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Q&A: Using International Benchmark Tests (IBT) data to improve learning outcomes in Indian schools
©Venkata Suresh Lolla

Q&A: Using International Benchmark Tests (IBT) data to improve learning outcomes in Indian schools

Comment 5 minute read

The International Benchmark Tests (IBT) are an internationally administered program of assessments in English, mathematics, science, and reasoning for Grades 3 to 10. IBT is used to compare student performance globally, between grades, and over time. 

In this Q&A, Venkata Suresh Lolla ─ an eminent school leader and presently the head of Valistus International School ─ tells us why IBT is a useful assessment tool for schools in India. He has used IBT data to make critical learning improvement decisions for over 10 years.

What do you believe is the most important feature of IBT? 

Diagnostic detail about student learning is the most important feature of IBT. Once educators understand the strengths and challenges of individual students, it is easy for them to support the learning of all students in the best possible way. Plus, tracking student growth, another hallmark of IBT, helps educators to understand if students are making improvements over time. I have used this strategy for about a decade in different schools, which has led to high performance of students.

How does IBT support curriculum implementation within schools?

An ideal curriculum needs to have:

  • personalisation (meeting the needs of a cohort)
  • standardisation
  • progression in skills and knowledge.

All the above can be achieved through the review of the IBT data. Usually, we infer the core statements of the IBT reports, draw an action plan noting the starting points of every child, make changes to the curriculum plan, and eventually set realistic learning targets for each student.

How has IBT data helped to make improvements in student learning at the classroom level?

IBT data is a catalyst to improving learning. It helps a teacher to understand the starting points and gaps of each student and groups in terms of knowledge and skills. For example, we noticed a gap in punctuation skills of a Grade 3 cohort. So, while planning the Grade 4 curriculum, we provided sufficient teaching and practise time to fill this gap. Moreover, since we knew individual student attainment, we could confidently do proper mixed ability grouping of students which in turn enhanced the pace of learning.

What are the next steps for teachers after the learning gaps have been identified?

Subject teachers initially get together in groups to analyse the strengths and challenges of different cohorts. Once the gaps have been identified, they chart learning objectives of future lessons to be taught to specific cohorts. Sometimes in spite of rigorous teaching, when desired outcomes are not achieved (as reflected in IBT), teachers try different pedagogies or change group dynamics to ensure optimal learning.

How is IBT data useful in the overall improvement of learning outcomes and decision making at the school level?

Assessments are our basic feedback mechanism. They enable us to improve teaching and learning processes to meet the needs of every student. In order to achieve a high degree of precision in understanding the learning gaps, we have to choose the right assessment tool.

IBT has been a reliable tool that has assisted me in my decisions for more than a decade. The reports clearly focus on the gaps in various strands (areas) in each core subject along with a comparison of how a school cohort has performed with respect to national and international cohorts.

Occasionally, we may fail to observe a small group of students ─ gifted students or those who are facing challenges to learn a few concepts. This can be identified with the help of IBT reports that provide a clear direction for school leaders. IBT supports differentiation for effective teaching among all year groups. In short, the data can support school leaders to identify gaps in curriculum, methodology, student grouping, and also identify the needy or talented groups.

What is the most useful feature of IBT reports and how has it benefitted your students or school?

The progress charts of different cohorts compared with national and international data is the most useful feature of the IBT reports. At a glance we can familiarise ourselves with the learning dynamics of a cohort and accordingly plan efficient deployment of staff and resources to enhance student learning.

Do you think that data from educational assessments, such as IBT, will be critical in addressing the learning gaps arising due to school closures?

In this pandemic, children are the most affected group in our community. They have been away from physical learning for more than 15 months. I feel that the IBT tool is the need of the hour for any school leader. It will help in providing a standardised gap analysis of core skills. The IBT report can be one of the reference documents for developing an action plan for the academic year 2021-22.


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