Monitoring Vocab as a Secondary School
Measuring progress in Vocab is important to our secondary schools. Many of them have teachers – often English teachers or tutors – checking progress. As Vocab is often set as a homework task it is important that checking progress is quick and easy.
To facilitate this, many teachers use the Vocab Weekly Report. This is an email that a teacher can receive on the day of his or her choice which summarises several datapoints from the previous 7 days. Datapoints include time spent, accurate answers, and accuracy rates.
Does Time Work as a Measure?
Many schools use time as a measure. We recommend 3 sessions a week of 5- 10 minutes on Vocab, and so schools might set 30-minutes of Vocab homework per week.
Generally, this works fine as a measure, but it is important to consider that not all 30-minutes are created equal.
The most focused and motivated students will cover considerable ground during that 30-minute session. Many will go beyond 30-minutes.
The least focused and motivated students will not cover so much ground.
This challenge is present in every context of learning, of course, including classroom lessons. Not all students are learning the same things at the same rate regardless of the fact that they are all in the same room with the same teacher for the same time period.
Does Content Work as a Measure?
In some cases it may seem logical to use content as a measure. For example, if we are studying An Inspector Calls and want to reinforce certain words from the book we may think that setting the same words for each learner makes sense. For example, we may ask the class to master these words and phrases this week for homework (words that had been presented in context in class):
The obvious problem with this is that some students will already know some of these words and phrases and have sophisticated and nuanced understanding of them, while some students will never have encountered these words and concepts.
Is it not therefore flawed to ask each student to do the same thing? (Of course, this is where differentiation and so forth comes in – a topic for another time.)
We believe that one of the key benefits of a technology programme is its ability to personalise learning. Each student should be developing their vocabulary, not working on things they already know.
So, in terms of a weekly measurement, measuring by content – or at least a singular group of words – does not make sense.
Using Accurate Answers.
The recent addition of accurate answers to the datapoints available to teachers and schools aims to support this challenge. We don’t believe it is the end of the journey in delivering the perfect reporting tool – but we do think it brings us closer.
If all students aim for a similar number of accurate answers per week, and we trust the programme to focus on words that are new or unknown to the student, then each student should be investing a similar amount of ‘learning energy’ each week. This gives us the benefit of personalised learning together with a consistent way of measuring progress.