How many students in your school experience both mastery and enough academic challenges?

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What do you think about the students who say that they have enough academic challenges at school but find that they have little mastery? What about the students who experience lots of mastery, but not enough academic challenges? The example below is taken from one middle school in a Norwegian municipality that we choose to call Dalen. Here we can see that 31.18% of students have both a high degree of mastery and academic challenges; however, we also see that 32.26% of students experience mastery but do not feel challenged enough academically. The percentage of students who have enough academic challenges but little mastery is much lower, but almost 12% of students at the school feel neither mastery nor that they are challenged enough academically. The bubble in the middle shows the students whose responses were average on the questions behind these factors.

Csikszentmihalyi (1975) describes “flow” as the optimal zone where challenge meets mastery. Too much challenge (in relation to mastery) causes stress and worry, while too little leads to anxiety and boredom. Differentiating instruction in large classes is a challenging job for teachers. At the same time, insight into what students themselves say about these topics can be useful information when examined with a variety of activities, work styles, and learning resources.

Principal Gunn Åse Karlsen at Rotnes School in Nittedal told us about how her school has worked a lot recently with adapted instruction. However, she also felt that they needed to dig deeper into their data. She missed this specific opportunity in Conexus Insight where teachers and leaders could come together in their analysis and improvement work at the school.

“Some of our challenges with adapted instruction can also be seen together with how some of the instruction is planned for middle or lower levels of rigor. As such, many of the activities are just too easy.” – School Leader Gunn Åse Karlsen.

From Analysis of Data to Student Conversations

Gunn Åse Karlsen, Principal Rotnes in Nittedal

As we hold workshops about the use of data for school improvement across Norway, we see that more and more teachers are inviting students in to reflect upon the student surveys, both in class and through individual conversations with students. The correlation between academic challenges and mastery can be used as a visual aid for students’ thoughts during these conversations. The teachers can ask the student where s/he would place himself or herself on the map. What would you think if William told you that he feels more than enough challenged by math class, but that he rarely can complete the homework or classwork by himself? Or if Aisha says that she masters the material and finishes quickly, but that she doesn’t want to receive extra activities?

At Conexus, we would like to thank Principal Karlsen from Nittedal for her excellent suggestion, and we appreciate all the ideas that our users send to us.

The best feedback that we can get from our users is when they can tell us how Conexus Insight has raised new, focused, and exploratory questions that contribute to better insight and deeper understanding of relationships that affect student learning.

Curious about your own school’s data?
Reach out to Nina Smeby on mobil +47 416 15 068 or email to hear more about how Conexus Insight can strengthen the improvement work in your municipality or School.

References: Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1975). Play and Intrinsic Rewards. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 15 (3), 41-63.

Conexus Insight: Analysis of correlations from current year student survey: Academic challenges and mastery.