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Passing Exam GCSE

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by timboleicester123, Oct 26, 2011.

  1. In the view of esteemed colleagues...is there a disconnect with some methods of teaching MFL and actual real progress and preparation for some kind of fluency. I am finding that lots of students can be got to a stage where they get a C at GCSE but then don't want to go on to A level or indeed if they do struggle terribly. I used to date the associate dean of languages at our university and he used to ask me what he hell we were doing in schools as the undergraduates had to be "inducted" into special catch up grammar sessions as they knew nothing about the language but had learnt phrases in Pavlovian style to certain questions and key words....
    Am I just old fashioned and not moving with he times in actually wanting to see students become independent in their learning and then autonomous in their use of the MFL?
    My nephew tells me that he barely knew 30 words and still got a C in his GCSE as the teacher wrote his coursework for him. I suspect they are under so much pressure to get the grades they are predicted that the temptation is to "cut corners" shall we say.
    When I go to schools on supply now and talk to year 11 students about their experience it is generally negative and I get the feeling it's because they too recognize that they are not actually "learning" anything in their lessons just drilled into producing on demand.
    I was asked to read through some coursework when i arrived at a school last week. The class teacher was a Germanist and had been asked to teach French (her second rusty subject) She was unsure whether the work was correct as it contained structures that she didn't know....I said nothing other that that it was a very good piece of work and it was for the most part correct.....maybe I should have said also that it was written by a machine probably google translate....I think she knew this however but was still going to submit this to the board as the candidate's own work...
    What do you think guys? AM I alone and old fashioned and need to be weeded out?
  2. IMO this is a very common viewpoint. Why not post this on the DFE notice board(on the TES site) and see how they reply. In the blurb, they say that they want to create a world class education system. They might already be aware of the situation.
  3. I had another thought on the way home and tried to come up with an explanation as to why very often SLT and others in positions of accountability have such different views and came up with this. The thing that gets classroom teachers up in the mornings apart from the alarm is the joy in getting kids to like and love and make genuine real progress in your subject This is doubly true for languages I tink....SLT on the other hand have to get their kicks from seeing their place in the tables go up and up and compete for funds and respect and quo-dos with other heads they have too wide a view of things and are divorced from the chalk face...so what happens...their desire for results at any cost takes a strong arm on methodologies and teaching and only the results matter...since i left my post they have people teaching languages that are not qualified for in that they cannot speak them fluently...this to SLT doesn't matter as the way to get a C is all down to working smarter not harder and inevitably corners are cut and cheating takes over.
  4. I think that if you think that google translate produces correct work, then I really don't know what to say. Google translate produces incredible nonsense if you want to produce more than simple sentences. Example: If you write:
    "Gestern ging ich in die Schule, und nachdem ich dort angekommen war, traf ich meinen Lehrer, der sehr aufgebracht war, weil ich am Vortag schlecht in einer Prüfung war. Ich fand das aber gar nicht schlimm, weil ich auf die Prüfung keinen Bock hatte." (in English: Yesterday I went to school, and after I had arrived there, I met my teacher who was very upset because I hadn't done well in an exam the day before. But I didn't really care about this because I couldn't be bothered with the exam.) Google translate says: "Yesterday I went to school, and after I got there, I met my teacher, who was very upset because I was ill the day before an exam. I found this but not so bad, because I had the exam can not be bothered." You wouldn't say this translation was correct, would you? But I agree with you: MFL teaching doesn't teach pupils what they should be able to do.
  5. salsera

    salsera New commenter

    Interesting comments and in response
    1) first thing we always say to our students is do not use a translator. Showing them why. Inevitably they do; the work is returned and they are asked to do the piece again.
    2) we always teach grammar explicitly in our department - we hope that the brighter students will make some correlation between the two languages they learn.
    3) we try to teach language learning skills which they can apply at any stage of their life and to different languages
    4) we do teach key phrases as some do come as a package but the students know why and have usually studied the grammar rule behind it
    5) when writing/speaking in English there are times when you come across key phrases/words that you like and think will use it in your writing and speaking - if students can do that after reading a TL text then use it in a different context then this is a positive
    6) use of a bilingual dictionary is a skill - if they know how to successful adapt and use phrases they have found in there, then again that is a positive.
    and finally
    You take a horse to water but you can't make it drink.........!!!
  6. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    It's those words at any cost that ring true with me. At any cost to the teacher, who has to everything humanly possible to get those results, but at no cost to the pupil, who just has to sit there because "good teaching" will get him/her through.
    I've no objection to different ways of assessing pupils and abandoned MEG for the 5 module, internally assessed SEG course in the 1990s. The results went from about 27-30% under MEG to at least 70% under SEG, and there was one very happy headteacher, who made the same point about A level physics - "one of the hardest A levels" - once he'd forced the physics department to change exam boards.
    I do object to the fiction that because results are better teaching and achievement must necessarily be better. I also object to heads basking in reflected glory on results day, grinning for the local media as they "celebrate success", because that's what it is all about.
    There is a cost to all this, and it is paid by every teacher.
  7. I do object to the fiction that because results are better teaching and achievement must necessarily be better. I also object to heads basking in reflected glory on results day, grinning for the local media as they "celebrate success", because that's what it is all about.
    I think this is the heart of what I am asking, because there is this drive to improve standards there ha to be crystallization of what those standards are and a method of measuring them and therefore the efficacy of the teacher.....this is where the flaws are. The NC level descriptors in MFL are not moderated in any meaningful way and are, in my experience another fiction. I was "instructed" to give level 5 to the ones that had been predicted it based on their KS2 English scores. If i didn't there would be reams of print out showing that i was an ineffective teacher and this failure would be flagged up by the software. Since there was no external verification the temptation to put anything down is overwhelming. My reply to the SLT mantra of work smarter not harder was ah I see cheat. No, be flexible in terms of the coursework requirements....have catch up classes after school where students can re write ad nauseum pieces of work...and mysteriously shred the original work thus making it look as though there had only been one draft....
  8. Yeah, I always wonder how the children are supposed to learn a language which they almost never hear. In Germany, we are told to speak to the children in the TL - from the first lesson. This works quite well - as long as you don't exaggerate and explain grammar in the TL - that's no good. But the children get a feel for the language by listening to someone speaking it, and they can understand more than they can actually say, which is also helpful.
  9. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    I really try so hard to speak German all the time. With an attentive class it works well (using mime and gestures), but with a more difficult one that quickly goes out of the window. Still, speaking the target language is more important to me than getting my pupils to use more connectives or whatever. And they do get a real kick out of understanding and speaking. I have lots of signs up in the classroom and they have to speak in German whenever they want something, and at the moment I have trouble starting my lesson, because they're all putting their hands up wanting to tell me something in German (may I take my blazer off, may I drink some water, may I have a tissue, I've forgotten my homework, may I have some paper etc). And they're so pleased when they get picked to say whatever they have to say.
    Going back to the topic under discussion (passing GCSE), I would never ever cheat and I've never ever met a teacher who would.
  10. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    When we look at the specifications and compare the lofty aims and objectives with the way they're tested, you can see what we mean. For example, what is meant by the expression "a variety of contexts and purposes"? For speaking, one recording is submitted; the other needn't exist. For writing, two pieces of work are submitted. To me, that's three contexts and purposes, hardly a variety. Teachers then have to home in on those tasks, which are now worth 60% of the grade.
    Timbo's remarks about catch-up sessions hit the nail on the head. In an exam, candidates have a question, which they have to answer in the time given, and away it goes to an examiner. With controlled assessments, it can be a different matter. At GCSE, senior managers will not tolerate underperforming candidates if something can be done once the underperformance has been identified. The pressure on staff, who are made to feel that it is their fault, is obvious. I heard a deputy head direct the following question to a colleague of mine, "You have half a dozen students (sic) in one group who are below their target grade. Do you know who they are and what are you doing about it?" Of course, expecting the pupils to do some work themselves was not an option that the deputy head had considered.
  11. Going back to the topic under discussion (passing GCSE), I would never ever cheat and I've never ever met a teacher who would.
    I think you have it there in a nutshell why there is so much cheating. It is not even playing field if you stick to the rules you are risking potentially your job. If you cheat you risk discovery and probably your job. What an awful situation to find yourself in. A return to end of course exams is the only way to put an end to this misery. If the CA/ coursework option is still there teachers will remain under pressure to go that route, however.
  12. In our department we are all very conscientious teachers who assess and mark regularly so we know who is underachieving or is on target without recourse to endless bits of data that are far too complicated for your average non mathematician. Targets for MFL are generally far too high in my opinion anyway but that's another topic.
    I feel very strongly about the pressure on both pupils and staff if there are endless lunchtime lessons/interventions across the curriculum. Yes it may well produce (some) better results but at what cost to staff and pupil stress levels? Some children will be in five lunchtimes a week for extra lessons and I have seen the effect of this on my own son last year.
    At a given point we have to accept that you can't make silk purses out of every sow's ears and as someone else said - you can take a horse to water etc etc. The pupils have to take some responsibility for their own learning.
    These days to simply teach your lessons and mark books is not good enough it would seem . I am on the SMT as well as being a language teacher.I have voiced my concerns about staff/pupil welfare publicly more than once at senior meetings even though my views don't necessarily coincide with the party line. It is the fault of the system not indiviudual schools which puts pressure on the schools which put pressure on departments which put pressure on the pupils. The old nursery rhyme "For want of a nail the shoe was lost ..." Nobody wants to be responsible for that nail but I have decided that I am not going to work myself to death doing loads of extra teaching out of hours. I already do more than what is necessary for my classes and I already have a huge workload as do we all I suspect.Nor would I or my colleagues ever contemplate cheating in the slightest. I long for the days when one taught one's stuff and the pupils sat an exam and that was that.
    End of rant!
  13. gsglover

    gsglover Occasional commenter

    I would love to stop working at my current rate as I know that I am doing so much more than my students do even though it is they who gat the results. We are proud of our results in MFL but I know that the minute we let up at all, results will plummet. I long for the day when students take more responsibility fot their own learning but I suppose the only way to see if they will is to stop doing so much ourselves. I'm not sure that I can do that yet.
  14. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    I find it interesting and a little disturbing that in 2011 we are still confused about how best to teach a modern language. I try to return to some basic principles:

    Students need to hear a good deal of the target language.

    Students need some knowledge of how structures work - grammar.

    Students need a reasonable range of vocabulary.

    They need a variety of stimulating activities to develop their listening, reading, speaking and writing.

    The methods we employ depend on the context of the learning. Adult volunteers may benefit from more immersion. School students may need the exam to motivate them.

    I still feel that lots of TL is still the secret to long term competence.

    Just a few random thoughts.
  15. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    Perhaps we should try that approach when a pupil asks a question. The best time to do it would during an observation. The head is obviously a bully.
  16. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    I go back to your original post and the words "at any cost". SMTs are not interested in language teaching or the teaching of any subject other than as a means to an end, ie. the results. Equipping pupils with the necessary skills for any subject either for current or for future study takes a back seat to getting the pupils through the exam.
    It really disgusts me that SMTs suddenly jump on any subject where the results are less than what we are told they should be, with additional observations, interventions, work scrutiny and all the rest of the support they offer. The SMTs' interests are limited to covering their own backsides.
  17. With the introduction of the GSCE came languages for all. As this is no longer a realty for now what should happen in terms of the exam.
    <h5> This is a link to the old O level exam and I am sure that for most students of GCSE these days it would be too hard to pass. I realise that 80% of the candidates used to fail or would fail as the O level was designed for the top 20%. With languages for all had to come a methodology of getting them through the exam, classes that contained large numbers of non linguists. </h5>http://www.lawnswoodhighschool.com/lhs/GCE1959French2O.html
  18. With languages for all, you should have developed a system which is accessible for all learners. But you are trying to get them all throug GCSE. This is the wrong approach, in my opinion. You need to teach them different things. For the really able ones, GCSE is a piece of cake and really, really boring. Most of them could easily manage AS by the time they do GCSE. Lower ability children get stressed out because they can't cope with the stuff - why don't you teach them easier things?
  19. tortuman

    tortuman New commenter

    Sarahger, you haven't used GoogleTranslate in a long time, have you? Google Translate is using statistical machine translation and this has vastly improved the way it renders the translations. Many people use it already for work related purpuses, of course, I don't think that for the foreseeable future it will substitute flesh and blood translators. However, there is much to say for the huge work that has gone into building databases of current corpora and the implementation of new machine translation technology, in this case statistical machine translation.
    So, yes, I think that for the trained eye it is quite obvious when somebody has used machine translation, but more and more the result could look like a "learner" who makes mistakes has written it.

  20. tortuman

    tortuman New commenter

    Grammar is important, but it doesn't mean you have to teach it out of context. Although you think you aren't you are also teaching grammar, but obviously applying it as well. So, nobody can tell you you are not teaching "grammar" because you are.
    What happens in many schools is that they teach, well they don't teach, they give the children a handout with the past one day and never do anything about it. They only do vocabulary, so in the end the children learn a few "set" verb forms to use with the vocab they know.
    I don't think that language learners only need vocabulary. Then they would end up talking like Beckham in Spanish, on TV appearances he strung words together with no coherence, no tense and no verbs. Of course, he got his meaning accross and probably he can get food and water just by saying "agua" "comida" like my 2 year old. But that's not really the point is it?
    There is no just one "method", a mix of all depending on the students and situation is best. So, a little bit of grammar, with vocab and communiation activities... add a bit of salt...
    The problem I see that in GCSEs there is no method... it is just memorize and produce.

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