Student concentration, innate talent and how safe are schools?

Welcome to the blog of Teacher Tapp Ghana

Every Monday we summarize our most surprising and interesting survey findings from the week before. This weekly blog provides an easy way for you to learn about the experiences and opinions of teachers across Ghana.

Please encourage your colleagues to use the Teacher Tapp app to keep engaged with education even when they’re not teaching. Your responses are also a vital data source that will guide decision-making around best policies and approaches for enhancing the welfare of educators/teachers and ensuring robust educational sector management.

Many more teachers will like to be heard and this can be done through Teacher Tapp. Do share this blog with your colleagues and encourage them to use the download links at the bottom of the page. In the meantime, here are this week’s intriguing findings…

1. How safe are schools?

Concern about the safety of schools continues. Although this has prompted demands for schools to close, it could just as easily prompt questions about how schools can alter their practice to make themselves safer.

Last week, we noted that nearly 80% of teachers reported that their students socialise with each other outside of lessons. With most active teachers telling us that nearly all of their students have returned to school, this could mean a very large number of young people in close proximity to each other. We wondered how controlled this socialising is and whether anything could be done to make it more effective?

We also noted that teachers are overwhelmingly enthusiastic about COVID-19 testing in schools, with 90% supporting the proposal. This could imply that teachers currently feel unable to effectively identify and isolate those might have the virus.

While COVID-19 testing in schools is popular, it would require an enormous amount of testing capacity to meet demand. This is especially the case as students and teachers would need to take regular tests. Even if such capacity did exist, it would be enormously expensive for the government. It is also arguable that regular temperature checks and other symptom monitoring strategies might be able to achieve the same results more easily.

On the other hand, countries who ran extensive testing programmes early on in the pandemic have performed especially well in controlling the spread of COVID-19. As such, there are perhaps good reasons either way for supporting the idea of mandatory testing in schools.

2 . Why can’t students concentrate?

All your best efforts as a teacher can go to waste if students don’t pay attention during lessons. We wondered about the extent to which this is a problem for teachers on a daily basis and what the causes of it might be.

1 in 5 teachers told us that in the last lesson they had taught they had spent over a third of the time trying to make sure students are paying attention.

This results in a large amount of lost learning time. But to understand how we can solve the problem we need to understand what it’s cause might be. We asked this question and obtained a complex set of results.

The most common reason was distraction by other students, suggesting challenges with classroom management. But the second most commonly reported reason was physical ailments such as hunger and headaches. Worry about issues at home also ranked highly.

Given the events of the last few months, it’s also possible that these three issues have become more substantial, leading to lower levels of student concentration in lessons. This would explain why nearly 80% of teachers told us they believe they would benefit from extra training in classroom management. This is a worry as teachers work desperately to prepare final year students for exams.

3 . What’s the difference between students and teachers?

We asked you whether you believe great students are born or made. Most respondents told us they believe great students are made.

However, interestingly, we asked the same question about teachers and were surprised to see the opposite result. Over 60% of respondents told us they believe that great teachers are born rather than made.

Academic performance and teaching performance are both types of skill. The interesting question is why teachers perceive one as being an area where greatness can be trained and the other as one where greatness has to be born with. This might have important implications for how we plan to improve teacher training courses.

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