Thoughts on education and science in the news and in schools. Seen from the other side of the classroom wall.
Saturday, 31 May 2014
What practical assessment?
It is a truth
universally acknowledged that a high stakes accountability system will tend to
prevent accurate teacher assessment.Or
at least, that is what Ofqual and the exam boards would like us believe.
to many teachers about controlled assessment (and having been involved in
supervising coursework) I think that actually Ofqual and the exams boards are
probably correct.Current controlled
assessment measures very little of a student's ability to skillfully carry out
practical work, and is overly focussed on one (or at most two) practical
experiences.The time taken to ensure
that the whole class completes the appropriate work, with the appropriate supervision
eats into the time that could be used to teach content, or do other practical
work.(And involves numerous catch-up
sessions after school and during holidays if my child's experience of year 11
science coursework is anything to go by).
So Ofqual have, at one fell swoop, removed teacher assessed practical work from A-levels from 2015. Instead, students will be expected to develop 12 practical skill sets through carrying out a minimum of 12 named practicals. The skills are the same for all exam boards, but they are free to choose their own practicals. The skills are given in appendix 5c of the subject criteria, but until the draft specifications are published (towards the end of June) we won't know what the practicals are.
Rogerson published a blog outlining her view on the loss of practical
assessment and I think that she makes a very good point.
What if the
removal of examined practical assessment means that teachers will stop doing
practical work?If we don't assess
practical work, then even though teachers think that it is educationally desirable,
they might stop doing it.Senior leaders
might decide that if practical work isn't assessed then why spend large part
amounts of money on science equipment and consumables?
Again, I can
see why they are worried. It may be that
practical science becomes limited to the 12 named practicals in the specs -
much like the teaching of English literature appears to be limited to the books
named in the new GCSE specs. Teachers
will plan for, and teach, only the practicals that they have to provide
evidence of the students carrying out.On
the other hand, anecdotal evidence from teachers who have switched from GCSE
sciences to iGCSE sciences have said that the removal of controlled assessment
work has led to an increase in the amount of practical work that they do.
Before we can
start to discuss the effect of the changes to practical work it would be
helpful to know what practical work A-level students currently do. Michael Gove and Ofqual have referred to reports of Universities
complaining that A-levels don’t prepare students well enough for
university. It may be that, in some
schools, practical work has already reduced to only that required to complete
the controlled assessment part of the course.
like that, it may be that having to do 12 practicals over the space of 2 years
might actually be an improvement.
though, we just don’t know.
To that end,
I am intending to carry out some preliminary research into what practical work
in science (and particularly physics) is currently planned and carried out at
A-level in a number of local educational establishments.I’m hoping that I will be able to
revisit the schools as the changes to A-levels are made and see how they are responding
to the new structure.