How LAFF has been using tutor perceptions of beneficiary soft skills to better understand its beneficiaries and the factors underpinning their academic success
LAFF has developed a new impact measurement tool to help us better understand how students’ soft skills (communication skills, confidence, responsibility) relate to their academic success and how to measure LAFF’s impact on its beneficiaries’ development of these soft skills. Having a more holistic understanding of our beneficiaries is key to better supporting them to succeed at school and in their personal development.
Collecting tutor perceptions data
In March 2021, LAFF asked the tutors from our partner organization Sacred Valley Project* about each student’s confidence and motivation levels. The tutors were presented with the following 4 statements:
- The student is proud of their work
- The student is motivated in the learning process
- The student is excited to move forward with their studies.
- The student feels confident in their knowledge
For each statement, they could either agree, disagree or say they believe the student is making progress in these areas.
The tutor’s perception of soft skills data was then cross-examined with the students’ grades. Over the course of the 2021 academic year (March-December 2021), there was a significant improvement in grades in all subjects (Math, Letters & Sciences, Reasoning and Problem Solving) but also in the student’s attitudes. Overall, these figures began to improve significantly between May and December.
The portraits of 10 students: understanding our beneficiaries holistically
When assessing students’ academic success it is also necessary to consider their personal development and well-being. Therefore, our Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator Maybe also delved deeper into the profiles of the 5 students who performed the best academically and the 5 who were struggling most. To better contextualize the development of girls’ soft skills, LAFF asked the tutors to provide some information on their family life, social life, health and their outlook on their own future.
On the one hand, the tutors explained that the 5 most academically successful students had confidence in their academic results and in their future. For the most part, their parents were supportive and believed in their daughter’s abilities to receive scholarships and succeed. The girls maintained good social relationships, but tended to prioritize their educational goals.
On the other hand, the tutors painted a very different picture of the personal lives of the 5 girls struggling academically. Though the majority of the girls fared well with group work and communal living, exhibiting solidarity and communication skills, 2 of them struggled to adapt to their new lifestyle at Sacred Valley Project. According to their tutors, these 2 girls suffered from violence at home and stressful family issues that prevented a peaceful life, and hence good grades. Overall, the tutors described these 5 girls, particularly 2 of them, as lacking self-confidence. Shyness prevented some from socializing properly. One of them even found herself often in conflict with the others, who distrusted her, due to her tendency to lie. The tutors attributed these behaviors to traumatic experiences of physical and psychological abuse from a young age.
Why soft skills assessment data is so insightful
However, Maybe’s research yielded more surprising and insightful results. For instance, the tutors believed that even though their grades did not reflect it, the 5 girls most struggling academically exhibited an interest in their studies and a will to learn. Moreover, the tutors thought these 5 girls demonstrated confidence in their ability to succeed academically in the future, despite their personal and academic struggles.
Another of Maybe’s surprising finding was that some of the best students scored the lowest when it came to soft skills because of their shyness. The tutors attributed this to their family life. Indeed, one of these girls suffered from a violent father and being dragged into family conflicts, while another suffered from an absent father and an indifferent mother.
The portraits painted of these 10 girls and Maybe’s unexpected findings highlight the necessity for LAFF to holistically support not only the students struggling academically, but also the high-achieving students, who may be struggling on the personal development front. This knowledge will be useful in designing future personal development workshops and programmes for our beneficiaries.
For the moment, the tool is only being used for the Sacred Valley Project, but LAFF hopes to extend it to Mosqoy and Azul Wasi in the near future.
*Only the Ollantaytambo and Calca dorms were taken into account