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CAs are pants, so how should we assess MFL at GCSE?

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by mlapworth, May 4, 2011.

  1. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    OK, so not everybody will agree with my statement in the thread title. (But I suspect most will). So what should GCSE MFL look like?
    Here are my suggestions:
    Replace the current GCSE with a 5 paper exam, to include:
    Listening: all questions in English, requiring answers in English. No
    dictionary needed as there is no written French to look up.
    Reading: all questions in English, requiring answers in English.
    Dictionary allowed. Reading could include an element of translation from
    the TL into English!
    c) Language in Use / Grammar: similar to the
    papers used in the Cambridge EFL exams. Tests of grammar and vocabulary in
    context. Manipulation of language and structures. No dictionary.
    Speaking: assessment by external examiner. No indication beforehand of
    content. Mix of transactional language, conversation and e.g. describing
    / discussing a picture. Emphasis on assessing the students' ability to
    produce spontaneous appropriate utterances in response to aural or
    visual stimuli.
    e) Writing: by final exam. Dictionary allowed (but
    use discouraged). Variety of question types and stimuli. e.g. maybe
    include something like the old-style picture essay. Include lower level
    questions, and all questions / instructions to be in English. Include
    some translation into the target language (or something similar based on getting a particular message across in their own words).
    (All of the above equally weighted: 20% each)
    Maybe combine L + R into one "receptive skills" exam, divided into 2 parts.
    put Reading & Writing together as one paper, and then Listening
    & Language in Use together on a different day, as neither of these
    require dictionaries. (So essentially 2 sessions - a dictionary session
    and a no dictionary session.)
    Now, this may appear old-fashioned, rather than forward-thinking, BUT...
    An exam structure like the one
    above would make a teaching style based on memorising whole chunks of
    text or set responses to pre-prepared questions obsolete and unworkable.
    (There would simply be no point in doing this...) The only way to get
    students to pass exams would be to teach them how to actually use
    language themselves.
    Then the interesting bit (and the forward-thinking bit) would be to experiment with all kinds of techniques which would allow students to become effective learners, users and manipulators of language.
  2. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    ideas are just a starting point, to get the ball rolling. Looking at blog posts,
    emails to forums, tweets on twitter etc, it would appear that there is a
    majority consensus that the current system doesn't work, so presumably people
    have their own ideas about what the assessment system should look
  3. This is all very nostalgic. Could we have the dictée back? There is nothing better for teaching accuracy in written French and reinforcing French grammar.
    Do you think that there are enough MFL teachers who would be confident enough in their own knowledge of grammar, to teach in this way?
    I do agree that the current methods of assessment and therefore teaching MFL are not fit for purpose, in many schools.
  4. Firstly the GCSE exam system in MFL is utterly corrupt with widespread cheating. Therefore, all examinations HAVE to be completely transparent and independent of the teacher.
    Therefore, your suggestions are a much better way of assessing students. Unfortunately, the current system will continue for some time because private companies are making excellent profits. Also, they are never going to shine a light on the industrial levels of cheating undertaken by teachers in the system. Profits will always come first!
    Are teachers to blame for all the cheating? No. They are put under great pressure to achieve results. Meanwhile, students rarely do homework but want excellent grades. So in short, the assessment system MUST not include the teacher(s) of the students concerned. Once we agree (just like MPs can't be trusted) that teachers can't be trusted to police exams because of external pressures then we might get somewhere in the long run.

  5. I would personally prefer that pupils take the DEFL scolaire assessments. This would not only result in better assessment criteria, but lead to teaching becoming competency-based, rather than topic-based.
  6. Of course, there are the "DEFL scolaire" equivalents for other languages: "Zertifikat Deutsch für Jugendliche" for German, "DELE para escorlares" for Spanish, "ele.IT junior" for Italian, etc.
  7. Incommunicado

    Incommunicado Occasional commenter

    Oh, I couldn't agree more. This is very encouraging.

    I always felt that the Oral Test should include the gleaning of information through questioning in the TL with the facts gleaned written down in English and handed in for marking in order to indicate how well the students have understood answers to their questions.
    Example (role play): "Find out when the train leaves".
    Student: "Le train part a quelle heure?"
    Examiner "A onze heures moins le quart".
    Previously there has never been any credit given for understanding the examiner's answers; the student should have to write down in English the facts given in the answer to prove that comprehension has taken place.

    CAs must go. As mlapworth says, they are pants. Forbidding students' teachers from assisting with/correcting their preparation for an essay does not prevent the students from finding help from
    a) teachers from other schools;
    b) linguistically knowledgeable friends and relatives;
    c) private tutors

  8. Incommunicado

    Incommunicado Occasional commenter

    PS Strongly agree with OTTER about dictation. It is an excellent way of practising spelling, grammar and vocabulary.
  9. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    Yes, but it's far harder in French and German than in Spanish.
  10. Dictées are a great exercise. I used them when I taught English in French schools. However it is necessary to point out there are different types of dictée.
    The most ordinary is the dictée sèche, which is involves no preparation on the part of the pupils. They have to use their all-round linguistic knowledge to be able to successfully complete the dictée. It can relate to a lexical and grammatical theme recently studied, but the actual content of the dictée is unprepared. This is the most difficult type of dictée.
    Next there is the dictée préparée. For this, the pupils are given the text beforehand and asked to prepare it. The particular orthographical and grammatical problems within are discussed in class. The dictée is then administered without the pupils having their prepartion in front of them.
    There is also the dictée à trous, which involves pupils listening to the text and filling in the gaps in the written text. This is good for testing adjectival and verbal agreement, as well as homophones etc. The dictée à choix multiple is a slightly easier version of the dictée à trous, because the possibilties for the gap are provided and the pupils has to correctly choose the answer.
    There is something called the dictée auto-corrective, for which the pupils have to correct the mistakes they have made by using their study notes/textbooks, etc. to find out why they made the mistake and how to correct it. This takes more time though than for other types of dictée.
    Another type is the auto-dictée, which involves the pupils memorising a text by heart, and thus the vocabulary, spellings and agreements, and then regurgiting it from memory in class.
    Finally there is the dictée dialoguée, which is a variation on the dictée sèche. After each sentence or clause is read by the teacher, the pupils dicuss the problems within, such as the tense, the verbal agreements, and so forth, together as a class.
  11. Sorry for referring to dictation as dictée. I do mean "dictation" for non-French speakers. I just realised I kept using dictée even when explaining in English. I went back into French teacher mode for a moment!
  12. I agree. I am tired of the new system and bored of teaching topics and getting pupils to learn chunks of spanish based on topics that they will never have cause to discuss with any spanish person. The pupils also know it is a load of rubbish!
    I think we should combine skills too maybe a speaking and listening paper? This would seem logical and cut out the stupid nature of the random listening paper - maybe some simple interpreting? - skills for the workplace?
    There should be an element involving watching a DVD for example so the listening is seen in context as very few pupils are used to listening to people without visual clues.

  13. Yes, the audio-visual element is an excellent idea. As it brings more reality to listening comprehension, as most of what we listen to involves looking at the same time.
  14. .
    Utter bilge.
    Nice idea in theory, but we are dealing mostly with lazy adolescents here and CA writing enables the lazy to become even lazier. The marking is also far too lenient as recent board inset shows.
    The only way to find out who deserves A*/A/B/C etc in writing is to set a passage of translation which tests specific grammar and vocabulary prescribed in the syllabus. It can start off with some easy stuff so the weak ones can get more than 0 (although it's amazing how "j'm'apple" and "mi llamo es" continue into year 10), while the final paragraph can be the acid test for those aspiring to the now ubiquitous A*.

  15. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    I feel uncomfortable about being quoted in the above message :(
    (I want to point out I was quoting another person's point of view for the sake of balance, to show that not everyone thinks like I do...)
  16. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    Yes I noticed, mlapworth, and thought it was very noble of you, actually! [​IMG]
  17. Absolutely mlapworth. Sorry to draw attention to you in that way. You were only quoting someone else.
  18. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    And such a simple format to mark, too.
    Someone on a previous thread mentioned the idea of "interpreting" a message rather than direct translation, allowing for a bit more flexibility. But I certainly think there is a case for some form of translation into the TL in the writing exam (and an element of translation into English in the reading exam).
  19. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    While people are on the whole against the CAs - and to be honest, against most earlier versions of GCSE - there aren't that many suggestions for how people think MFL should be assessed at GCSE...
    Maybe a foreign perspective would help? Is there anything we can learn in the UK from MFL exams in other countries?
  20. I'll volunteer for that, mlapworth. The GCSE exams in French/English for Realschule in Bavaria (Grammar school pupils get their GCSEs automatically by passing Y10) are the follwing: There are only two exams (which is good for the children who are stressed out by exam situations). The first exam is the so-called "Speaking Test" (no idea what it's called for French). It is taken in pairs or groups of three candidates. There are two examiners: the teacher who usually teaches the group is the interlocutor, so this person's job is merely asking the questions and explaining the tasks. The other examiner is a teacher from the same school, and schools usually try to find someone who has never taught the group, and s/he takes notes during the examination and has the final say regarding the grade awarded to the candidates. The exam consists of three parts. Part one is general conversation. It lasts about four minutes, and the candidates are simply asked to have a conversation on their hobbies, family, school etc. After that, each candidate gets a picture to describe to the other candidate. Both pictures are about the same topic (e.g. different possibilities to spend your holidays, sports, leisure, school....). Each candidate gets one minute to describe his/her picture, then they have two minutes to have a conversation on the topic (e.g. if they like to spend the holiday in the location of the picture, which kinds of sports they like...). The last part is really tricky: the interlocutor explains a situation, i.e. a friend of yours has broken his leg and is in hospital. You are going to visit him. Decide on two presents you can bring. They get a sheet with six to eight suggestions (pictures only), and have to have a real discussion about their possibilities (mentioning every single picture) and have to agree on two possibilities. This takes about 4 minutes. The speaking test is taken during their last term at school, usually during the week before the easter holidays. The second exam combines all the other skills. Listening is 30 minutes, all the questions are in the TL (which I personally find easier than questions in the first language). After the listening test, there's a 30 minute break, and then they get to do the reading/language in use/writing part of their exam, which lasts 180 minutes, I think. The reading part consists of a text (about an a4 page, sometimes more) with different types of questions: true/false/not in the text, multiple choice questions, and questions which have to be answered in short sentences. Then there's the so-called "mediation". The pupils get a text in the TL and have to answer some questions on it in German. The language in use part involves a mixed grammar exercise, sometimes error spotting and a key-word exercise (pupils have to re-write a sentence using a given key word). The last section is the so-called "guided writing". A situation is outlined to the pupils in the TL, and they are given four to five bullet points they have two include (usually the last bullet point is: add two/three new aspects). For French, the pupils are awarded the DELF if they pass the exam.

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