Student benchmarking involves using standardised tests which can be used for measuring academic performance. Benchmarks can be used by individual schools to compare their own students or for groups of students in schools in the same country. There are also international standardised tests that provide opportunities for schools to evaluate a country’s academic performance in comparison with other countries. Benchmarking allows teachers to adapt their teaching approach as required.
Teachers and benchmarks
The benchmarks are set based on what teachers intend to teach in a time frame and what the students are expected to learn in that time period. Benchmarks can be used to monitor progress throughout the year as the students work towards set goals which they should have reached by the end of the year. In order to compare the performance of different institutions, whether they are established at home or abroad, standard tests are set for the students for measuring their academic performance at the end of school year. If there seem to be problems between different groups of learners in attaining the goals then this helps teachers to assess what they can do to improve the learning outcomes of their student group.
Benefits of benchmarks and teaching style
Teachers can do any of the following after they have received results from tests that measure benchmarks:
- monitor student performance more carefully;
- identify gaps in teaching and learning that need attention to help initiate improvements in student outcomes;
- seek out new approaches to help enable improvements in student outcomes;
- set more realistic goals for the students;
- create priorities when it comes to resource allocation, if applicable;
- provide a more effective learning environment.
For a teacher, benchmarking helps to provide answers to the following questions:
- How do the standards set for students compare to those set by peers in the same school or other schools, either nationally or internationally?
- How does student academic performance measure against the outcomes of other educational institutions e.g. private versus state schools or single sex versus coeducational schools?
- Are students with a specific ethnicity or gender achieving less than their peers?
- How does the socio-economic background of students’ families affect their achievement in the standardised tests?
Example of how a teacher can improve mathematics achievement through benchmarking
If a teacher finds a class of students has performed at a lower level compared to others of the same age following a standardised test, the teacher can decide what to do, such as:
- building students’ confidence when tackling maths;
- encouraging questioning if the students are finding it difficult to understand concepts;
- providing a better explanation so the student doesn’t have to revert to memorising formulae because of lack of understanding;
- providing real life mathematical problems that increase students’ drive to engage with the subject;
- promoting maths learning throughout the school in a positive light.
Student benchmarking is the key for making positive decisions about student outcomes. Standardised tests are the best way to gauge student performance as the test conditions are the same for each student and they are marked following set criteria. Once assessments of performance are complete the teacher can shape his or her teaching approach to suit the students’ needs.