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:
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)
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.