Sunday, 30 April 2017

Controlled Assessment: A Brief History!


A reminder of the rationale for the Languages GCSE 2010 Controlled Assessments in Speaking and Writing.


1. December 2006 - QCA 11-19 reform programme - 'The current system will be monitoring [sic] to ensure integrity, safety and a reduction in burden'.  The Government wanted to tighten up the GCSE.  'Coursework' for subjects was often carried out in 'uncontrolled' conditions' (i.e. could be at home, could be someone else was actually doing it, even though all had to sign it was their own work ..) so the new GCSEs (first taught 2008, first tested 2010) insisted that all subjects be tested by final exam except when there was a compelling case that it was impossible to test subject skills in this way.

2. As Part of this review, QCA commissioned an investigation into the assessment of speaking for GCSE modern foreign languages,  Here is the executive summary:

Executive summary
Assessment of GCSE speaking: the current position
The current method of assessing speaking in modern foreign languages (MFL) has changed little since the introduction of GCSE in 1988. The majority of students take one examination at the end of the two-year course. This test is usually composed of short structured role-plays and a prepared presentation followed by a conversation. The test is recorded. In most cases the recordings are sent to the awarding body for marking, but some awarding bodies give centres the option to mark the tests and for their marks to be moderated by the awarding body.

 
The nature of this test can lead to formulaic responses and heavy reliance on a limited range of memorised language. This in turn has a negative impact on teaching and learning, with little opportunity for students to demonstrate and apply their knowledge and skills and to develop independence.

 3. At the same time, Lord Dearing was conducting a review into languages. (Published March 2007)
His understanding of the problems at GCSE are in section 3 of his report.
In the light of the evidence from teachers, he made recommendations which included the two following aspects:

(1)   Subject matter for writing and speaking: The content needed to be flexible to suit the individual motivations of the students.   [See 3.17 ' It is particularly in these years that the context of the learning needs to be stimulating to pupils and to engage them in discussion, debates and writing about subjects that are of concern and interest to teenagers.' ]
 
(2)   Speaking test: It was deemed that a short final test was stressful and unreliable.    [See 3.22 . "We also proposed a new approach to the assessment of speaking and listening, which rightly account for half the marks in the GCSE, on the grounds that the present method is too stressful and too short to be a reliable way of assessing what the candidates can do. It is interesting that when people spoke about the oral test, that however long ago it may have been, it is often remembered as a stressful experience. We therefore proposed that these parts of the examination should be over a period through moderated teacher assessment."

4. QCA (as Ofqual was then) required the Awarding Organisations (AOs) to take account of the Dearing review  (informed by teachers).  As part of the overall 'across all subjects' requirements, QCA  stipulated that the controlled assessment could only be 0%, 25% or 60% (and nothing else.)  This led inexorably to the decision to require 60% of the content to be assessed by 'controlled assessment'.   This then allowed for (1) subject matter for the writing and speaking to be determined by the teacher  in response to pupil preferences rather than being quesitons common to all set by the AO in a terminal exam and  (2)  the speaking skill to be tested over time rather than as a final short exam.

 

Monday, 10 April 2017

GCSE 9-1 grading

This blogpost is focussed particularly on ML in the context of the reformed GCSE currently being studied by Year 10 but the principles and messages are exactly the same for
(a)    Current Y11 in maths and English
(b)   Other reformed GCSE subjects for current Year 10

People are asking how they can use the results of mock exams being taken by current year 10 pupils to estimate final GCSE grades.

THE SITUATION IS RIGHTLY COMPLEX
Being fair to all the pupils of all abilities at a time of major transition and change (and by extension to their teachers) taking a wide range of GCSEs  in a real world of historical legacy and political realities, not starting from scratch, we need to be sophisticated and thoughtful and avoid simplistic solutions.

It's a complex situation but there are a few key principles to help through this transition period to ensure fairness for pupils.

THERE IS INFORMATION
There is a range of information available from Ofqual itself (the body responsible for ensuring the quality of standards in qualifications which have been written by exam boards within the constraints set by DfE) and from ASCL (the Association of School and College Leaders).

THERE IS MISLEADING RHETORIC AND MISUNDERSTANDING
There is also much rhetoric around which is confusing the situation and so it is important to unpick some of the political rhetoric, failed logic etc. etc.  For example, 'the content is more demanding'.  Yes, the specifications do appear more demanding.  They have stripped  out any mention of what pupils can be expected to know understand and do at lower levels.  However, grades will be awarded according to 'comparable outcomes' (see below), not according to any statement-related criteria.

SEPARATE DISCUSSIONS
At a time of transition, change and uncertainty this can open a floodgate to discussion (e.g the value of statement-related criteria).  This may be very interesting, but it can unnecessarily distract from the task at hand,  It’s important to focus on what is happening in order to ensure fairness to pupils during this transition.

KEY INFORMATION

1.      OFQUAL GUIDANCE
The Ofqual Blog has some extremely useful posts.  Here are some examples:

(a)    a 9-1 campaign including a chart to show how grades 1, 4 and 7 will compare with current grades G, C and A

(b)   Grade boundaries: the problems with predictions 3/2/17  This blogpost explicitly says that it is unhelpful to estimate grade boundaries in mock exams.  Three reasons are given for this, and I copy and paste the third of  these below:

Statistics will play a key role in making sure this year’s students are not disadvantaged by being the first to sit these new GCSEs. Exam boards will use prior attainment at Key Stage 2 for the 16-year-old cohort to predict likely achievement at the key grades – 1, 4 and 7. The bottom of these grades will be aligned with the bottom of grades G, C and A respectively so the proportions of students achieving these grades or higher will be broadly similar to the previous year. We, and the exam boards, will have the full national picture; other organisations will only have a sub-set of the cohort, which may not be representative of the national situation.

(c)    Setting grade 9 in new GCSEs  This post sets out how the number of grade 9s will be caluclated

 2.      ASCL ADVICE

ASCL has provided advice to students, parents, teachers and  headteachers.  Here is a copy and paste of the first FAQ in the Headteacher paper:

1 Can I give my governors an estimate of how our GCSE grade distribution in the reformed GCSEs will be this year? What about grade boundaries?

ASCL’s advice is not to rely on any predictions of grade boundary marks for new GCSEs next summer. Statistics will play a key role in making sure this year’s students are not disadvantaged by being the first to sit these new GCSEs, and the setting of grade boundaries will need to take account of the national picture which will not be known until all the papers are marked in the summer. In the School Inspection Update March 2017, Ofsted inspectors have been advised not to press schools for predictions of outcomes this year. It is possible to give an indication of the likely grade distribution because of the statistical linkage specified by Ofqual. ASCL will be publishing more guidance on this in the coming months.

MY ADVICE!
One of the most common issues being raised on ML fora relates to other teachers or managers either expecting to be able to convert raw marks to grades or having managers who are putting pressure on them to convert raw marks to grades as a way of telling pupils about their attainment / progress. What can you do about this?

You have to assess what is or is not within your control.  Staff are in a complicated situation.  The ideal is to have managers who understand the situation and are not making unrealistic demands.  
 
What is in your control …
Following tests, give  pupils specific advice on how to  improve - in effect using the assessment formatively e.g.  'you have shown you understand how to form the past tense, but you do not do this consistently accurately.  Learn all the verbs which take 'être' in the past tense.'

What is out of your control ...
There may be requirements set by your management at school, and you have to follow their direction.  However, you could refer them to the Ofqual blog and to ASCL's advice.

I hope this helps,.

 

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Saturday, 4 June 2016

GCSE ML specifications 2016: overview comparison

Comparison document

Last year I spent a great deal of time putting together a comparison of the GCSE draft specifications for first teaching 2016.  The final specification has only recently been approved, and so I am afraid that the final version of my comparison is a bit 'rushed'.  However, it may be useful to those who have been waiting to select a specification from the three available now available.  (AQA, Eduqas and Edexcel).

Here is a link to the Google document which I will up-date as and when I find mistakes.

I suggest that you 'save as' a pdf if you want a printable copy, as this then retains the formatting.

Comment

The specifications are constrained by the DfE GCSE criteria and Ofqual has a duty to approve the specifications. 

The whole process has been interesting.  To be honest, I have been quite impressed at the way that Ofqual seem to have spotted areas which needed attention to bring specs in line .. mainly where criteria were far too harsh at foundation level or where criteria seemed a bit woolly.  There are several areas where I had to strike through my original rant and write that the issue had been addressed. 

The aspect which I will freely openly criticise is the ridiculous rule about speaking tests having to be presented in the target language. This is requirement set by DfE subject criteria.  The DfE should not have been involved in the way the content was tested, and this will compromise the validity of the test and the sanity of teachers preparing students to learn the tricks!.  Every time I look at those ridiculous ‘prompts’ I start muttering at the screen. (I just replaced the word I had originally written for ‘muttering’).   I wonder if there will ever be an authentic context where a native English speaker will find some French words and need to turn them into a sentence, hoping it is the sentence the author intended.

Dr Rachel Hawkes has done some fantastic work comparing specs.. much tidier than this .. but I felt I needed to do it to get my head around the differences, and also because I am interested in analysing Eduqas and French.

ALL London June Event 2016 - Saturday June 11th 2016.  SOAS.

I hope some of you will be coming to hear Wendy Adeniji talk about preparing pupils for the new GCSE speaking and writing terminal examinations.   Here is a link to more information. and here is a direct link to registration. 

We have booked in Dr Rachel Hawkes already for June 2017!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

ICT in Languages Conference

This Tuesday I am meeting with a few others to put together a draft programme for the Free ICT and Language Event, for all sectors and languages, which we are holding at The Ashcombe School on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th April. [You pay £25, but get this back if you turn up.] 
 
We already have a great crowd coming, and excellent presenters, but there is room for more participants (65 have signed up, and there are 35 more places until we reach capacity) and if anyone is interested in presenting, there are some more slots to cover elements of using ICT - (e.g. establishing real contact with pupils abroad, training to listen, read, use grammar accurately, translate and pronounce).
 
If no one else offers, we can definitely cover these elements from our existing team, but it's nice to involve as many people as possible and to let the presenters attend other sessions! As it is an ICT conference, it will not have non-ICT sessions, but we are very conscious of the need to provide something for everyone, whatever their competence / access, so don't worry! 
 
 Here's a link to register, and within the description, there is a link to a google form where you can suggest something you could present .. even if only for 5/10 minutes! If you are not familiar with Google forms and you just want to pass me your ideas directly feel free to do so! Don't be shy! Thanks!
 

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Paris Study Visit 2016

Preparing for a school visit takes a great deal of time, but when you witness the students' enjoyment, it can make it all worthwhile!

If you are planning for a visit to Paris with students, you may find the following documents helpful.
They are all on my Google Drive.  You can view and download them.  If you cannot access them, it will probably be because your school does not allow access to Google documents.  In this case, I recommend you access them from a home computer.

The Ashcombe School Paris Study Visit 2016: Itinerary with comments and advice

Y11 and 6th form trip master details - including:
  • Accommodation
  • BlogSpot
  • Costing
  • Health and Safety Information
  • Information evening
  • Letters to parents
  • Master data
  • Medical consent form
  • Phone Chain and key details
  • Recommended items to take
  • Risk assessment
  • Travel
  • Visits planned in advance
Paris Study Visit Booklet - a booklet issued to pupils in a format which means they could 'roll it up' and put in their rucksacks.  Includes the following:

  • Key info
  • Les règles
  • L'itinérairie provisoire
  • Les jeux
  • Le guide alphabétique




Sunday, 31 January 2016

Thoughts on the new GCSE 9-1 MFL

It was an honour to be invited to speak about the new GCSEs at the annual ISMLA conference which took place yesterday, Saturday 30th January 2016.

When invited many months ago, I fully expected to be in a position to be able to do a thorough objective comparison of four approved examination boards specifications.  However, only one has so far been approved.

I therefore concentrated on outlining the following three areas:
1) The  context for the change
2) The subject content, subject conditions and subject guidance as laid down by Ofqual and the DfE
3) The possible 'variables' which may influence school choice of exam board once approved.

I have made a pdf version of the presentation here which you can download and I am doing a 'webinar' where I will repeat the talk on Sunday 7th February 15:30 - 16:30.

Once all specifications have been approved I will update a very detailed grid which I have already produced and share it.

I hope this is useful.