinking assessed in past national Ordinary Level examinations for Mathematics, Biology, Physics and Chemistry,” said Dr. Herine Otieno-Menya Director, Teacher Training Program (TTP)-Rwanda, adding that the teachers also interrogated the opportunities of employing the assessment framework to inform discussions and questioning during lessons.

The critical role of feedback (and not judgement) in learning assessment as highlighted in MINEDUC’s new comprehensive guideline was emphasised during the training. The teachers engaged in practical activities aimed at helping them to understand that judgemental comments such as “very good”, “poor,” or “average,” did not add value to the learning process.

The teachers were taken through the paces of providing positive feedback to students and parents that facilitates corrective actions and greater learning.

During the second day of the workshop, teachers practised the framing of questions. They submitted questions for peer review to establish amongst other things the levels of thinking that the questions assessed.

AIMS TTP and the trainers also facilitated a deliberative session which was aimed at enhancing teachers’ capacity for implementing MINEDUC's new guide on student assessment. The session focussed on the steps that teachers need to follow in blueprinting district based examinations which is part of the new stipulations of the new guide.

A framework for blueprinting which highlights key aspects such as anchoring of questions to the syllabus, distributions of questions across the four levels of thinking and topics was shared with the teachers.

In addition, AIMS TTP and the facilitators led the teachers through a reflection to consider the implications of implementing key aspects of the MINEDUC's new guide such as selections of teams of examiners at district level, framing of the questions, marking and grading, and giving of feedback.

There was agreement that the district assessment mechanisms should aim for both quality and equity in line with evidence from research, best practices in assessment and competencies developed during the training.

Teachers noted that districts will need to amongst other things ensure adequate time for shaping of examinations and that teams participating in setting and moderating examinations are drawn from different schools to ensure different learner needs are taken into account.  

Overall the teachers and facilitators, appreciated the key thrusts of the new guidelines, especially the emphasis on assessment for learning and potential opportunity for collaboration amongst teachers across schools.

The teachers highlighted that training such as the one offered by AIMS  TTP was critical for achieving the assessment policy goal of improving learning. The teachers committed to work alongside AIMS TTP  in the coming months to co-train fellow mathematics and science teachers in their respective schools and districts.

The teachers also committed to rise above any challenges in implementing the new guide assessment.