The ethos of Kingsmead College, a leading girls’ school situated in Melrose, Johannesburg, is to tailor its academic programme to the needs of each student.
“The passionate and dedicated staff provide academic leadership and support to girls from diverse academic backgrounds and we consistently produce results among the best in the country,” explains Lucia Harding, Senior School Psychologist at Kingsmead College.
And a vital step on this journey to academic success is the subject selection process required by grade 9 pupils. “The subjects they choose to enroll in for grades 10, 11 and, ultimately, their final grade 12 examinations will determine the trajectory of their tertiary education and work careers,” adds Harding.
“It is a pivotal moment in the life of any young person and these decisions should not be taken lightly. We therefore offer the girls as much support as possible and engage with parents to help guide and inform the most appropriate decisions.”
In this regard, Kingsmead College previously offered pupils a traditional online assessment as an adjunct to the battery of assessments and counselling provided by the school. These online assessments sought to test aptitude and uncover specific interests and personality traits that could be used to inform subject selection.
“While these tests were a helpful guide, the faculty at the college were questioning if this traditional assessment was still relevant and helpful for the girls. More specifically, we wondered if the depth of information and the insights provided were sufficient to help the girls make a critical decision that will impact the rest of their lives,” continues Harding.
The consensus was that a multi-faceted and functional intervention that augmented the established process would add significant value to the pupils and their parents. Kingsmead College’s Director of Academics subsequently introduced Harding to Pivotal Talent as a potential solution that could deliver a more holistic assessment to affirm the subject selection process.
Pivotal Talent is a technology solutions provider that makes use of predictive analytics to determine suitability and performance of a learner, relative to a specific career field.
“The solution is able to scientifically profile and screen learners to accurately identify core skills and interests that are related to suitable career fields. The subjects that are then recommended are aligned to these career fields“ explains Pivotal Talent’s William Hardie.
“What initially appealed to us was the fact that the Pivotal Talent solution didn’t point to a specific career, as does the traditional online test, but rather identified broader fields of possible interest,” elaborates Harding.
Following numerous interactions, which included input from the Head of Life Orientation at the school, under whom the subject choice portfolio resides, Kingsmead College decided to pilot the solution during the grade 9 subject selection process. The school subsequently offered the Pivotal Talent service as an optional extra to parents to compliment the school’s broader assessment and guidance processes.
Hardie adds that the solution was a suitable alternative to traditional psychometric testing, which required parents to book an appointment for their children, who then had to spend half a day completing the assessment. A psychologist would then need to generate a report.
“While this is an effective and validated means to assess children and make recommendations, it is costlier and more time consuming than our online solution, which is capable of delivering automated reports immediately following the completion of the assessment.”
However, as there was still an associated cost, Kingsmead chose to not make the Pivotal Talent assessment compulsory. “It was also a little more expensive than the more basic online test previously offered, but the additional value it offered was unquestionable,” continues Harding.
The Kingsmead College faculty shared with parents the rationale for their decision at the school’s annual subject choice evening. “We invited Pivotal Talent to attend the meeting to discuss the assessment and what it could achieve.”
According to Harding, the feedback from parents regarding their decision to replace the basic online assessment with Pivotal Talent was positive. “The feeling after the session was that this was a suitable tool to guide the grade 9 subject choice process and most parents were happy to enroll their students.”
Fifty percent of the 2019 grade 9 class subsequently conducted the Pivotal Talent assessment. “The solution is delivered from the cloud, which meant the girls were able to conveniently complete the assessments online from school during allocated sessions. They can, however, also be completed at home, if required,” adds Hardie.
Scenario based assessments are utilised to identify skill and interest. Based on the student’s skills and interests, a rank list of 20 career fields are provided. “We then recommend subjects that are aligned with the students potential career fields.,” Hardie explains.
Once all the tests were completed, Pivotal Talent promptly provided feedback on recommended subject choices based on the identified skills and interests and traits that correlated with strong and weak career interests.
“The feedback from the girls was that they found the system easy to navigate and the test simple to complete. The assessment took just 60-90 minutes to complete on average, which was far shorter than the traditional assessments,” adds Hardie.
While initial recommendations were based on generic subject choices and were not specific to those offered specifically at Kingsmead College, Pivotal Talent was easily able to adapt the report based on the subjects offered at the college to align with the school’s academic syllabus.
“Once the subjects offered and those that were recommended were aligned, we found the report to be very helpful and informative. The most important outcome was that it affirmed the choices many girls had already made, which provided certainty to them, their parents and our staff that they were making accurate and relevant decisions,” states Harding.
Based on the success of this pilot project, Harding affirms that the school is now looking to include the Pivotal Talent solution as a supplementary option in the school’s formalised career guidance process.
“Pivotal Talent can be used to supplement the career guidance tests the Life Orientation team administer in grades 11 and 12 to help the girls more accurately align their tertiary education with the most appropriate career choice,” she concludes.