By the year 2017, I had established myself as a full-time mathematics faculty in one of Hyderabad’s most prestigious schools. One day, the school announced the launch of a diagnostic test called ASSET, which was to be conducted for students on a voluntary basis. Since the CBSE’s CCE system was still in effect with quite a few formative and summative assessments already in place, my initial reaction to another test was one of apprehension. I wasn’t sure what the test was going to assess as it was mid-year, and when I heard that the test would be based on the previous academic year’s learning, I was worried. I feared that the test would be unjust for me, as it would focus on the learning outcomes of the previous academic year which was done by a different teacher.
The test took place sometime in December. There was a mock test conducted a few days before the actual test. I was on invigilation duty for both tests. As I distributed the question booklets and the OMRs, I saw a plethora of emotions on students’ faces – some of despair, some curious, some excited and some with absolutely no clue. “Another test? We just wrote one last week!”, cried one of them.
This brings us to learning number one – Students categorise tests. The end purpose sometimes dictates the reception of the idea of a new test. More about it at the end.
Fast-forwarding to the main test, the same exercise was carried out. I quietly went around monitoring student progress and nudging everyone to make the best use of the test as was told to me. I peeked into a couple of booklets to look at the questions. I was astonished and impressed to see the content and the quality. The questions provoked critical thinking, analysis and problem solving – something that the employment world is desperately looking for.
Hence, learning number two – An open mind to a new idea is not such a bad thing. Teachers themselves are lifelong learners. This part of my life pressed a RESET button in my head, much like England’s white ball reset after losing to Bangladesh in the ICC 2015 World Cup.
A couple of months passed by and one fine Saturday, we were told that the ASSET reports analysis would be shared, presented and discussed with the teachers. I was stunned to see the results. More than half my students across grades struggled with questions, whereas they were scoring 100 percent in their school tests. The RESET button hit a quick PAUSE in disbelief. There was no way this could have been happening. “Students weren’t serious, I had to push them to complete the test”, said a voice in our internal meeting. “This is not the CBSE board exam paper, we haven’t prepared them for this”, said another. I was still in utter dismay and couldn’t give an opinion. My mind still kept ringing hard in negativity and rejection. I could not agree with whatever was presented to us by the ASSET team. The RESET button hit a complete STOP.
Learning number three – You might have the best intentions while at work, but sometimes a third perspective is a necessary checkpoint.
Back home, I kept thinking about the whole episode. How did my world come crashing down with the result of an idea that seemed very sparkling and bright? If I were truly in disagreement, why was I impressed initially? Results don’t always go our way, so what actually went wrong? Where was I in this whole saga in terms of responsibility?
A quiet word with my Head of Department and a relook at the result with a different mindset opened it all. She suggested that I keep my eyes open and my mind blank while examining the report. This time, I ignored whatever negativity was brewing. I would like to show a couple of examples from the Teacher MyBook of Grade X.
The results showed that 54% of my students got this wrong. This question is a beautiful illustration of framing equations in problem solving. During a classroom discussion, I discussed this question with the students and asked them their issues in solving this problem. The most popular answer was that they could not connect the question to the chapters in the textbook, a problem which I mentioned in learning number one.
There was a mix of responses for this question between all the four options. This told me that there was very little clarity amongst them about operations on irrational numbers. Clearly, my teaching process did not clarify the concept enough. I knew that I had to change my approach, especially with asking questions. It was at this point that the idea of asking the right question became an integral part of my teaching learning process.
Two ASSET tests passed and I was appointed the Head of Department of Mathematics. With all the learnings from the tests, I discussed with my team in detail and decided that ASSET questions should make way into our regular question making processes. By the time I quit that school, ASSET became an integral part of my team’s sheets, teachings, lesson plans and learnings. AQAD became a mandatory classroom agenda at the start of every week. The key idea told to them was – “Use the results to your advantage, that is what even the test creator wants you to do”.
But there are other key things that I learnt along the way that needed a RESET. Students measure tests in terms of marks and not abilities as illustrated in the question. Like me, teachers can get consumed in negativity with non-acceptance. When a third person offers data-driven conclusions, we tend to find faults, not conclusions.
Most employment opportunities currently across the globe do not just ask for what we can do given a path to solve a problem. They actually want us to find the path for them and the most efficient one. These are skills acquired with practice, open-mindedness, goal-oriented thought processes and most importantly the constant practice of RESET and RESTART. That is what ASSET offered me, my teachers and my students. Providence or not, I have RESET again, this time from the other side of the wall. Now I get to tell the teaching community my story and enjoy watching many more of these epiphanies.
 Teacher MyBook is a personalised feedback that a teacher receives after the ASSET test with insights on performance of students, skill-based summary, misconceptions and practice questions for remediation.
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