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Exams or back to discredited coursework

Discussion in 'Education news' started by hammie, Oct 7, 2020.

  1. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    Which is safer?
    Sitting young people at a 1.5 or 2 metre distance at a desk which could easily be just theirs for a month or two.
    Sitting in classrooms and on hot desked computers completing coursework.
    Accompanied by all those extra one to one sessions to force the lazy ones to get the work done (while they get extra time that the hard workers do not).

    Or alternatively just pay a fiver and dowload a model answer.
    The exams should never have been cancelled last summer as advised by the exams body.
    agathamorse and gainly like this.
  2. gainly

    gainly Star commenter

    I agree, there was no good reason to cancel exams and create the fiasco which followed. The Scottish government has already cancelled their equivalent of GCSE's. I'm worried that the UK (effectively English) government seems to follow what Scotland does.
    agathamorse and hammie like this.
  3. bessiesmith2

    bessiesmith2 New commenter

    I am also hoping that exams are not cancelled. Not perfect but it's hard to think of anything better than an exam to provide a fair assessment of how well each student knows their subject.
    agathamorse likes this.
  4. englishtt06

    englishtt06 Occasional commenter

    The problem isn't the method of assessment, it's the access to teaching to prepare for it that is the real issue. Last year, I was working in a college in an extremely deprived area and most of the students I was 'teaching' online didn't have wifi access - most were using data from their phones. No laptops or PCs in the house. Not suitable at all. Note - a handful didn't even have data/phones. This year, I am working in a school where students are ahead because the entire school (barring one student) had wifi/laptop access and the school provided continuous support. Schools up and down the country are going into lockdowns (whether this is a bubble within the school, the entire school or the town) and is likely to be a regular occurrence for at least the next few months. If students have not been taught the exam content effectively (if at all) then how can they be examined on it equitably and fairly?
  5. gainly

    gainly Star commenter

    There will always be a problem of equitability even in "normal" times. Some students will have been taught by a good teacher in a well behaved class. Others will have had a succession of supply teachers and cover supervisors or been in a class where behaviour was so bad that little teaching was possible. Some will have supportive parents and maybe help from a tutor, others will have no support at home.

    Exams are far from perfect as a method of assessment but any alternative methods are worse.
    moontitan, phlogiston and agathamorse like this.
  6. moontitan

    moontitan Occasional commenter

    I don’t see why a student who has not “reached” a B grade for a GCSE due to lack of teaching should be given a B grade. Sounds harsh but that B is worthless.

    My school thinks centre assessed grades will happen again. I hope not.
    agathamorse and gainly like this.
  7. colpee

    colpee Star commenter

    Not more worthless than any other GCSE attainment. All school exam results are only a marker for applying for FE or work opportunities. In the situation where the difference between a GCSE grade here or there is actually taken into account, it is better (IMO) that young people have opportunity rather than it being closed to them just because the exam situation became chaotic. Whether they succeed at what they chooose in FE or workplace is a wholly different question which will, I suspect, have little to do with a GCSE grade.
    agathamorse likes this.
  8. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    It's complicated.
    We're used to exams giving us a marker of a knowledge base and skill set at a certain level. In many subjects this is an expected knowledge and skill base for progression to the next level. In chemistry, the A level teaching scheme would need adjustment if the new year 12s had never been introduced to the content of GCSE or the skills to balance equations and do calculations.

    Last year ended up more than somewhat a mess, with too many last minute decisions and insufficient evidence to prove the accuracy of grades awarded. There is nothing we can do about that, except to learn from it.

    Our problems are going to be that many children have missed chunks of schooling, with the most vulnerable probably more affected than the more prosperous. We don't know how much interruption will happen this year. I believe that the Government do mean it when they say that they want to keep schools open, but whether this will be practical is another matter.

    I feel we need some kind of assessment. It is probably too late to introduce coursework to subjects that have lost it, and coursework was usually there to assess skills that were difficult to assess in short exams. I would suggest a short exam on year 10 / 12 content to be sat in the New Year, and another synoptic, whole spec exam in the summer. Exams are probably low risk as far as virus transmission is concerned.

    I would also suggest a rethink on grades. We don't give letters or numbers, to make people aware that these are strange times and that these grades don't reflect the same performance as someone who did the exam in 2019. We probably don't need as many levels and we call them something different. Then the high ability and high motivation learners can be distinguished from the less hard working or more cognitively challenged.
    agathamorse likes this.
  9. gainly

    gainly Star commenter

    Williamson has announced that exams will go ahead but starting about 3 weeks later than usual. Actually it seems the dates will be similar to how they were 15 years ago. Exams have been getting progressively earlier in recent years.

    However there is plenty of time for a few U-turns before next June.

    agathamorse likes this.
  10. gainly

    gainly Star commenter

  11. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    Look around Europe. Lockdowns everywhere. There will be no exams April/May 2021.
    I am mystified about exam boards not cancelling exams now.
  12. nervousned

    nervousned Lead commenter

    Exam boards aren't going to do it, that is their main source of income. It would have to be forced upon them.
  13. gainly

    gainly Star commenter

    I don't think it's a decision for the awarding bodies or Ofqual. It's a government decision. Ofqual were opposed to cancelling exams this year but were told to do so by the government, resulting in the shambles we had in August.
  14. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    Last year the IB organisation and CIE both made a decision to cancel exams. No government involved. I live in Spain so the international exams my students are due to sit will have to be cancelled due to the disruption already seen across Europe.

    UK exams will go the same way. Half the schools in England have students at home either doing online learning or in isolation. Either way it would be difficult to hold the same exams for students who have had no interruption this year and students who spend half the year at home. It would not be fair. COnsidering that Y11 and y13 students have already had a year of interruption to their exam learning it would be a mad decision to sit exams as normal. The three week delay is merely a token gesture of no practical use.

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