Ours is a 27-year-old private run school located in the village of Mannivakkam which is in the suburban part of Chennai City, Tamilnadu, India. We enjoy a justifiable reputation among schools in Chennai, for our balanced approach to education. We cater to the educational needs of local children over a diverse age group of 3 years to 17 years both boys and girls. Since our association with the British Council from 2015 in connection with the International Dimension in School Award, we have conducted Teacher Training Programmes to empower teachers, to use effective teaching techniques, to enhance 21st century skills in young learners. Training focused on skills such as Critical thinking & Problem solving, Creativity and Imagination, Communication and Collaboration at International Standards. Through the international work in school, we were able to incorporate skill building in learners through activities, though we lacked a structured curriculum and a global benchmark. We wanted something that could help us effectively and inclusively build skills with our children, as well as gauge the effectiveness of the program through assessment, evaluation and reinforcement at an individual level. The Global Accelerator seemed to be the right program for this.
It was decided to take up enhancement of Listening and Speaking skills this year. A series of teacher training sessions were conducted to empower teachers on the basic elements of skill building and the online platform, the Skills Builder Hub. Specific sections across classes Grade 3-7 were chosen to be a pilot for building Listening & Speaking. Initially, the classes were conducted during the weekends through online classes (October to December) and subsequently we included all classes, once the classes returned physically to school. A periodic benchmarking of students' skill achievement using the Universal Framework helped us to gauge the level to which these skills are being mastered by students at an individual level and also as a group. The students also did a self assessment Skills Builder Benchmark periodically and the scores were compared with the skill achievement levels in classroom participation of students. A comparative study helped us to understand student progress. The students have become self-reliant and confident, making conscious efforts to build their skills by initiating conversations and actively listening. The students' unnecessary interruption during class room conversation was greatly reduced at primary level (Grade 3-5). This was observed by all teachers while handling the classes. Students at middle school (Grade 6 and 7) have become more confident and self-reliant. This we could notice during the Science day series, as most of it was scripted, recorded, edited and even created by the students with the teacher's involvement being very minimal. We could also see the improvement in Listening, as we noticed the way they were responding. The content as suggested by the Skills Builder platform was taken up and wherever teachers found the resources a little difficult for our students to access, they designed relevant and related content to suit the needs of the students. Each of our sessions would start with the recall of the previous session topic/activity by students followed by the module for the day. Each session was concluded with an interesting activity that was carried out by asking questions or sharing situations to understand their learning outcome.
We consciously took the decision of focusing on two essential skills at the start and made a conscious effort to enhance these before we could get into the other skills. The need and importance were collectively emphasized by all teachers irrespective of the subject they handled. To ensure students understood what tangible progress looked like, together we set achievable goals, through student self assessment and teacher conversation. Using the framework, a set of learning outcomes were shared with students (around 5), from which students had to pick any 2 which they felt were stretching and achievable. We then created a skill achievement checklist for the learner, which teachers could use to celebrate progress and achievement with the learner.
The skill builder accelerator program was delivered to students in Grade 3 to 7 (9 to 14 years old). Though the skills focus and content was sometimes the same across different age groups, our teachers made a conscious effort to pitch the content at the right level, understanding levels and receptiveness of students. For students at primary (Grade 3 to 5), Listening and Speaking were introduced to students with the meaning, why its important in the classroom and examples of how to do it well. The structured videos and lead questions on the Skills Builder Hub helped in engaging the students with the skills. For students in the middle school (Grade 6 to 7), students used Skills Builder Benchmark and were guided to complete self-reflections.
We have adopted diverse methods of assessment to study the progress of the students; like observation, oral assessment, task completion, parental feedback, formative assessment and testing knowledge. We used Google Form assessments to track and monitor students in Grade 3 to 5, with Skills Builder Benchmark being used with Grade 6 to 8. Some of the test resources from the Skills Workbooks on the Skills Builder Hub were also used in offline mode to evaluate the progress of students. The data collected was useful in understanding the effectiveness of the program and areas of improvement.
Opportunities to reinforce the skills have been a focus for all staff at all times this year, including at special occasions, events and school assembly. With our lower classes, it has even extended as a home activity as well with the support of parents. Every single opportunity to reinforce the skills was utilized effectively to provide enough practice; including school events like news reading, speeches during special events, writing articles to Educational newsletters, seminars by students and project day. Our Student Empowerment programs were also conducted and focused for the students to showcase their skills.
We intend to take up the other skills also to work by using the resources available on the Hub. We intend to work on these skills extensively, as a collaborative project with our partners in Taiwan, France and Sri Lanka. We will also work to qualify for the Skill Builder Gold Award.