Employing digital tools to boost student engagement

Over the years, Pacific leaders have continuously shaped the region’s education sector to ensure that students receive quality education, even in the most remote parts of the Pacific.

The South Pacific Form Seven Certificate (SPFSC) is one of those Pacific-led programmes that is accredited and offered in the region, allowing students to enter tertiary studies or to secure employment.

The Pacific Community’s (SPC) Educational Quality and Assessment Programme (EQAP) facilitates the SPFSC programme in Kiribati, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, and is currently working with participating countries to mould the programme to be more interactive and accessible to the region’s students.

Early in May, the EQAP team convened the SPFSC Interactive Assessment workshop to build an interactive assessment platform to assist students in those SPFSC subjects that have shown low-performance rates over the years, for example, accounting and chemistry. The workshop also focussed on developing online interactive assessment tools that enable better student engagement with subject content as well as enable teachers to evaluate students’ progress over time.

EQAP’s Curriculum and Assessment Team Leader, Mere Vadei, explained that “the interactive assessment will provide a way of enhancing student engagement, monitoring student learning and enabling teachers to adjust teaching methods and lesson plans accordingly. It is intended to be a continuous process that helps students manage their own learning with the goal of helping to improve their understanding of specific topics and subjects.”

The interactive assessment includes quality multiple-choice items based on the SPFSC curriculum content which are then uploaded into the online interactive assessment platform being developed by EQAP.

“Interactive assessment is a good way to help support active learning since the learners can obtain immediate feedback of their assessment, said Vadei.

Vadei explained that these multiple-choice quizzes based on learning outcomes specified in the subject syllabi will be made available for students through the application and it will provide immediate feedback once they attempt items in each quiz, “thereby affording students with a mechanism for self-regulation of their learning”.

12 participants were part of the SPFSC Online Interactive Assessment weeklong workshop, four from Vanuatu and eight from Fiji. The selected participants are experienced teachers who have completed the Assessment Instrument Development Micro-Qualification (MQ).

Vicky Vinesh Narayan, a Fiji National University (FNU) staff, mentioned that the programme was a bridge in adult learning and “it [programme] has allowed me to understand how adult learning could be improved in the terms of seeing what the requirements of the students are and how we can better design our programmes and our training and courses so that it meets their requirements and all of their levels of understanding”.

Similar accounts were also given by Vanuatu’s Ministry of Education and Training staff, Adrian Tari, highlighting that “the skills and the knowledge of how we can write good items and I also believed that whatever we gained from this training will benefit and improve our item writings back in Vanuatu”.

The interactive assessment online platform is expected to be ready for SPFSC students and teachers by mid-July with the vision that such interactive assessment will enhance student and teacher engagement with the contents of six SPFSC subjects. These six subjects include Calculus, Statistics, Physics, Chemistry, Accounting and Economics.

This is a totally new tool that has not been offered before in SPFSC. When it goes live in July, it will be the first time it has been offered as a means of engaging students with their SPFSC content using digital technology,” said Vadei.

EQAP is prepared to work with schools in monitoring and supporting the engagement of teachers and students as the online assessment goes live and looks forward to seeing improvements in student achievement in these subjects that they often find difficult.

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