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Linear or modular - which is easier? OFQUALs answer ....

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by MathsHOD, Oct 17, 2011.

  1. "What evidence do we have that modular is ?easier?? It?s inconclusive. Our studies
    show that when adjusting for candidates? abilities, centre types and gender,
    candidates achieved higher grades through linear assessment in English Literature,
    ICT, Mathematics and Religious Studies specifications. Candidates taking English
    and Geography specifications were more likely to achieve higher grades via modular
    assessments ? but the differences are very, very small. The bigger issues perhaps
    are the effects that modularisation at GCSE has on teaching, on learning, and on
    pupil motivation. "

  2. pencho

    pencho New commenter

    At last some sense from OFQUAL. I can't see Gove changing his mind though at the moment.
  3. Maths_Mike

    Maths_Mike New commenter

    Why would a study that indicates pupils do slightly better on Linear cause Gove to chnage his mind? -- Given that he believes linear is the way to go?
  4. pencho

    pencho New commenter

    Because Mike, I thought he was saying that he wanted to bring rigour back to exams implying that modular exams are easier. Where this report suggests that in mathematics linear is actually easier!!!!

  5. To be fair the quote I gave was from the text of a speech. It clearly indicates that OFQUAL have investigated the issue and have come to the conclusion that modular isn't any easier than linear in terms of maths.
    Obviously there are other issues that need to be considered - notably the potential fragmentation of the learning of maths - but OFQUAL have identified through examination of <u>all</u> the results of students in GCSE Maths over several years - that modular isn't any easier.
    I would suggest this analysis of many hundreds of thousands of entries by OFQUAL 'top trumps' any anecdotal stories from individual schools that are talking about hundreds of entries rather than hundreds of thousands of entries.
    My understanding is that many more students sat linear maths than modular.
    Following the logic your arguement doesn't that imply that linear is easier? Why else would so many flock to linear?
    Of course I don't actually believe that line of arguement (in ether direction). People choose linear or modular for a whole range of reasons - no doubt some do believe that modular is easier; others will point out that modular units can have 95% as the boundary for an A* (for an example) whereas linear never approaches that so linear is easier.
    I don't think either is easier to be honest - I do think that there are merits for linear appraoches and merits for modular approaches. Personally I was a 'linear' person through and through but converted once I saw modular being done well (as opposed to a resit culture that can be a concern for some).
  6. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    I respect your many posts MathsHOD, but I, for one, have little trust of government quangos. They spout out a great deal of data, and I'd wager that much of this is unsubstantiated, and often written to suit their own ends.
    We're in this predicament because we have persisted with a ridiculous exam system whereby it matters greatly as to which board you do, and which style of exam you choose as to which grade students get.
    One exam board, one syllabus, one exam for all. Until we reach that situation, we'll continue to have pointless amounts of money spent creating documents such as this one from Ofqual.
  7. Thanks - it's perfectly reasonable that we can come to different conclusions - I am not sure there is a 'right' and 'wrong' on this issue.

    I too would be much happier with getting rid of the multitude of different exam boards (sorry awarding bodies as they style themselves nowadays).
  8. BillyBobJoe

    BillyBobJoe Lead commenter

    My point is that it doesn't matter what the evidence does or doesn't say, because Gove's opinion has naff all to do with evidence and isn't going to be affected by it.
  9. Are people flocking to linear or did they simply decide not to jump on the modular bandwagon?

    Personally, I think modular is easier, hence <strike>high</strike> unreasonable boundaries for A*. However, they only work for students who are prepared to put in the effort throughout and not just at the last push. I think hardworking students, generally do better on modular, but lazy students, think 'Well, I can re-sit so it doesn't really matter!', and then when they do re-sit rarely perform any better. Consequently, when they reach the final module they need 150%, because of poor performance on earlier modules, which of course is impossible... or is it??/

    It's just my opinion, for what it's worth! [​IMG]

  10. I just heard a rumour that in Wales they may still stick with modular .If so, will it mean that a Welsh GCSE in Maths will be regarded as differnt to a Maths GCSE done in England? Will other exam boards still be intereted in offering modular exams in Wales or will we find ourselves forced to use WJEC if we want to do modular? ( I have only just moved to OCR modular!). I have just had to re-write the Maths description for the school prospectus and it seems to be full of ifs, possiblys and probablys, because I am so unsure of what we will be offering next September. Only 2 or 3 years to retirement so probably no more than another 4 changes to specs to sort out!
  11. pencho

    pencho New commenter

    I don't think people are flocking to modular. Only around 1/3 do modular.
    I also don't agree that students who do modular are more lazy. In my opinion the vast majority of things depend on who is teaching them and the way in which a department is run. It's all about motivation from the teachers and the school. That is what leads to success. Simple.
    I think a school who does modular, will do just as well if they did linear. I don't think it makes that much difference and this seems to be backed up by OFQUAL. However I think we should be allowed to have a choice and that's my point. We have successful modular and successful linear schemes that schools are using - why change them. We haven't even had one run through of the new spec yet!!!

  12. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    Most of the schools round here do modular - we've been something of a linear 'outpost'...
    Regarding your comment on laziness, that's not quite what salsamaths said. The point was that modular wasn't such a good thing if a student was lazy. I'm not sure if I have an opinion on that since I don't see how linear would be any better for such students.
    Totally agree with comments about departments having the greatest influence on success with any type of exam.
    I personally don't care if the exam is modular or linear, but, as stated earlier, I think there should be only one style of exam for all.
  13. Colleen_Young

    Colleen_Young Occasional commenter

    So true Pencho.
    The content of the linear or modular syllabus is exactly the same and we modular teachers are allowed to talk about any bits of the entire syllabus we feel like in our lessons! Our GCSE modular students have gone on to great success at A Level.
    Totally agree though - one exam for all.
  14. We changed to modular last year and all I can say is thank God we're going back to Linear!
    I am fed up of being so constrained by what is coming up in the next exam. Everything is so bitesized that pupils no longer make links between different topics. Solving quadratics in unit 2 but not drawing them until unit 3 is crazy!
    I am also considering suggesting to AQA that they rename their GCSE course GCSE Percentages with additional other topics.
    The amount of pressure on teachers and conscientious pupils is also constant, whilst those who haven't woken up to the realities of KS4 are already at a disadvantage now that we are 2 units in.
    I also hate the resit culture which has been created, but feel I have to go along with it because our kids have to complete with schools who encourage as many resits as possible.

    And on a more personal level, it really irritates me that I can't do transformations in the last week before christmas with year 10 because they don't come up until unit 3....
  15. Just out of curiosity who is constraining you in such a way?

    Yes certain things are tested at certain times but that doesn't mean we have to teach them strictly in that order. The key is to ensure that topics are covered by the time of the relevant exam. If you look at the guided learning hours for each unit it leaves a decent amount of 'space' in a scheme for some flexible ordering of topics.

    It's perfectly possible to not start at topic 1 of module 1 and then stop when you get to the end of the module 1 topics list and wait for the module 1 exam to happen before starting module 2 topics. To teach in this way, as you identify, would remove some great learning opportunities.

    Obviously some departments don't see it this way .... but that's the fault of the departments involved and not the system (although I do acknowledge that some examboards don't help with some of their 'off the shelf' schemes of work.)
  16. I think the 'off the shelf' schemes of work are quite widely used and so suspect that MathsHOD is correct.

    I agree with sophia that the way the modules are divided up can often seem counter intuitive but there is often some spare time to put bits together that seem relevant.

    I have to admit to being of two minds over the linear v modular debate. We switched with C/D border-liners a few years back and then went for all groups last year. The results have not changed by very much but it feels like more work for staff (continual checking of exam entries, continual pressure from SLT over why this or that pupil is one or two percent below their prediction).

    One of the problems we have faced is convincing low attainers that the exams they are sitting in Year 10 are actually 'proper' GCSEs and that yes, they do need to work for them and yes, they are important! These are the very pupils we were hoping that the modular exams would help a little by breaking down the course into more manageable chunks.

    I'm in agreement with Pencho, I can't see what's wrong with offering both linear and modular courses. Some will seem more appropriate for some schools than others.
  17. Are you sure:
    From the AQA linear spec:
    N6.6h Understand the gradients of
    parallel and perpendicular lines.
    From the AQA modular spec (unit 2):
    N6.6h Understand the gradients
    of parallel lines.
    Unless I'm missing something they aren't exactly the same.
  18. Colleen_Young

    Colleen_Young Occasional commenter

    OK - they are close enough then! As I said before I think we should have one exam for all - that's more important.
    However these often sweeping generalisations made about modular teaching can be irritating. Give a good teacher any syllabus in a well managed department and I think they can educate their students well.
  19. I agree, at the moment it seems to be a race for the easiest to get the grade.

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