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Edexcel GCSE drama results: a world of make-believe

Discussion in 'Drama and performing arts' started by sackbarrow, Aug 25, 2011.

  1. OK, here's my tuppenceworth.
    I've been teaching Edexcel GCSE drama for the last few years, but by
    trade I'm an MFL teacher - only started with the drama to help the school out,
    really. I've been teaching MFL to GCSE
    and A level for almost three decades. My
    GCSE drama group have been walloped by the mod in unit 2 this year and lost a lot
    of their marks. Note, incidentally, that our marking for unit 1 was described as
    too severe (but no marks were added on, of course). Additionally, their unit 3 marks are pretty
    humdrum. Needless to say, since
    September 2009, I - and they - had spent much time combing over the new spec
    trying to ensure that everything was done as requested. But here's the point - these kids put a huge
    amount of effort into this GCSE, and I can guarantee you that if they had
    instead done French, say, or German with me to GCSE and put in the same kind of
    effort, they would have got one if not two grades higher in their results.




    Why? I think it's to
    do with the way the subjects are examined.
    MFL is basically straightforward - you learn a fair amount of vocab,
    master some opinion/justification sentences, get up to speed with three verb
    tenses at a very basic level and learn a set list of useful phrases and other
    bits and pieces, and there you go - you'll get a grade C, no problem. It's a basic GCSE spec that does what it says
    on the tin, and you and your kids know what to do to press the right
    buttons. Access to higher grades is
    similarly pretty easy to understand. That's
    not to say it's easy - it ain't and you have to graft - but you know exactly
    what you have to do, and if you work at it you're on a winner.




    Drama GCSE on the other hand is - at least to me - a land of
    confusion and impossible expectations. The language of the spec and mark schemes
    is at times of almost Joycean impenetrability, and there's a sort of florid style
    about the moderators' reports that robs them of clarity and leaves you
    wondering what it's all about. I quote
    from one of this year's reports:




    '...still image was used at a higher level where students
    were asked to respond to abstract themes from the chosen play, introducing
    concepts which emerged through subsequent work with the text in the same
    lesson. Where students also had opportunities to work independently within the
    planned structure they were able to combine their knowledge of drama strategies
    with the creative use of medium and elements.'




    I imagine this means 'We like still images that portray the
    big themes of the play as interpreted by the students. We also like to see the students working
    without hands-on guidance at times.' But
    who knows? This verbose, cod-academic
    style is everywhere you look in the documentation, confusing you and sending
    you round in circles so that you end up in a rictus of anxiety about what to do
    to help your kids pass the wretched exam.
    This is all further exacerbated by the amount of entry paperwork you
    have to fill in for each candidate in what is, after all, just a single tier
    GCSE: MFL teachers (and probably others as well) would start a rebellion if
    something similar was demanded of them.




    And as for the subjectivity of the marking - don't start
    me. Are they really saying that a 15
    year old kid who takes a major role in a half-hour play, learns all her lines,
    cues and positions immaculately and makes a workmanlike performance on the
    night - are they saying this kid is a grade D in paper 3? This is what happened with my group. Are there really as many as four higher
    grades she could have got? This exam is a GCSE - an exam for 15 and 16 year
    olds who are probably also doing 8 or 9 other GCSEs: it's not the first year of
    a degree course at RADA!




    It's almost as if there's a little group of aesthetes up
    there in the clouds somewhere shaking their heads pityingly at us as we run
    around in a panic trying to read their minds.
    The cutting of marks in unit 2 this year in so many centres really does
    reinforce this impression - you almost feel as if you've been set up to go
    wrong so that they can punish you. Well,
    what about looking at it the other way round?
    If so many centres went wrong ('Centres were largely over generous in
    their marking') doesn't that say something about the clarity of the
    instructions that went out to them? I'm
    not a mind-reader, nor am I able to spend all day every day going over the
    drama GCSE question - I'm just a regular teacher with classes, tutor group,
    meetings, duties, marking, rehearsals, and all the rest of it to attend
    to. I don't want to play mind games; I
    don't have the time. Tell me in plain English
    what you want and I'll get my kids to do it.
    Where is the sense of proportion in all this? I think at some point a reality check is in
    order, and - to return to where I started - the people in charge of drama could
    do worse than have a look at the practice of the MFL guys. Sometimes less is more.
     
  2. Very well said. Completely agrees with you. I'm glad to hear your opinion from someone who teaches a different subject and is able to compare. I agree the amount of paperwork and topsheets is not needed and specification doesn't make sense of what exactly is needed.
    The course can be and should be a lot simpler for teachers and students.
    Edexcel need to have a look at this closely. Teachers who have been in the profession a long time probably had the expertise to suss it out and work out the best course of action. For relatively new comers it has been an absolute a*rse ache and I completely agreee that this is a Drama course...not the training needed to become the next Sir Tony Hopkins!
     
  3. Well said. When are Edexcel going to get simple and stop hiding behind semantics and create a " level playing field with stable goalposts"which we all accept. IF WE GO WRONG THEN -PLEASE POINT THE FINGER AT THE TEACHERS. To have so many teachers complaining about Unit 2 means that something is wrong in the ICE/SPEC. To punish pupils is wrong - they should have let this year be a test year and warn centres that over generous marking will be penalised in future.
    You are also right about centres being set up to make errors-only then can Edexcel spout "what you should have done --"
    I like your common sense/no technical terms post. Keep contributing. Write to Edexcel!
     
  4. I've just returned from 'Results day' and have never felt so demoralised and fed up as I do today :( Edexcel drama gcse has to be the hardest gcse there is!!! We are appealing against the Unit 3 marks awarded. I know that the group I had wasn't the best but the results they have been given for this unit are unbelievable! When will edexcel realise that they are marking the work of 15/16 year olds!! It was a good script (resources4drama) and they performed 'well'. I know pride in their achievements doesn't get a result but if they had performed like that in any other gcse for the requisite half an hour they would have been awarded a damn sight higher grade!!
    I can only conclude there must be a better alternative in the guise of another exam board that doesn't rip your heart out and stamp all over it and doesn't give you so much RIDICULOUS paperwork!!
    Rant over!!
    Tilly

     
  5. Tilly, I too feel your pain! I have just returned home and feel completely devastated! Our unit 3 marks were shocking to say the least. Capable students achieving 18/80 for a good solid performance - not Oscar winning but good!
    I feel so discouraged!
     
  6. Dear fellow devasted and sickened Drama teachers....
    I have just come home too after being absolutely...well....stunned and shocked is the only way to put it, after seeing our Unit 3 results!!!! I cannot believe the grades they have given for Unit 3, and it is a relief to see other people have suffered too in a way, it wasn't just us.
    I have been a professional actor/performer for 8 years and I went into teaching 2 years ago. I have incredibly high standards, to the point where I remind MYSELF not to compare the 14 and 15 years olds with professional actors which can sometimes be an old habit, but yet I still push them to this standard where possible. My kids were fab. 2 weeks before the final performance date, we had a lady from school who is an edexcel Drama examiner, have a look at our pieces as a mock. She, obviously, didn't mark our cohort due to her connection with the school, but we thought it was a great idea to make the most of this contact and get some feedback from someone trained as an examiner and then have 2 more weeks to make any further changes or improvements. One group of our kids, for example, were astonishing; clearly A level standard already. I was gobsmacked. Anyway, she said we should expect to do really well! You can imagine our shock horror when these kids were getting D's and E's!!! WHAT??
    I don't know what to say and our kids were gutted. These are kids that have got A's and A*'s across the boards...and then a C for Drama! It stands out like a sore thumb. We are also going to appeal Unit 3 as far as we can. Poor students who have worked so hard, performed so well; no line fumbles, never broke character etc etc, and they have been punished! Furious and Upset Teacher from Orpington!!!!
    Good luck everyone and GOODBYE EDEXCEL!!!!!
     
  7. Very well said!!
    I will not sleep tonight either through pure frustration rather than nerves like last night!
     
  8. Also discouraged. Kids worked so hard and did really well (In our opinion). I wonder if this is across the board, or certain examiners? We had the same person for years who always gave at least a handful of (deserved) full marks. We had a different examiner this year. I think we had no full marks. Our examiner was moderated on the day so I wonder how this reflects. Just makes you question what you are doing. We are 30% down on last year!!
     
  9. I'm so pleased to find out that I'm not the only drama teacher suffering today at the hands of edexcel and the unit 3 marks! I'm shocked to see students who took substantial parts and were flawless during performance to receive an F grade! Granted they weren't A material but in the past would've been at least a D or maybe a C. In the ten years of teaching GCSE Drama with Edexcel I'm never had such terrible practical marks and we too are down 30% on last years results. I predicted some strict marking as we had three examiners including the assistant chief examiner but am gutted at just how harsh they have been - we did not recieve one A grade yet last year received 4 A* grades. I have not changed my approach so am at a loss as to how to prepare for next year now.
     
  10. corblimeyguvnor

    corblimeyguvnor New commenter

    I can completely appreciate everyone's frustration. I was in a temporary post this year, teaching WJEC - EASY PEASY in terms of paperwork and structure - except there was a written exam the kids HATED. Now I'm back to a permanent post, starting as HOD in a school who have just received Edexcel results. Unit 2 was marked down, Unit 1 stayed the same. Unit 3 grades were reasonable. Over all the grades were very good. However - as a Moderaror and examiner for the exam, looking over the kids work today, having not taught them, I would definitely have marked them down A LOT or Unit 1 and even more for unit 2.
    I think this is the problem with Edexcel - totally and utterly subjective. The marking criteria are so vague and non-specific that it is a judgement call by one individual after one day's training, and with a massive workload - and what I would have marked down, another moderator has allowed. I know that value judgements are inevitably made about the content of Unit 3 pieces - I'll give you an example - three years ago I was at a centre with 100 girls. All did Shakers. Same extract. By the 15th version I had to really struggle to retain a parity in the marking. In the end I referred the centre to my Team Leader as I knew that after 5 hours of Shakers I would defy ANYONE to be marking fairly. I'm sure situations like this arise all the time for examiners - or moderators who have marked 20 centres' worth of Blood Brothers Documentary responses!
    In addition, some examiners scare the kids etc. I had one two years ago walk into my school and tell the kids (who were all doing various forms of comedy) "I don't laugh, so do't expect any reaction from me".
    This may be contraversial, but I don't believe two people will ever mark the same piece of unit 3 work the same. In the same way that no two audience members of a fringe performance in Camden would have the same response to it.
    It should not come down to one person's subjective opinion, but it does. Many people think AQA is better, but the Moderator will always have the "over-riding" opinion on the work - that is why they are there.
    Almost everyone has seemed to be marked down for Unit 2 this will lead to people marking strangely next year. Either teachers will be too harsh because of being told they were too generous this year, or they will mark even higher to compensate for the inevitable down-marking.
    The biggest issue is the word OUTSTANDING. By definition, this should be a small proportion of the cohort. The HOD I am taking over from had marked all 19 students on full marks for Unit 2!!
    I just wanted to mention one thing about Unit 3, as an examiner. The bar has defnitely been raised in this unit. At standardisation we were shown an example from the previous year who had been a 37/40 and was now a 68/80. This shows the way the bands have changed. In addition we were told that any student marked at 80/80 had to be forwarded to the Team Leader - it was not expected and in fact we were shown an example of a group with one full marks candidate in it - in previous years the whole group may well have got 40/40, but the idea was to show us that there is now a 12 mark leeway in marking an outstanding candidate - this means inevitably the actual raw marks for the unit will go down on previous years - a 68/80 is still a band one candidate and OUTSTANDING.
    I saw 500 candidates last year and almost 50 were 40/40. This year I saw 300 - none were 80/80 according to the new criteria, but there were lots of 68 and above. As an examiner it allows us to really differentiate between the amazing candidates, which I think is a good thing.
    Drama as a subject is a conundrum. I have taught and examined/moderated AQA and Edexcel and this year had my first foray into WJEC. I can't say that any spec is ideal. I don't know what the answer is. In a culture where it is getting harder and harder to convince parents of the worth of a Drama GCSE, these low results don't help at all. It is the unpredictability of the GCSE marks which is the hardest thing to deal with. I'm thinking of teaching a more practical course ad working towards Arts Council Awards instead.
    :-( It's depressing

     
  11. corblimey guvnor, I completely agree! In particular:
    The training can only do so much. I know people who've been accepted as examiners who I don't believe are capable of the job.
    Of course there will be value judgements. When we marked the unit 3 three of us, all experienced, debated for some time who was at the top and why, which bands they should be in. We could all justify our opinions and we took some time to come to a consensus. As a result, the accuracy of our grades was praised on the examiners report. If only one of us had done it the rank and the individual marks would have looked different.
    There will be examples of this sort of thing this year. think the 'outstanding' bracket is still being used as the 'excellent' bracket in many cases.
    Absolutely. And it makes it very difficult to give out target grades as so much depends on the exam experience. I am thrilled with my unit 3 marks this year but I'm well aware that next year could be a different story. I've been doing it for long enough to know that you can't be complacent and you certainly can't use the previous year's marks as a standard by which to judge the current year.
    It's a challenge that appears to be unique to drama teachers and, as I've said many times on here, I don't know the answer.
     
  12. where the boat is beginning to miss...go back to the original point! This is a GCSE we are talking about. There was also a comment about one day qualified examiners and vague teacher guidance. Let us stand up as a body and instead of individually appealing at cost, do so together. Hate edexcel, always have but without choice in my particular school have had to abide them. I don't know my results yet but the silence is haunting me and making me believe that I will concur with the many. I know my subject, 24 years, and have always had A's to the odd E so I know what is outstanding, a word stolen from OCR by the way, or as it was then MEG. A level with a degree of intellegence seems to be easier than GCSE. Why?
     
  13. It is both reassuring and demoralising to read all of these posts. I have been forced into a position today where after 12 years of teaching with edexcel and never once being questioned on a single grade, i had to look students in the eye and tell them i did not entirely understand what has occurred. My headteacher is aghast at the suden drop in attainment,- thank goodness she has confidence in the department's abilities to deliver quality teaching. The students have been marked way below their ability in unit three and, familiarly enough, the moderators comments regarding unit 2 leave me feeling like a rank amateur - a naughty school boy who has not done his homework at best!

    There is definately some disparity between the training the moderators have been given and the training and materials the teachers have received - this is wrong guys! Wrong for the students. I have had so many phone calls from fellow head's of department who have had same thing to face today. Come on Edexcel - what are you trying to do to us?

    First of all the A* for the 1699 syllabus was a ridiculous 97% and we rose to the challenge, pushing standards ever higher - now it is almost impossible to be rewarded for excellence in performance and students are also being penalised for poor guidance and misleading moderation at Edexcel - The head, examinations officer and my colleagues have scoured the criteria, the marking and the recordings, the feedback does not add up, the performance grades do not represent the performances and suddenly it loooks like the school's excellent record for drama- one of its key attractions, is blighted.

    Anybody remember being 'sold' this new spec as being 'not that different from the old one really' - i attended those events and paid attention t oit all - this is not what we were sold - and yes, this is a product that we pay for!
    The Students are deflated and some truly outstanding individuals doubtful about continuing to A level - this has implications deeper than differentiating at the top end as one blogger suggests here.

    We MUST question this heavily - this is wrong wrong wrong.

     
  14. I am relieved to read all the comments as it seems in general that unit 2 was marked down and unit 3 marks were dire and yes that is what has happened in the school where I teach drama. Now with all these low marks, somebody must be getting the high marks to standardise the process. Has anybody got a video to share of some amazing performers because it might help all the confused folk like myself understand what an A* grade in drama is all about. On Youtube there are a few clips of often very funny or highly emotional devised scenes and these help play to some students' strengths, but scripted performances are often marked low. I will be appealing our unit 2 and 3 marks for a very good reason. This year an examiner told the students "Off the record, very well done" after their performance of an exciting scripted piece, which was good. Then gave them D,E,and F. Fortunately my high marks in unit 1 were agreed and therefore although unit 2 marks were lowered by 7/8 marks they still managed Cs. However, the parents have gone mad! They saw the performance. One of their boys recently won a public speaking competition and in the examination his role play was credible and timing brilliant. Our girls performed first and even their parents thought the boys' scene was superior, but, yes you've guessed it the examiner gave the girls all Bs and Cs. Something tells me that when I appeal the
    dvd, lacking any kind of atmosphere will be watched and discarded as rubbish, but I must at least try. These are hardworking, enthusiastic young people and they deserve better. Sorry for the rant!
     
  15. absolutely agree -
    my colleague attended a coursework INSET, and the woman running it couldnt even answer some of the questions re: the content...although guvnors comments about the new A* differentiation is helpful - my grades make more sense now.
    But you're dead right, Mr Slodge - at the same time that drama is starting to be marginalised to a worrying degree in schools due to the dreaded eBaccl, the exam board have gone and made it a less attractive option to the very people who WOULD be pushing to do it i.e. the students - WELL PLAYED SIRS!!!! Open letter, anyone??
     
  16. QUOTE:
    This year an examiner told the students "Off the record, very well done" after their performance of an exciting scripted piece, which was good. Then gave them D,E,and F.
    I would appeal just beause this examiner was so unprofessional - this is exactly why we (as examiners) are told NOT to give feedback! I do think some examiners pride themselves on being a 'tough' marker and like others have said forget they are marking 15/16 year olds!
    I think the combination of mean Unit 3 marks and unit 2 being marked down across the board has meant a big reduction in grades for some centres.
    I personally have had limited success at appeal but HAVE had marks changed for the better so it is worth a go - especially if the school is supportive
    good luck
     
  17. Thanks Rentonave. I will keep people informed. Actually examiner made other unprofessional comments as well about other students seen that week but really don't want to cause trouble. I think she was probably new to the role because it is just possible that she gave good marks and the video was checked by another examiner and marks lowered. That's the only thing I can come up with because why would she raise the boys' hopes like that?
     
  18. I have been reading this thread with great interest. I am not a Drama teacher but as HOF for Arts was concerned that our Drama results were significantly lower than previously and that we have a large number of pupils who have got grade D when they were expected to get B. Conversely a few have got significantly higher grades. We haven't seen the marks for individual units yet but I am sure it will make interesting reading. My Drama dept were quite perplexed this morning by the results. I am sure that all your comments will be helpful to me when I start to look at the unit marks.
     
  19. This is very possible as the examiner's team leader would have final say over marks submitted if the centre was one identified to be moderated.
     
  20. If life is full of paradoxes, then I have a gem for you all here.
    Without question, our drama cohort for 2011 was the best we have ever had: talented, enthused and original. To that end, the unit 3 results were excellent, with many getting full marks. Imagine our confusion when we see pupils on results' day with, on a consistent basis, a grade 2 levels below their mediocre expectations. Pupils getting A* for English are getting B or C for drama.
    Our unit 1 and unit 2 moderator has, on average scythed 20% off the pupils' coursework marks. The man, woman (beast?) has made Cameronesque cuts beyond belief ir reason. A shameful, shameful day that has left pupils, staff and parents utterly demoralised.
    The paradox? The best year group has generated the worst results in the school's drama GCSE time.
    So where does that leave us and Edexcel? So long, farewell...
     
    lgibbens01 likes this.

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