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The Downside with Previous Examination Papers

Over the weekend I had the enjoyment of watching my little boy, Noah, play one among his soccer matches (there was a little bit ache too – simply don’t point out the penalty). You probably have watched six yr olds play soccer you’ll know that they largely run round, compelled towards the ball like moths barging headlong into lightbulbs.

Now, penalty incident apart, our mum or dad chat acquired onto how our younger novice 6 yr olds wanted to play – effectively, extra like a staff. We contemplated: possibly they need to drop some drills in coaching and  get in some extra full match follow?

It seems intuitive doesn’t it: to get higher at enjoying the large video games, we have to play extra of the large video games. Solely the difficulty is that this isn’t fairly one of the simplest ways to go about it for novices studying the sport.

Transfer over to the day job of instructing. I spent the final fortnight grappling the marking monster and carrying GCSE essays all over the place I went. This week I’ll have extra essays and a few mocks from my yr 10 class to mark too that can tour my Easter vacation travails.

Whereas I’ve been wading by means of the marking and trying to provide significant suggestions, I’ve contemplated how enjoying the ‘large recreation‘ of getting our college students to jot down a number of full essays and do repeated mocks isn’t solely a flawed strategy to studying, however that it may possibly show an insupportable workload burden to full time lecturers*.

On Monday afternoon, at our fortnightly English division coaching, our Topic Chief, Nic Goodwill, had us watch Daisy Christodoulou‘s speak on ‘Why does AFL fail?‘ and debate then evaluation. Solely just lately, I learn Daisy’s excellent guide, ‘Making Good Progress?‘ that helped cohere a great deal of my studying on evaluation over the previous few years. After years of marking essays and mocks (earlier and earlier it appears) and setting assessments that I believed had been the very best bets, I lastly got here round to cohere some important insights.

This previous few months, like most English lecturers, I’ve thought of how my college students would do higher of their new GCSE exams. Prior to now, I might have drilled them plenty of occasions to jot down normally full exams or essays in timed situations, tackling plenty of full examination questions, giving them a way of the ‘large recreation’: the true pressures of time, the challenges of the examination query wording, the variations within the studying sources and so on.

Solely now, I feel doing mock papers must be accomplished as late as doable; a lot later than I believed prior to now. Sure, they should follow the ‘large recreation’, contemplating the methods of writing with grace below stress; nevertheless, if we focus an excessive amount of on the ‘large recreation’, too early, our college students won’t ever have time to build up and bear in mind the data and understanding required to really play the ‘large recreation’ with success.

Put merely, I feel that doing a number of mock examinations in yr 10, and even in yr 9, is a poor use of our time and that of our college students (the related workload and marking points are apparent). Merely beginning the GCSE earlier in yr 9 might show extra damaging than useful. Examination method must be one thing we train, however it must be the icing on the cake when it comes to our time dedicated to coaching our college students.

Let me supply some concrete examples from my topic: English. I’m at the moment instructing ‘An Inspector Calls‘. My class have simply completed a summative evaluation that was an essay on the character of Sheila Birling. My formative evaluation for this summative piece was…you guessed it, a full character essay. So what was the issue? Properly, each scholar nonetheless had plenty of gaps of their data. With so many errors and gaps, I needed to give scattergun suggestions on plenty of issues in response to their first essays.

As Daisy Christodoulou describes in her speak on AFL, my formative evaluation merely proved too large and unwieldy (to not point out beset by my private subjectivity & propped up by a imprecise mark scheme). They needed to play the ‘large recreation’ of remembering quotes, writing insights about character, theme, social context, all in a coherent argument construction, with written accuracy, with out the follow and concentrate on data to do all of this stuff fluently.

So what’s another?

I ought to persist with quizzing college students on core components of the textual content. A quiz on the characters and themes would assist to consolidate the bottom data they want. A brief reply check on key quotations would show useful. A number of selection inquiries to tease out their data and understanding of the social political context of the textual content would every assist slender the main target of evaluation. Dialogue and debate on key quotes or themes would supply me with a helpful diagnostic evaluation. After creating a coherent development, my college students can be higher ready to sort out an essay. Given every of those extra exact formative assessments, we may then extra precisely diagnose gaps in data, restore miscomprehensions, and extra.

Though it looks like a simplistic evaluation, a cumulative quiz lets you slender the sector with the given ‘recreation’. This in the end helps construct a extra dependable judgement to bear on what your college students know and have to know in future. It challenges lots of our teacherly assumptions.

I had been uncertain about a number of selection questions getting used for the research of English Literature (see my weblog right here). To me, they felt reductive and restricted as a instructing software. Now, a effectively constructed a number of selection query seems to me to be a concise however very efficient technique of evaluation. They’re tough to jot down and I don’t have lots of them, however they may save us numerous effort and time if we acquired them proper. They provide wealthy alternatives to debate and share understanding and readability gaps in data.

For English Literature, improved assessments that delay the summative evaluation of the ‘large recreation’ may imply a vocabulary check; citation recall quizzes; literary time period quizzes, and extra. They appear insufficient, however they’re diagnostic and safe the bottom data our college students have to do the complicated stuff later. We will then higher construct as much as extra complicated duties.

I do know conversations in employees rooms throughout the nation are bemoaning the dearth of previous papers for the brand new GCSEs. Somewhat paradoxically, we must always seize this as a chance to shift our evaluation follow and to work upon creating exact diagnostic instruments which can be extra prone to generate studying and consolidate data and understanding.

So, again to soccer. On a shiny spring Saturday, I need my boy to be practising plenty of nice drills and expertise in coaching. He might profession across the pitch now like a balloon in a cyclone, however within the not too distant future he’ll be prepared for the ‘large recreation’ (hopefully he doesn’t mistakenly choose the ball up within the penalty space!). If we get evaluation proper, I’ll be capable of get out and kick a ball about with him too as a result of I received’t be slaving away at marking infinite mock examination solutions.


*I want to observe that as a member of SLT I’ve comparatively little or no marking compared to a instructor on a full instructing timetable.