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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. Jonntyboy

    Jonntyboy Occasional commenter

    I can only speak for one of the above, but the groups I teach get grammar grammar grammar and guess what? - they have realised how much it frees them to use the language and how much confidence they are building, so now they ask for more! So the grammar certainly hasn't put them off.
    Dumbing down with moronic topic-led phrases so that everyone could pass exams may have been the socialist way, but it didn't fool the kids - they knew they were being treated like muppets.
     
  2. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Good point, well made, jonntyboy. Not sure either how an oral CA is much less scary than a traditional oral.
     
  3. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    The oral examiner needs to be someone who hasn't taught or primed the students, in my opinion. I'm not saying they should try to catch them out with difficult questions etc, but that the exam should be a test of what they know and how they respond, rather than a memory test of what they've prepared beforehand.
     
  4. I like the Bavarian model for that: the teacher who has taught the class gives the explanations and asks the questions (which are previously phrased by the ministry and have to be read out), but the real examiner is someone else. For one of my pupils, this went great. Her teacher doesn't like her because she's from another Bundesland (Bavarians tend to think that they are the most intelligent people in Germany...) and has therefore always given her bad marks. Her speaking test was 28/30.....
     
  5. A student from my last school told me that yesterday, during her oral exam, the head of department who was conducting the tests started to mime what she was supposed to say in response to a question...the poor girl deciphered what it was and said "quand je suis vieille, je voudrais habiter...." this bit of cheating doesn't even have the benefit of being correct French either.
    It's got to change.....
     
  6. All very admirable but don't forget we need to encourage pupils to opt for languages. We don't want to alienate pupils. Pupils are all too easily tempted away from us to "softer options".
     
  7. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    The ebac may help us out with that one...
     
  8. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

  9. Incommunicado

    Incommunicado Occasional commenter

    A good piece by Steve Smith on the whole. I can't agree, though, with his wish for "avoiding English as far as possible at Higher Tier."
    We have only just escaped from the pointless, anxiety-producing target language rubrics; also, the idea of "avoiding English as far as possible at Higher Tier" could see a move back from 'questions/answers in English' to target-language testing. Assuming that the purpose of a Listening exam is to test comprehension, it is doubtful that target-language testing does this. Candidates can piece together an answer in the TL that is correct, but does not guarantee that they have understood the French heard or their answer given.
    'Questions/answers in English' is a simple, effective and reliable means of testing comprehension.
     
  10. Incommunicado

    Incommunicado Occasional commenter

    Sorry ..... Post 89 refers to the Listening Exam.
     
  11. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    I agree with you, John.
    The trouble with TL questions is that they end up trying to avoid the language used in the audio itself, or if they do use it, it's used as a trap. Questioning in English avoids this.
    For higher levels why not use more open ended questions and summaries / listing the main points. eg. What does he say? What's it about? What does she say about X?
     
  12. Because that tests mediation skills, not listening skills. That is a problem of using English in the first place. If pupils were used to questions in the TL, there wouldn't be any problem, I think.
     
  13. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    Sorry, I don't get that. It's the way that TL questions are set up that is the problem. Too many tricks and red herrings.
    What could be simpler than this?
    a) listen to something
    b) answer question "What does the man say about X?" (3 points)
    It tests listening skills completely. If you don't understand you can't guess a correct answer.
     
  14. But what if you understand, but can't translate quickly enough into English? Then you don't get the points, although you know perfectly well what's going on. I find it way easier, for example, to summarise something in English that somebody has told me in English than summarising it in German.You are actually testing more than one skill if you ask questions in English, so your test is no longer valid. And why would a pupil have problems understanding: Qu'est ce que l'homme dit sur X? The questions have to be phrased in quite an easy way, of course. This one is a good example: http://www.isb.bayern.de/isb/download.aspx?DownloadFileID=926737a801be33bfa12b42919501fb0f
    It's an A-Level English listening specimen paper. And that's a GCSE one: http://www.isb.bayern.de/isb/download.aspx?DownloadFileID=4bfd3ac274e6dfe7bed94188c31378d5 Spelling mistakes in answers only count as mistakes if the mistake changes the sense of the word.
     
  15. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    a) What if the student understands the text and knows the answer but doesn't know how to write the correct response? You're now testing writing as well as listening (and reading).
    b) What if the student can hear what is said, so makes an attempt at writing it down, even if they don't know what it means?
    c) What ifthe student has a very good idea what the person is saying, and is able to write it down in French, but actually doesn't understand a crucial verb or piece of vocabulary? They'd get the points without actually understanding.
    Look, I know where you're coming from, and I've given it lots of thought over the years. And I don't agree with you. Reference to your L1 is an excellent way of demonstrating exactly how much you understand. Q & A in the TL lead to all sorts of problems.
    Take the first question on the GCSE level paper that you link to in your post above.
    Question: Why do we have to have to listen to the views of 5 different people with different views on Friday 13th?
    Answer: because we can't just listen to 1 person and give a summary of what that person said. Because we can't ask students to give a straight answer to a straight question, we end up concocting all sorts of intricate multiple-choice quizzes, true or false (or not mentioned!) etc. These have got NOTHING to do with real life situations. Listening to 5 different people and assigning an opinion to each from the list is far more of a puzzle, a juggling trick, than just writing in your L1 what you understand.
     
  16. I'm not testing writing because it's only about writing down short answers, most exams don't even ask for writing sentences. And I'm not testing reading because the questions are "read" to the student by the tape.
    Well, then that happens, but you will never be able to exclude every possible flaw of a paper.
    If they don't understand a crucial verb, they don't get the message. If they've got the message, they are able to guess from the context what the verb means, and are therefore entitled to their points.

    Not if you think in the TL, which should, in my opinion, be the aim of language teaching. If a student thinks in the TL while listening, they will have huge problems translating their thoughts into English, and therefore lose points. So the weaker ones would get the points, the good ones wouldn't. That's not fair in my opinion.

    Well, to me it seems realistic to be talking to five different people about their views and having to remember what they are saying in order to continue the conversation. Of course, matching would not take place in a real life situation, but then again, listening is never isolated, it's almost always combined with speaking. So if your argument is that it's not authentic, then you can't test listening skills isolatedly. Writing it down in your L1 is translation and that is not fair. It's not about knowing what exactly word x means, it's about understanding what the sentence means. A good example of this is: when I came to England, I had no idea what the word "daft" meant. But I could immediately deduce from the context of the conversation that it had to be something similar to "stupid". Had I been asked to tell someone in German what we talked about, I would have had to use the word and it would perhaps have been wrong, although I knew perfectly well what the person was talking about.
     
  17. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one Sarah.
    I'm not talking about translating - I'm talking about making it clear that you understand the meaning.
    (If you'd been asked to tell someone in German what the conversation was about, you'd have used the German word that meant stupid (or something like that) and you would have been right, wouldn't you? You would have made it clear that you understood what the word meant. Whereas if you'd just repeated the word, your 'examiner' wouldn't know if you actually knew what it meant. In order to be sure that you had understood the word, the examiner would've had to ask you extra questions to make sure that you understood that daft was similar to stupid, silly, or not clever. eg. "Decide whether the person's opinion of X is positive, negative or positive and negative." Or "Does the person think that X is (a) intelligent (b) stupid (c) expensive ?)
     
  18. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    I live in Spain, as do my in-laws, who have a very limited knowledge and understanding of Spanish. It is a completely authentic task for me to be asked "What did he say?" by my in-laws and for me to have to convey the gist of a conversation or exchange to them. Similarly when members of my family come to visit on holiday, and someone says "Dile a tu hermana que..." etc. I've never had to listen to 5 different people and decide which one had a positive, negative or indifferent opinion about anything.
     
  19. Well, okay, then let's agree to disagree on that. Perhaps in Britain and Spain, people are not so obsessed with translation/mediation being an isolated skill as they are here in Germany :D. That's often noticable in our final exam before entering teacher training. They often ask us to summarise German texts in English/Spanish in our text production exams and the examiners are all natives. I did a past paper in which the candidates were asked to summarise a German text on bull fighting in Spanish. That was hell. Perhaps that's why I don't agree with questions in L1....
     
  20. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    Isn't that the other way round, though? L1>L2 is much harder than L2>L1.
     

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