Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Mathematics proficiency of primary school students in Trinidad and Tobago
by Khan, Shereen Alima, Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University, 2017, 193; 10256768
Abstract (Summary)

To address the problem of underperformance in mathematics, Trinidad & Tobago introduced national tests to provide feedback to stakeholders, so that well-targeted interventions can be planned. After more than a decade of generating and sharing reports on performance with these stakeholders, results of national tests remained much the same. It was evident that the feedback was ineffective in instituting the desired changes. In keeping with Vygotsky’s notion that instruction can be improved by teaching within the child’s Zone of Proximal Development, this study devised a model, incorporating the principle of assessment for learning to provide feedback on student performance.

Data from the 2015 mathematics (Standard 3) national test was analysed to describe the proficiencies of students within each of four performance levels. Using a mixed methods design, a sample of 180 scripts was analysed to determine content-specific proficiencies. These were categorised into (i) what students know and can do (Zone of Achieved Development), (ii) what they can do with help (Zone of Proximal Development) and (iii) what they cannot do.

The findings indicated that students in the lower performing groups had deficiencies in reading and comprehension skills and this impacted on their mathematics performance. Division and multiplication algorithms posed difficulties for these students. Performance in measurement was poor, with only the top performing group demonstrating proficiency in this strand. Items requiring higher order thinking were challenging for all students. Inability to carry out mathematical modeling prevented students from obtaining correct answers to questions covering almost half of the test.

A key recommendation is that teachers be given support in planning and instructional strategies to cater for all learners. Intense, ongoing professional development, targeting problem solving, mathematical modeling, and teaching algorithms was recommended. To enable learners to experience more depth and less breadth in achieving competence in measurement, reform in curricula demands, assessment techniques and instructional strategies was suggested.

The study also called for re-conceptualising the design and implementation of national assessment. Such approaches should incorporate models that provide feedback on all curricula outcomes on a continuous basis, and empower teachers to analyse classroom data so as to diagnose student deficiencies.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Vogeli, Bruce R.
Commitee: Ginsberg, Herbert P., Recchia, Susan, Wasserman, Nicholas H., Weinberg, Stuart A.
School: Teachers College, Columbia University
Department: Mathematics, Science and Technology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 78/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Mathematics education, Educational tests & measurements, Elementary education
Keywords: Assessment, Mathematics proficiency, National test, Performance levels, Primary mathematics
Publication Number: 10256768
ISBN: 9781369597080
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