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How do you assess at KS3

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by Incommunicado, Mar 7, 2012.

  1. Incommunicado

    Incommunicado Occasional commenter

    Do your tests, certainly, but with every ounce of your energy resist any use of NC levels and their totally fictitious sub-levels to track progress. They are as time-consuming as they are meaningless, and anyone who gallantly tries to perpetuate the use of these things is IMHO doing language-teaching a grave disservice, since language teachers' time and energy is finite and needs to be devoted to useful pursuits, such as preparation of teaching materials, etc.
    I have seen well-intentioned but IMHO misdirected language depts virtually brought to their knees by the efforts involved in 'levelling' individual pieces of work! Ridiculous.
    Please be clear that you are only obliged to use NC levels ONCE, ie at the END of KS3, to describe each kid's attainment, and even then the descriptors are so vague as to be of no value. Their feeble 'can-do' statements take no account of the amount of vocabulary kids had acquired, nor how well they use it. A kid might have acquired a vocabulary of 50 words, or 500 words, it makes no difference according to NC levels.

    6b 7a 4c 5b etc don't mean a thing. (Admit it, you knew that, didn't you?)
  2. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Incommunicado is right, but most of us play the sub-levels game, presumably to fit in with a whole school policy. Even defining a level is problematic, let alone a sub-level.
    I teach in a grammar school and I would say that level "7a" is too ambitious ( I assume that 7a means nearly level 8). If you look at the definition of Level 7 and Level 8, could you honestly say that these are achievable apart from by a tiny minority of the most able pupils or bilinguals?
    We do end of unit tests in thre skills + an oral test at the end of each year. You can always a concoct a piece of work or test to match a level descriptor, but this does not mean a student generally fits the level descriptor.
    We surely waste too much time on all this and it may change soon anyway. Let's do what the Finns do and do away with all this "high stakes accountability"!
  3. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    Incommunicado and spsmith45 are perfectly correct. All this sublevel stuff is a farce, dreamt up by dolts. It is soullless number crunching for the sake of soulless number crunching. When I have to deal with data, I like to point out that we're dealing with human beings, not sources of data who exist only for some box-ticking jobsworth. Talk about price-of-everything-value-of-nothing cynicism.
    I used AQA's FCSE stuff, and sample versions are available on the website.
  4. I would be interested to hear how those people criticising the use of NC levels (be they sub or not) to track student progress actually track the progress their students are making. Whilst the system is in no way perfect - far from it in fact - it's the adopted system and I see no point in criticising it. In my experience the positive with the use of levels is that it <u>does</u> push students to want to do better. I defy anybody to say this isn't what they want for their students.
    I think the OP could well do with more informative replies, rather than basically being told to put his/her job at risk by refusing to follow school policy.
  5. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    I work in an independent school. We don't use levels. I give students targets for what I'd like to see in each piece of writing, but I have none of that artificial "building up of levels" which forces the sickening "last weekend I did this and next weekend I will do this and I will love it because it is super" upon every single piece of work. So instead I have time to teach them the past tense properly, practise it properly, perhaps build up an extended piece of writing which will allow students to display their new skill properly. I go at my and my students' pace. I decide how far to push them, the levels don't decide it for me.
    I like what some textbooks do, which is at the end of each unit list what pupils should now be able to do (as a ticky box activity), e.g. I can use &agrave; la and au accurately, I can tell the weather using il fait beau, etc. I think this list is a much safer measure of pupil progress than the levels, which are quite limited and open to interpretation. I always hated them.
  6. rosa11

    rosa11 New commenter

    We also use Expo and Mira and have found ourselves assessing a productive skill and a receptive skill each half term. We use the textbooks as a starting point but push more able learners on so that by the end of Y7 more able pupils are on Level 4a/5b, Y8 are at Level 5a/6c and Y9 are Level 6b-7c. We're also trying to use group talk more to encourage pupils to speak more spontaneously.
    Yes, yes it's crude but we've used FCSE assessments in the past so we're secure in our judgements and we're getting better at using authentic materials to give pupils a better experience of higher reading levels. We do struggle with finding good authentic listening materials which aren't too time consuming to put together. In the past we got FLAs to record themselves...
    The kids love to describe what constitutes a Level 4/5/6 performance. It gives them a sense of their progression.
    Hope this helps!
  7. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    That bugs me as well, especialy when students of physics and further maths tell me that A level French and German are considered difficult.
  8. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    Re what incommunicado quoted:
    Earth to Ofsted: words fail me.
  9. How about the Languages Ladder and a full set of their materials...we find them great.
  10. Incommunicado..[​IMG] !
    There were a few truisms in there I wouldn't dispute, and admittedly I only _scan_ jargon ridden text like that but...they don't want much, do they? A bit like those job advertisements where you read the growing list of requirements only to collapse in hysterical laughter when you see how much they are offering. Maybe that's just my experience as an an EFL teacher (currently in Italy), but a serious question: how many hours a week of instruction do students get in their MFL in UK secondary schools?
  11. salsera

    salsera New commenter

    I was going to say the same about time allocation to do all that has been specified. we get 5 hours over two weeks. those students who are dual linguists get 2 hours of one language and three of the other. How on earth are we expected to be able to do all that in that sort of time allocation - and that's not taking into account getting them in. taking the register, packing away etc which removes another 25 mins of teaching time out of that five hours.
    Get real Ofsted!
  12. Malaguena

    Malaguena New commenter

    We now have to put assessment data in on all students 6 times a year. Even if you do use the fictitious sub-levels (completely agree there!) you can see that even if the kids were making half a level of progress every half term, you would run out of levels!! I have pointed out to SLT that it is not easy to move from 4 to 5 to 6 and that they could have "progressed"in that they can use more vocab, a new grammar point etc but this counts for nothing in NC level terms. Deaf and ears are the words that come to mind there.

    Also - spontaneous interaction in TL outside the classroom? In English kids? Are they having a laugh? I'd settle for spontaneous interaction in the TL INSIDE the classroom! All this in a country where there is no exposure at all to any foreign language on TV. I thought it a real shame there was so much coverage of the tragedy in France on the news but that the minute a French person opened their mouth to speak it was immediately dubbed over into English so you couldn't hear ANY French being spoken at all!! What's wrong with a bit of subtitling so that people can hear a language that is not their own - they might even recognise some French, shock horror!!
  13. salsera

    salsera New commenter

    I can relate fully to your frustrations Malaguena. [​IMG]
  14. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    Quite a few parents have said to me at parents' evenings: 'he speaks German to us all the time - and we can't even understand what he's saying'. But how would Ofsted ever know about that? In any case, we're talking about the enthusiastic minority here.
    Regarding levels, we also have to 'play the level game' and enter a NC level 6 times a year, showing progress. It's supposed to be based on Assessments, and the Assessments are supposed to be moderated. I'm a little bit stuck out on a limb as my colleagues teach French and Spanish and I teach German, but I get the impression that at least some of my colleagues mainly base their levels on Writing. This is definitely what my only German colleague does. It's my first year in the new job, so I'm still waiting for someone to tell me to complete a Speaking test at KS 3.
    I do Listening, Reading and Writing Tests, but I don't do all three tests every 6 weeks. I might to just Reading and Writing, or just Listening and Reading, or all three but keep them short. I think more than 1 hour of assessment per 6 weeks is too much. We get 4 or 5 hours a fortnight per class.Just now I've completed Listening and Reading Tests for Chapter 4 with Year 8, and I've set an extended piece of writing for homework which I then also level.
    I try to be as fair as I can with my levelling, bearing in mind that it's not in my interest to be strict with these levels, and somehow my brightest year 9's do end up with level 7 because they can write confidently in three tenses and go over and beyond the typical year 9 fluency in terms of vocabulary and manipulation of language structures. And the textbook has level 7 listening and reading tests for them to complete.
  15. I don't think that's unreasonable at all for outstanding. If you also look at the descriptors for satisfactory and good, most of us might relate to those. In reality, few schools reach the standard expected for outstanding. That's not to say Ofsted shouldn't publish the expectations which ARE attainable in some MFL departments.
  16. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    With regard to spontaneous use of the target language outside the classroom, I have to say that i do occasionally hear this. It's little comments you hear made in a light-hearted way which a child makes to a friend. A-level students do this more. I am not saying they engage in much real communication, but when you hear the odd word it does reveal an extra engagement with the language and a desire to use it, however briefly.
    I thought the Ofsted guidance which incommunicado quoted was quite realistic and would match the achievement in some schools.
  17. Incommunicado

    Incommunicado Occasional commenter


    Level 5

    Pupils show that they understand the main points and opinions in spoken passages made up of familiar material from various contexts, including present and past or future events. They may need some repetition.

    Level 7

    Pupils show that they understand longer passages and recognise people&rsquo;s points of view. The passages cover a range of material that contains some complex sentences and unfamiliar language. They understand language spoken at near normal speed, and need little repetition.

    NC levels do not reflect HOW MUCH of a mfl a kid knows; what if a kid can satisfy the criteria for Level 5 above, using a vocab of 1,000 words covering 10 different topic areas? He gets Level 5.
    Another kid satisfies the Level 7 criteria but only has an active vocab of 250 words and can only operate within 3 topic areas; he gets Level 7. The previous scenario is preferable, but is rewarded with a lower Level.
    Levels should reflect the amount of MFL that kids know, but they don't, so I have no faith in them whatsoever.
    Levels should also reflect HOW WELL a kid can operate in a MFL; what if the Level 5 kid described above can speak fluently and confidently, while the Level 7 kid is hesitant and unclear?
    As far as I can see the only progress that NC Levels indicate is through various grammar points, irrespective of how many examples of these a kid can give. (Je voudrais un bonbon = he can use the conditional).
    For me, NC Levels are a non-starter.


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