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"Teach to the exam."

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by connie-91, Aug 20, 2016.

  1. connie-91

    connie-91 New commenter

    Hi all,

    I work in adult education, teaching English. Obviously, as with everywhere, there are targets to be met however my priority has always been to motivate, inspire and educate.

    Recently, I have been told that I need to start "teaching to the exam" and obviously this means that I wouldn't be teaching my students all of the Functional Skills curriculum because it doesn't all come up in the exam e.g. students are required to learn the different sentence structures however they aren't asked in their exams about the different sentence structures.

    I never wanted to be the type of teacher who just taught students to pass exams and I refuse to be. However, this answer doesn't seem to be good enough. I'm worried that if I refuse to omit parts of the curriculum my employer will try to push me out because they seem to feel that teaching to the exam is the best way to improve targets.

    I'm not sure where I stand on this. I don't know what the exam board regulations are regarding this and the information is tricky to find on the internet especially as exam results have just been released so any mention of 'exam' to Google and it comes up with that.

    Does anyone have any advice, please?
  2. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I tend to think the exam syllabus years should be about teaching to the exam. Pupils are studying for that exam and it is our job to do everything we can to enable them to get the best possible grade.

    That doesn't mean one can 't 'motivate, inspire and educate' while doing so. Teach what is required to be taught in an engaging and exciting manner, with lots of teacher passion and all will be well.

    I'd be surprised/disappointed as a subject leader if a teacher said to me "Yes sorry the exam results are a bit naff, but I was busy inspiring and motivating rather than preparing pupils for the exam." I'd probably move them to non-exam classes to be honest, where their skills would be better suited. Maybe you could ask for that?
  3. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Perhaps also look at things from the students' perspective: they want/need to pass exams. There are of course many reasons why students study and learn and your dilemma is of course not new. However, no matter the course, unless the student is taking it for pleasure, and there is an exam involved, most students want to pass the exam and they rely on the teacher to teach the elements/strategies in order to enable them to pass.

    Yes, inspire your students, include topics that educate and motivate. Don't look at it from your employer's perspective ; look at it from the students'. It is in their best interests to pass their exams, but that doesn't mean you can't inspire, educate, and motivate them as well.
  4. -myrtille-

    -myrtille- Occasional commenter

    I think you have to find a balance.

    If something isn't going to be on the exam that doesn't mean you shouldn't teach it. But it's important not to spent so long teaching it that it's to the detriment of other aspects of the course which are examined.

    If you can cover all the exam content thoroughly and do the extras, great. I've been in that position with my Y10s this year because they were a very able group, we covered what needed to be covered and then had time to study a French film at the end of term. I think that sort of thing is important for my pupils to experience authentic French culture and because it may help motivate some of them to carry on to A-Level. But I wouldn't have done it if they hadn't all completed their controlled assessments to a decent standard and if I wasn't confident they were on track with the exam content.

    Making sure your students will be ready for the exam has to be the main priority.
  5. lulu57

    lulu57 Lead commenter

    Myrtille - bonjour encore un fois!
    C'est vrai que vous devez cover le exam syllabus parce que otherwise, vos students parlerez franglais comme moi et cela, c'est mal! ;)
  6. Moony

    Moony Lead commenter

    Why not try and find a way of embedding some more exam style work into the teaching that you already do. Yes it would mean a change to what you are currently doing but you can use it to add in more exam prep but without teaching to the test. When I'm covering revision stuff for my subject (science) I do suggest that if the kids have gone through all the past papers they can for the board they are sitting then they could try some from other boards, yes some of the content wil be a bit different but usualy ony minor bits. Things like the heart will still be the same no matter which board you sit. Would using other boards past papers work for you?
    cazzmusic1, emerald52 and pepper5 like this.
  7. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    If it's on the spec, it could come up. We are coming to the end of the current FS specifications. In the old days, one of the requirements of exam board regulators was to expect the exam board to come to them with evidence that during the lifetime of the spec all of it had been assessed.
    For the most part however, I agree with the posters above, the students want a qualification, and the people funding the course want them to get a qualification.
    Exam grinding is wearing and no harm in broadening the horizons every so often.
    cazzmusic1, emerald52 and pepper5 like this.
  8. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    Teaching to the exam doesn't mean you can't teach the whole course. What I would do is show how students can apply their learning to the exam - ensure they are familiar with the paper style, lots of modelling answers, discussing mark schemes to see how marks are awarded, short chunks of exam style questions etc.
    cazzmusic1, emerald52 and Moony like this.
  9. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    When studying, students can have both: they can work towards and exam and as phlogiston says, broaden the horizons. You can introduce extension activities and encourage your students to seek out other learning activities of their own choosing; after all, isn't that what education is partly about: enabling students to be independent? With the internet, learning has changed. At a click, most people have access to dictionaries, millions of pages of resources, encyclopaedias, maps, video clips.

    I understand you are teaching a group of students who may need a lot of assistance, but even so there are things on the internet accessible to mostly everyone.

    When I studied my degree, that was before everyone has access to the Web. Now I am amazed that I can look up anything mostly at a click of a mouse. You can't, of course, rely on something just because it is on the web, but for access to dictionaries, books in the public domain, maps, and many other things, it has made a big difference to the way I can study now. There are complete courses available which are free! I just don't have time to research all that is available.

    If you have time after you have covered the necessary topics for the week, perhaps you could devote part of a class to let the students give a mini lesson on a topic they are interested in. You could teach the skills of giving a presentation and how to make an interesting PowerPoint.
    cazzmusic1 and emerald52 like this.
  10. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    Such a thing is possible?
    Laphroig and emerald52 like this.
  11. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter



  12. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    The power point presentation is not an enjoyable option. It is a 'must' for GCSE and FS 2 speaking and listening. Students can use one which they have prepared for their vocational course or one about a hobby or interest. I have sat through dozens of powerpoints about (******) I -phone 6s, football teams, music, pets, spray tanning, gel nails..... and so on until infinity. some are very interesting. All will give you an insight into your students' lives, interests and abilities.
    I suggest that you consult your exam board website and ask your HOD for a scheme of work which will guide you on what you need to cover. I would imagine that students are expected to use a range of sentences in their exam although the exam will not ask them specifically identify types of sentences.
    You should be able to tailor your lessons to correspond with the students' vocational courses e.g. write a letter of complaint about bad service at a hairdressers/ garage/ hotel/ boarding kennels which will engage them.
    Remember, one day, OFSTED may arrive. They will be looking for evidence of progress and exam results. They may say that they want whoopee dooo lessons but if you cannot produce written work showing that the students have improved during their time with you, you are for the high jump. It's no use saying 'oh but they were inspired and motivated' - educated is the most important.
    emerald52, grumpydogwoman and pepper5 like this.
  13. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Well said saluki.
  14. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    A lovely phrase. :)
  15. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Well, students take courses for different reasons.

    If they are hoping to make themselves more employable and they need that L2 qualification to get a job then they will want the certificate. At any cost.

    ESOL and TEFL is different.

    But FS at Level 2 is usually for people who struggled at school and are prevented from applying for lots of jobs because of their lack of Literacy/Numeracy at L2.

    Teach to the exam. But teach in an interesting way.
    Dragonlady30, phlogiston and pepper5 like this.

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