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Nail in the coffine for GCSE MFL?

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by salsera, Nov 25, 2015.

  1. salsera

    salsera New commenter

    Have been to the exam board meeting to introduce the new draft spec (still not accredited) and can't say I'm going to have a long line of students jumping at the chance of studying an MFL from 2016. Hopefully though, once we see more examples of types of question it might ease our worries - but at the moment the thought of continuing being a language teacher is filling me with dread....
  2. -myrtille-

    -myrtille- Occasional commenter

    What are the main worries?

    Currently as a department we're all feeling quite happy about the new GCSE and the prospect of spending Y10 and 11 actually teaching rather than the endless saga of controlled assessment preparation.
    • Final exam with no memorisation - great (they're going to have to tone down what they expect for a C-grade equivalent).
    • Speaking exam with more transactional elements not just rehearsed topics - great.
    • Translation - no problem. Many of my pupils really like translation because they can focus on getting the language right without coming up with ideas at the same time. It gives more structure so they feel more secure in this skill.
    • Reading and Listening weighted equally with the productive skills - good as we currently end up neglecting them a bit in Y10 due to the pressure of controlled assssments. I also think at this stage in learning a language, understanding is more important than being able to write 200 word essays.
    But this is just from the basic information I read online months ago when the initial (rejected) draft specifications came out. If there's anything awful we need to be aware of I'd be interested to hear it.

    Though we don't have the issue of convincing pupils to opt for MFL as it's compulsory in my school anyway (for the time being, at least).
  3. veverett

    veverett Occasional commenter

    What makes you think they will "tone down" what they expect?
  4. VladimirUnmoderated

    VladimirUnmoderated New commenter

    It ain'ta za coffine zat a carry you offa ina buta za coffine zey carry you offa in!

    Coffine? Really?
  5. -myrtille-

    -myrtille- Occasional commenter

    Colleagues who taught under the old system say the requirements have got much, much higher under controlled assessment because of schools gaming the system. A lot of what the new GCSE is calling for looks like a return to the pre-CA times.

    My languages GCSEs were French (2003 - A* - coursework), German (2004 - A* - coursework), Spanish (2005 - A - exam only) and I had no knowledge of subjunctives, y and en, etc., which are now expected from A/A* candidates.

    Ultimately, they will still want a similar proportion of candidates to get a C-grade equivalent. Clearly in a final unseen exam task with no dictionary, pupils will make more mistakes and have fewer advanced structures so they will have to accept this. Without a dictionary, the range of vocabulary used in written work will be more limited. The emphasis seems to be on communication and accuracy, not highbrow content and advanced language.

    With my Y9s (who will be assessed under the new system) I am focusing on getting them to write stuff that makes sense, has 3 tenses, opinions and connectives. I'm trying to get them to a position where they're confident to just write, not overthink how to make the content really interesting and original, or shoehorn in advanced structures like Y11 have to.
    eljefeb90 likes this.
  6. gsglover

    gsglover Occasional commenter

    As I have posted elsewhere, AQA spec has been approved. Emails in schools today
  7. BrightonEarly

    BrightonEarly Occasional commenter

    Communication of a message was always key in older specification exams. As examiners, we always wanted to reward pupils who could get their message across.
  8. toadman

    toadman Occasional commenter

    It all looks spookily hard to me
  9. eljefeb90

    eljefeb90 Senior commenter

    I totally agree that controlled assessment has long outlived its credibility but there's an element of self-deception and wishful thinking going on if you think standards will be watered down. I like the equal weighting and the return of role plays but pass rates will fall through the floor. With current unrealistic targets and SLT/ Ofsted expectations, the pressure is going to increase with ever more interventions, monitoring and 'support plans' . Many students are now being obliged to take a language and lack motivation and there is a real shortage of staff to teach them. The next few years are going to be 'challenging' .
  10. -myrtille-

    -myrtille- Occasional commenter

    Grades aren't going to plummet - the proportion of pupils getting 7 and above (A grade), 4 and above (C grade) and 1 and above (G grade) are going to be fixed in the first year. So the current Y9s won't be unfairly penalised and see their results drop massively from previous years (although I suspect this will be the case in some schools which have got very good at getting unrealistic grades out of pupils by playing the controlled assessment game).

    I am concerned about the threshold between Grade 4 (low C) and Grade 5 (high C) now that the Grade 5 is going to be considered a "good pass" - the goalposts have shifted.

    I'm not saying standards will be watered down as in, made easy. I think standards will be higher in terms of pupils' knowledge of language, but what the exam boards want from a piece of writing or speaking will have to be more realistic.

    Because there's a big difference between what a candidate can produce when they have 3 preparation lessons, their exercise book, a dictionary and time to memorise, and what they can produce on the spot in an unseen task. For example, in the current GCSE pupils have to write 2 pieces of 200 words for a C, whereas you can get a Grade 4 in the new Foundation paper in which the main written piece is 90 words. I also note that in the AQA draft specification/mark scheme, the model texts are simple and accurate rather than detailed and complex.

    We already have compulsory MFL and some pupils do lack motivation. But I think controlled assessment makes that worse. Lazy and demotivated pupils who turn up to controlled assessments without having produced a draft or spent time learning it, sometimes hand in nothing or write nonsense by looking up every word in the dictionary. I've had a fair few bright but lazy boys over the past couple of years and think they'd do better (not necessarily well, but better) by winging it in a final exam using the knowledge in their heads.
  11. eljefeb90

    eljefeb90 Senior commenter

    A lot of good points - and some I wasn't aware of, to be honest. Thanks for the information. I'll be sharing it with my dept. tomorrow and what it entails for classroom practice. However, I still feel that the short-term targets of controlled assessments did serve to motivate the marginal/ demotivated students better than a summative exam. I'm retiring in 4 days so it won't be my problem, thank God. Sincere best wishes as you manage this change.
  12. gsglover

    gsglover Occasional commenter

    Motivation was certainly achieved by the notion that in the short term, feedback of supposed results was possible quickly but this was countered by disappointments when final results from writing tasks were presented.

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