The effects of high-stakes assessments on mathematics instructional practices of selected teachers in Nigerian senior secondary schools

Bosan, Patrick Nefai (2018-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT : This study investigated the effects of high-stakes assessments on mathematics teachers’ instructional, preparatory and assessment practices at senior secondary school level in Kaduna State, Nigeria. High-stakes assessments are standardized examinations administered at the end of every level of education in order to make significant educational decisions about the students, teachers and the schools as well as about graduation, selection and placement of students in different levels of education. The study also investigated how the West African Senior School Examinations (WASSCE) influence teachers’ beliefs about what constitutes effective teaching of mathematics. The study also interrogated opportunities and challenges faced by teachers in their continuous assessment (CA) practices for the West African Examinations Council’s (WAEC) highstakes examinations. The essence, therefore, was to find out what mathematics is taught, how it is taught and continuously assessed, the reasons for the practices, and whether they enhanced or diminished prospects for students' success in high-stakes examinations and admission to higher education institutions. This interpretive study adopted a qualitative ethnographic case study design whose data were generated from lesson observations of ten mathematics teachers, in-depth interviews with the same teachers, and an analysis of related official documents. Data collected through lesson observation protocols and interview schedules were analysed for content and emergent themes. The findings showed that the Kaduna State teachers’ mathematics instructional practices were influenced by the WAEC high-stakes examinations in multiple ways. Teachers were observed unsystematically drilling and coaching students, and rushing to cover curriculum content they thought had a high likelihood of being tested in the final examinations. They predominantly employed traditional methods of instruction. Teachers over-emphasized the use of WAEC’s past examination question papers sometimes at the expense of the kind of robust conceptual understanding encouraged by Schoenfeld. This reduced most of the instructional, preparatory and continuous assessment practices to the level of what Popham refers to as ‘teaching to the test’. Findings from in-depth interviews of teachers were that they believed that their students should pass the WAEC high-stakes examinations at all costs and to that end believed and preferred instructional strategies that spoon-feed students with solution procedures to be memorised mindlessly for recall during the examinations. Students were not given time to engage in critical thinking or to share multiple problemsolutions strategies. There were doubts among the teachers about the credibility of the final grades awarded to their students after the inclusion of school-based continuous assessment scores (CA). Reasons were mainly based on mistrust and perceived lack of fairness in arriving at the final scores. Some of the opportunities for teachers in the school system were their involvement in the assessment of students’ performance and also that they had opportunities for continuous professional development by WAEC, the government as well as universities. In short, the mathematics teachers experienced the structuring effects of WAEC’s WASSCE and other high-stakes examinations on their instructional and assessment practices. Understanding the influence that shapes the instructional and assessment practices will be valuable in pointing to what it is that needs to be done to reduce the negative effect of high-stakes assessments in order for them to become supportive of instructional practices. Teachers are supposed to be engaged in teaching for understanding and equitable access to legitimate mathematical knowledge for all students and not to be influenced by the excessive demands of high-stakes assessments alone. Teachers need to be supported through appropriate teacher professional development to change their beliefs and to embrace the idea that all students can learn mathematics if treated equitably, recognizing the individual differences that distinguish one student from another, and taking into account these differences in their instructional practices.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Hierdie studie het die effek van hoëpunte-assesserings op wiskunde-onderwysers se onderrig-, voorbereidings- en assesseringspraktyke op senior sekondêre skoolvlak van onderwys in die Kaduna-staat, Nigerië ondersoek. Hoëpunte-assesserings word beskou as die gestandaardiseerde eksamens wat aan die einde van elke opvoedingsvlak toegedien word, ten einde betekenisvolle opvoedkundige besluite te neem oor die studente, onderwysers en skole en oor die gradeplegtigheid, keuring en plasing van studente in verskillende vlakke van onderwys. Die studie het ook ondersoek ingestel na hoe die Wes-Afrikaanse Seniorskooleksamen (WASSCE) onderwysers se oortuigings oor effektiewe onderrig van wiskunde beïnvloed. Die studie het ook geleenthede en uitdagings vir onderwysers ondervra in hul deurlopende assessering (CA) praktyke vir die Wes-Afrikaanse Eksamenraad se (WAEC) hoëpunte-eksamens. Die wese was dus om uit te vind wat wiskunde geleer word, hoe dit geleer en deurlopend geassesseer word, die redes vir die praktyke en of hulle vooruitsigte vir studentesukses in hoëpunteeksamens en toelating in hoër onderwysinstellings verbeter of verminder het. Hierdie interpretatiewe studie het 'n kwalitatiewe etnografiese gevallestudieontwerp aangeneem waarvan die data uit leswaarnemings van tien wiskunde-onderwysers gegenereer is, in-diepte onderhoude van dieselfde onderwysers en 'n analise van verwante amptelike dokumente. Data wat ingesamel is deur leswaarnemingsprotokolle en onderhoudskedules is ontleed vir inhoud en ontluikende temas. Die bevindinge het getoon dat die Kaduna-staatsonderwysers se wiskunde-onderrigpraktyke op verskeie maniere beïnvloed is deur die WAEC-toetse. Onderwysers is waargeneem om ons stelselmatig te boor en af te lei en studente te hardloop om kurrikuluminhoud te dek wat hulle gedink het, het 'n hoë waarskynlikheid gehad om in die finale eksamens getoets te word. Hulle het hoofsaaklik tradisionele onderrigmetodes gebruik. Onderwysers het die gebruik van WAEC se eksamenvraestelle soms beklemtoon ten koste van robuuste konseptuele begrip aangemoedig deur Schoenfeld. Dit het die meeste van die onderrig-, voorbereidings- en (kontinue) assesseringspraktyke verminder tot die soort wat Popham na verwys as 'onderrig aan die toets'. Bevindinge uit in-diepte onderhoude van onderwysers was dat hulle die geloof geglo het dat hul studente die WAEC-hoëpunte eksamens ten alle koste moet slaag en daartoe geleer het dat hulle onderrigstrategieë gehad het wat studente met oplossingsprosedures gesmeer het om onophoudelik te onthou vir herroeping tydens die eksamens. Studente het nie tyd gekry om kritiese denke aan te pak of om verskeie probleemoplossingsstrategieë te deel nie. Daar was uitdagings onder die onderwysers oor die geloofwaardigheid wat toegeken kon word aan die finale grade toegeken aan hul studente na die insluiting van skoolgebaseerde deurlopende assesseringstellings (CA). Redes was hoofsaaklik gegrond op wantroue en waarneembare gebrek aan regverdigheid om die finale punte te bereik. Van die geleenthede vir onderwysers in die skoolstelsel was hul betrokkenheid by die assessering van studenteprestasie en ook dat hulle geleenthede gehad het vir voortgesette professionele ontwikkeling deur WAEC, die regering sowel as universiteite. Kortom, die wiskunde-onderwysers het die strukturering van die WAEC se WASSCE en ander hoëpunte-eksamens op hul onderrig- en assesseringspraktyke ervaar. Om die invloed van die onderrig- en assesseringspraktyke te begryp, sal waardevol wees om te wys op wat dit is wat gedoen moet word om die negatiewe effek van hoëpunteassesserings te verminder om onderrigpraktyke te ondersteun. Onderwysers is veronderstel om betrokke te wees by onderrig om te verstaan en regverdige toegang tot regmatige wiskundige kennis vir alle studente te hê en nie beïnvloed te word deur die oormatige eise van hoëpunte-assesserings alleen nie. Onderwysers moet ondersteun word deur toepaslike onderwyser professionele ontwikkeling om hul oortuigings te verander en om die idee te omhels dat alle studente wiskunde kan leer indien hulle billik behandel word, en erken die individuele verskille wat een student van 'n ander onderskei en rekening hou met hierdie verskille in hul onderrigpraktyke.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/105011
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