What to Assess When You’re Assessing

The Women's Group sends a cheerful goodbye after a successful session At Tomorrow’s Youth Organization in Nablus, classes are held for a diverse group of community members that range in age.  From small children learning English, women learning about computers, and local University students gaining professional skills TYO employs it’s psycho-social approach to ensure evocative learning experiences for all.

In TYO’s Core PM English classes, many children arrived with little confidence in their English skills and lacked the social skills necessary to create a friendly and fun environment. Throughout the past few weeks, every child has not only demonstrated a knack for English but have also grown to care for one another. This can be seen in the way they share their art materials and invite one another to sing for the class. To our pleasant surprise, the kids have all shown a mastery of all the English letters and words we have covered, both in speaking and writing. However, the biggest achievement that has been made in the program is the way their perception of the English language has changed. It went from being seen as a scary and impossible thing to learn to one of their favorite subjects of the day.

Another set of beneficiaries at TYO, the Women’s Group, also began with some challenges. For example, the beginner IT class proved comical. When women waved their mice in the air and clicked haphazardly, it was difficult not to laugh. Despite the comedic aspect of their IT misadventures, the lack of knowledge in computers the women displayed is due to their surroundings; coming from refugee camps, many women do not own computers at home. The 5 week intensive crash course on computers was beneficial to them in numerous ways: teaching them the basics of computer usage as well as building their self-confidence.

At first, lesson planning was a daunting task. How does one teach basics to those who have never touched a computer? After the first class had progressed it became evident that it would be necessary to include the most basic of basics. Those basics included holding a mouse properly, teaching women to correlate the mouse with the on-screen arrow, double clicking, and right clicking. One class in its entirety was spent training women hand-mouse coordination, with a 30 minute segment on double-clicking.

By the end of the 5 week course, however, the Women’s Group ladies were capable of creating their own desktop folders, searching the internet, saving, copy/pasting, and customizing their own MS Word documents. The proficiency displayed in their mouse-usage was akin to the ballet; the on-screen arrow leapt and bounded across pages, double-clicking with grace, copy-pasting with elegance, and highlighting sentences with finesse.

Most importantly, however, they now have the basics necessary to teach themselves independently. The computer has become their oyster.

Similarly, at the start of Professional Competency classes at An-Najah National University sponsored by Abdul-Hameed Shoman Foundation, students lacked confidence in their overall professional capabilities.  Many students responded to pre-assessment questions stating they “Strongly Disagreed” with a majority of the concepts including the ability to write resumes, conduct themselves in interviews, or write professional emails.  Many men and women choose to major in Engineering at An-Najah which was worrisome because according to the American Sociological Review, many women end up leaving the engineering field precisely because they lack the professional confidence men do.  Throughout the session, TYO worked with University students to not only empower them and build confidence, but also to equip them with the tools necessary to succeed in the professional workforce.  It was apparent TYO’s efforts had paid off at the culmination of the session when post-assessments were handed out.  Students who had previously chosen “Strongly Disagree” now had changed their answers to “Agree” or even “Strongly Agree” with many of the professional concepts presented.  Even more telling of TYO’s progress with the students was a post-session discussion. One particular female student who had started the course speaking barely above a whisper raised her hand to tell the instructor “You have given me confidence.  You made us believe in ourselves. This is something I will use today, tomorrow, and forever.” -TYO Interns, Amanda & Dari, and Fellow, Nada

This program - as part of Student Training and Employment Program (STEP!) - is sponsored in part by the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.