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Teachers' User Guide

Are you new to the practice service or do you want to brush up on how it works? This guide will walk you through monitoring your class's practice on your Teacher's Dashboard.

Switch to the Learners' User Guide to find out about completing exercises on the service.

Learner's User Guide

In this guide:

What is the practice service?

Simply, the practice service is a web-based service that allows you to practise Mathematics and Physical Sciences questions and monitor your progress.

Practising Maths and Science is crucial to doing well in both subjects. We all know it, but it can be hard to know where to start, or whether you’re getting anywhere. The practice service makes it easy to work on the sorts of questions you need, and will help you keep track of how you’re doing, with targeted feedback on your strengths and weaknesses.

Using the Teacher Dashboard

Above and beyond being a great practice tool for learners, the practice service is also a powerful diagnostic tool for teachers. Encouraging learners to be forthcoming about the areas that they are struggling with can be tricky and, too often, pupils slip through the cracks. The Teacher’s Dashboard gives accurate feedback on exactly which topics or questions learners may be finding difficult, ensuring that even the shy students get the help they need.

Getting a teacher's account

If you would like to use the practice service with your class and have access to the Teacher's Dashboard, you will need to register your school with us first. We'll set up an account for you and your colleagues and help you link your learners' accounts to yours. We'll then send you your details so you can log in. You can contact us on info@siyavula.com for more information, or check our Pricing page for discounted school rates.

Accessing your Teacher Dashboard

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Once you have logged in you can navigate to your Teacher Dashboard.

How?

Access your Teacher's Dashboard by:

  • selecting Teacher Dashboard from the menu under your name, which appears in the top-right hand corner if you are using a desktop computer; or
  • selecting Teacher Dashboard from the main blue menu bar if you are using a tablet or phone.

All teachers are also given access to a learner account on the service. You can switch across to your own personal Learner's Dashboard and try a few exercises yourself to get an idea of what your class will experience.

How?

There are two ways to access your Learner Dashboard:

  • click on the Practise Maths, Practise Science, or Take me to my dashboard buttons on the home page; or
  • if you are already viewing either dashboard, you can toggle back and forth between your Learner and Teacher Dashboards by clicking on the buttons that appear towards the top of your screen.

Managing your classes

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When we add your classes to our system we will assign them a name (usually a combination of your initials and the relevant grade). You can change each class’s name to whatever you like and switch between them.

How?
  1. Click on the pencil icon to the right of the class name and type the new name into the field that appears. Click on the green tick when you are done to save the changes you have made, or the red cross to cancel.
  2. If you have more than one class registered on the service, you can change the class you are viewing by selecting a different one from the drop down list under Select a different class.
  3. You can choose whether you would like to order all the plots that follow alphabetically by learner name, or by learner performance, i.e. strongest to weakest.

Managing your learners' usernames and passwords

You may find that some of your learners have forgotten the login details they provided when they set up their account. You can help them by looking up what username/email address/phone number they used when they signed up and also by resetting their password so that they can access their account again.

How?

From your Teacher Dashboard, click on Manage usernames and passwords to view a list of your class’s login details. The usernames listed here are the only ones correctly linked up to your account. If a name does not appear here then that learner has either not created an account at all, or is practising on an account that has not been linked to yours.

You will not be able to see your learners' passwords (we don't display them anywhere for privacy reasons), but you are able to help them reset a forgotten password by doing the following:

  1. Tick the box next to the learner or learners who's passwords you will be resetting.
  2. Pick a password on your learner's behalf and enter it in the field at the bottom of the page.
  3. If you are certain you would like to proceed (this can not be undone), then click the Reset passwords button.
  4. You will be told when the reset is complete. This may take a little while.

Once you have reset a learner's password, their old one will no longer work. Please make sure the learner has their new password so they can log in.

Learners are also able to reset their passwords themselves by clicking on the Help! I forgot my password link and following the instructions.

Filtering your class's practice data

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The data on your dashboard is filtered by default. The system selects an active time period - either the last week, the last month or the entire year depending on how busy your class have been. It also automatically selects only the topics that have been attempted by the majority of your class during that time period.

The filters currently applied to your data are detailed in the top right-hand corner of your dashboard. Remember that only the data within these ranges will reflect on your plots and summaries.

How?
  1. Click the Change this button to adjust your filters.

You can adjust the data you are analysing down to a specific time period.

  1. Define start and end date for a time period by clicking on the date field. You can either type in a date or choose one by clicking on it in the calendar that pops up.
  2. If the Select whole days box is checked only the From and Until date fields will be displayed. Unchecking it will reveal time fields too. Select a time by scrolling down through the list that appears or type in a time.

This enables you to drill down to a very specific time period. You can show information about your class’s performance from:

  • the end of the lesson yesterday to the start of the lesson today
  • the last week
  • actually, any time period you want

By checking or unchecking the boxes in the menu that appears, you can change, refine, or expand the filters on the data you’re viewing. You can select specific grades, specific topics within those grades and specific date ranges.

  1. Click on the grade tabs at the top to filter content for that grade.
  2. Click on the arrows on the right-hand side to reveal a list of all the chapters and sub-topics in that grade.
  3. Select or deselect all the topics by clicking on the relevant button at the top of the list.

OR

  1. Scroll through the list and tick the box next to each topic for which you would like to view your class’s practice data.
  2. Click the little cross in the top right-hand corner of the list to close it once you have made your selections.
  3. Click Update when you have finished making all your selections to filter your data by the chosen set of parameters.

Click here to jump to a video on how to filter your class's data.

Interpreting the data on your Teacher Dashboard

Effort
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The first bar graph, labelled Exercises Completed, tells you simply how many exercises were completed by each learner during the time period and for the chapters you’ve specified in your data filters (click here to find out about filtering your class's data). Now you know that they’re working hard ... or not! You can take this as a measure of effort.

How?

Click on a bar representing a learner to highlight them across all charts. Specific data about their performance is displayed further down the page, in the Student Details section.

Success
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This chart shows the level of mastery attained by each learner. The level of mastery reflects both how well a learner did and how difficult the attempted exercises were. A learner with a high level of mastery successfully completed exercises at a high level of difficulty. Compare this to the Exercises Completed chart to match effort with outcomes.

Level 1 contains some revision exercises as well as questions that test basic maths, science and comprehension skills. Levels 2, 3 and 4 contain easy, medium and difficult exercises respectively.

Pace
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From the information detailed in the above two graphs you now have some idea of what they've done and how well they've done, but another factor you might want to consider is how fast they’ve been working. This third chart plots learners’ speed against their mastery.

The relative speed value indicates whether a learner is ahead of, or behind the optimal time per exercise. The optimal time for an exercise is measured as the average time taken by all learners using the practice service who attempted that exercise and got it right.

How?

The Speed vs Mastery chart can be read roughly by seeing which quadrant of the plot a learner falls into and interpreting their pace and accuracy as follows:

Mastery
Fast and careless Fast and accurate
Slow and careless Slow and accurate
Relative speed

Hover over a point to see specific readings for that particular learner. Click on a point to view data about the exercises they’ve attempted. This is displayed further down the page, in the Student Details section.

Class Summary
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See how your class is doing at a glance. This table gives an overview of the data displayed in the charts above.

How?
  1. It can be downloaded as a spreadsheet and used to supplement your reporting, or for reference at parent-teacher meetings. Simply click on the button in the top right-hand corner of the table.
  2. You can click on any of the individual learners in the list to view more specific data about the questions they’ve attempted. Remember, you can actually click on their data on any of the charts above to select them too.
Student details
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The detailed breakdown of performance by topics for the selected learner is presented here for further analysis.

How?

This section is only displayed when a learner is highlighted in the class summary or one of the charts above. Simply click on their name on the class list or the bar or dot representing their performance in one of the charts to populate this section.

The points accumulated or levels achieved by a learner are expressed as a fraction of the points or levels attainable in each section.

Exercise Summary - Question analysis
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As a diagnostic tool for teaching, the Exercise Summary is arguably the most powerful resource on the Teacher's Dashboard. Here you can analyse the data for your class’s performance by exercise type or topic, rather than by learner.

Each entry refers to a question template (read more about what we mean by template here) and shows your class’s average performance for that template. The list is ordered by performance from best to worst, so exercises that were easy for all learners will be near the top of the table and those that were difficult for all learners will appear near the bottom.

How?

You can click View underneath each entry to generate an example of that exercise, see what your learners are struggling with and go through it with them in class.

List of questions
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Your Teacher Dashboard also provides a link to a list of sample questions from the service. This appears above your class summary. Use this list for guidance on how many exercises to assign to learners for homework, or to get an impression of the level of difficulty of a particular chapter or section.

How?
  1. Click on the link to open the list in a new window/tab in your browser.
  2. You can expand the list by clicking on each entry. Drill down through a grade, its chapters and their subsections to display a list of sample questions for that topic.

Please note: The number of times an exercise is repeated in this list is determined by the variability programmed into the template from which it is created and therefore, how often it is worth doing. In other words, if you see an exercise repeated 3 times this means that the system deems this sort of exercise worth practising (and getting correct) 3 times before a learner should move on.

More on how the practice service works

Question Items

A single exercise on the practice service is actually the product of a question ‘template’ from which multiple questions can be generated. Think of it as a computer program within computer program. These mini-programs are able to adjust all the variables within a question, including numbers, words and even language structure! Plus it’ll produce a fully worked solution to match.

This enables the system to generate many variations of the same sort of question (testing the same concept, but with each one requiring a different answer), making the service far more powerful than a question bank or revision book. Learners can practise a particular type of question until they have perfected their methodology and are consistently getting it right. Should they choose to work alongside their classmates they will be able to share method, but not answers.

The team at Siyavula carefully create each exercise and program in the parameters of these variables so that the questions and their solutions are not only accurate, but also make real-world sense. You will never see a fridge listed as costing R150 000 in a Finance problem for example!

If you are interested in learning more about how we build our question items you can read our technology page on siyavula.com.

Levels of Mastery

When practising Maths and Science, it is not enough to just to do lots of questions. You have to make sure you’re working through a range of difficulty levels too. On the practice service we call the extent to which you are able to understand and correctly answer difficult questions your level of mastery

There are 4 possible difficulty levels in the system:

Level 1 contains revision exercises — work learners would have seen in the previous grade. Levels 2, 3 and 4 contain easy, medium and difficult exercises respectively.

The computer program behind the service measures the difficulty of each question and the probability of a learner being able to answer it accurately. The more questions a learner attempts, the better the algorithm is able refine this calculation and determine which level of difficulty to output next.

We know that it is very easy for learners to get despondent if they feel they are getting everything wrong. The practice service therefore ensures that most of the questions that a learner sees in a session are at a level they can actually manage. It will also occasionally give them more difficult questions to challenge them and help them improve their mastery level.

If you are interested in learning more about our machine learning algorithm you can read our technology page on siyavula.com.

More on working with Intelligent Practice

Setting Goals

If your learners have started using Intelligent Practice, you may already be aware that mastering Intelligent Practice takes practice! So in this section, we want to talk briefly about setting goals with Intelligent Practice and moving learners through to a point where they can be confident about their ability.

Whilst many teachers may traditionally set a certain number of exercises for students to complete for homework, we recommend that setting a clear goal of achieving a certain level of mastery will be more effective for learning. This is because completing a lot of exercises does not necessarily mean the student will have mastered the concepts being tested.

In general, we recommend that a mastery level of 3 to 3.5 stars will be a good target for your students to aim for, although stronger students may also want to aim higher.

Also, please remember to remind your learners that, once they can consistently answer the same type of question correctly (using the ‘Try an exercise like this again’ button), they need to click the ‘Go to next exercise’ button if they want to progress through the section and improve their mastery.

Suggested Applications

In this section, we would like to provide you with some brief examples of how and why teachers have used Intelligent Practice in the past. Intelligent Practice helps you to identify not just those students who are doing well, but also those who are putting in the effort and practising lots of exercises, even if their current mastery might be low. We hope these ideas might further help you to get the best out of the service.

  1. It allows you to ‘flip the classroom’ or easily manage end of class exercises: By allowing students to use their own devices (e.g. cellphone, tablet, iPad), it is possible to work through exercises collectively.
  2. It encourages peer-to-peer learning: Intelligent Practice is designed using question templates, so the same type of question can be asked of all your students, but each student will need to provide a different, unique answer. This discourages copying but encourages both teamwork and peer-to-peer learning.
  3. It can help in identifying revision topics: The Exercise Summary may be particularly helpful when deciding on revision areas, as it highlights those topics that were easy for all learners or more difficult for all learners.
  4. It can help you prepare students for exams: By monitoring student speed as well as mastery, Intelligent Practice can help you help your students better prepare for exams, where pace or time management might also be a factor affecting their overall performance.
  5. It provides individual student summaries, helpful for parent-teacher evenings: Intelligent Practice can provide you with individual learner performance data, which may be a further helpful discussion point for parent-teacher evenings.
  6. It can help you when looking at one-on-one student support: By reviewing individual learner data, it is possible to see where a student might be struggling, without him or her having to say so, thereby allowing you as a teacher to provide more tailored support.

Converting Mastery to Marks

Our teachers often ask for guidance on how to translate the work their class does on Intelligent Practice into a mark they can build into their term assessment. For us it is important that what we suggest still incentivises practice. The easiest way to generate a mark from Intelligent Practice that does not work against the ethos behind the program is by assigning a mark for both effort and mastery. In this way learners who do not master a topic, but have put in the effort can earn a mark deserving of what they put in. Equally, strong learners are forced to do more exercises than they would normally, which means they practice more, which is a good thing :)

The table below offers an example of how one might weight learner effort and mastery to arrive at a mark. You can assign marks on a per chapter or section basis, or for a larger set of content, like a term's worth of work.

Final score
(calculated by finding the average of the Mastery and Effort scores)
50% of total 50% of total
Mastery level achieved Mastery score Exercises attempted Effort Score
>1 20% 30-50 50%
>2 50% 50-90 60%
>3 80% 90-125 80%
>3.6 100% 125+ 100%

When assigning the task, please assess how much work would be required for each section before allocating a percentage as described above. Requiring your learners to do hundreds of exercises in a single section would make for a dreadful experience! Using this method also easily allows for you to weight either Effort or Mastery depending on your preference.

More on Taking Action with Intelligent Practice

Our Instructional Designer has recently developed some best practice guidelines for implementing Intelligent Practice both in or outside of the classroom, which you can download from siyavula.com. These guidelines have been designed to offer you a springboard into incorporating Intelligent Practice into your teaching, by providing some step-by-step instructions on using Intelligent Practice in a variety of different ways.


You've reached the end of this Teacher's User Guide.

If you want to find out about the Learners' Dashboard and how to answer questions on the service, you can switch across to the Learners' User Guide by clicking on the button below.

Learner's User Guide

If you have a question about how to use the practice service that is not answered in this guide, please contact us on info@siyavula.com or 021 469 4771.