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Developing critical thinking skills using the MYP eAssessment

Middle Years Programme (MYP) school TNS Beaconhouse DHA in Pakistan explains why they adopted the eAssessment and how it helps their students develop critical thinking skills and a deeper conceptual understanding of our world.

Developing critical thinking skills using the MYP eAssessment
Students of TNS Beaconhouse DHA.

By Augustine Nthenge

TNS Beaconhouse DHA made the courageous decision to offer the Middle Years Programme (MYP) to stand out from other schools in Pakistan. They felt that the country placed a great emphasis on examinations and grades and saw an opportunity to embrace a new style of assessment as they were looking towards the future.

In 2015, the school piloted the MYP eAssessment and found that it allowed their students to develop deep conceptual understanding, communication and critical thinking skills as well as the ability to transfer the knowledge acquired in the classroom to familiar and unfamiliar situations—a highly desirable trait needed in the 21st century.

However, there were some challenges along the way. Rashid Khalid, Diploma Programme (DP) coordinator said, ”One of the biggest challenges that the school had to overcome was ensuring that the parent community felt confident in the school’s teaching and leadership. Luckily, we have some parents who are IB graduates themselves, which worked in our favour as it wasn’t selling the IB that was the obstacle; they knew the limitations of A Levels and wanted a holistic education for their children. It was proving that we were capable of delivering the programme that was the real challenge. We were fortunate that because we initially had a small cohort, we were able to give students lots of attention and parents could see the efforts that we were putting in to make this a success”.

Overcoming challenges of the eAssessment implementation

After piloting the eAssessment for a year, the school took a break and moved back to IGCSEs to give them time to plan and prepare for a reintroduction of the eAssessment. Involving the parent community was crucial, as they had concerns about their children’s education. However, the school managed to address them in various education seminars and in turn, they gained the parents’ respect and confidence. The school even sent 42 teachers on numerous professional development workshops.

Developing critical thinking skills using the MYP eAssessment

Clive Barnes, head of school explained that, ”It was the first set of eAssessment results that gave our parent community confidence that the teaching staff and school leadership were dedicated enough to support the students in this new way of learning and assessment. This drew families back to us, and it is when we started to see growth in cohort sizes, and satisfaction among our parent community”.

Another obstacle that the school had to address was adhering to the government’s regulations. It was compulsory for them to offer Pakistan studies, Urdu and Islamiyat for students to be able to progress onto higher education. Furthermore, if a student wanted to take the MYP, they had to take the eAssessment. The government showed great flexibility by bringing the number of eAssessment subjects a student took down from eight to five and they had to complete the MYP project on top of this.

The impact of eAssessment

The school also introduced a few platforms and familiarization tools to make students feel confident with integrating technology into their day-to-day learning. It also provided structure for the school’s classes and overcome the uncertainty experienced by parents. Hina Chaudhry, MYP coordinator, explained that, “We introduce our students to the eAssessment-like tasks from MYP year three (grade eight), and they practise the on-screen examinations twice a year so that they do not feel daunted by the prospect of examinations, and it feels more normal to them”.

They also noted that the eAssessment gave them an end goal to the five years of MYP. Students became more committed to learning and they were more engaged with skill-based tasks that were set as they were more interactive and required the use of technology. Furthermore, teachers noted an increase in creativity and reflective practices due to the holistic approach of the MYP and eAssessment and how it allowed students to develop 21st century skills that will be vital in addressing the world’s pressing issues.

“The open-ended questions of the eAssessment put students in a better position to take the DP”.

The feedback from the school community has been extremely positive. MYP student, Mishael Hyat Ayub said, “I loved the way learning and assessing was structured in the MYP. Whether it be eAssessments involving critical thinking, questions linked to the problems the world is facing today or portfolios such as the personal project that allow you to pursue your unique interests, the MYP allows learners to develop into people that are equipped with the creative skills and independence they need to succeed at university and beyond. I hope that in the future, it continues to spread across Pakistan and indeed the world”.

Preparation for the DP

The teachers at TNS Beaconhouse DHA believe that the eAssessment prepares students for the DP in comparison to other educational programmes. The appetite for lifelong learning, the resilience to keep going and the ability to meet multiple deadlines are skills that MYP students already have and it allows them to tackle the demands of the DP.

Furthermore, DP coordinator Rashid believes that the personal project rigour and open-ended questions of the eAssessment put students in a better position to take on the DP. He says that, “MYP students are properly prepared for the core elements of the DP, like the extended essay (EE) and the theory of knowledge (TOK) course, because they have already experienced academic writing and have developed a strong foundation for research skills. The nature of the eAssessment is open-ended questions, which fosters students’ thinking and communications skills and is very similar to the DP internal assessments (IA) that they will undertake”.

Join our live panel discussion on the Middle Years Programme (MYP) eAssessment where will exchange ideas and discuss the value of implementing it in your school. Follow more stories like these on Twitter and feel free to email us your story.

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