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We all know that most posters hate CAs but.....

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by jubilee, Apr 27, 2012.

  1. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    Coursework and CAs are used to disguise the fact that most pupils would not fair well if they had to do the Writing element in an examination hall at the end of the course.
    Writing is suppose to be the hardest skill, yet many pupils gain their highest grade from CAs in Writing (previously with W coursework) as it can be perfected by the teacher and memorised by the pupil.
    The purpose, with many subjects, is no longer about helping pupils to reach their potential but about getting pupils grades that they do not deserve.
  2. I should have said that I don't like CAs for the reasons you put so well Jubilee....and probably more. We look like we're stuck with them at least for now so I do wonder if there are teachers out there who feel that the lead up to a CA has helped in language learning. If so how?
  3. sam enerve

    sam enerve New commenter

    Before CA was invented my department always did the writing exam. Writing marks were excellent and we regularly had students with 90 ums in the writing exam.
  4. I was wondering if anyone would contemplate changing to the new Edexcel Certificate. It has no coursework and has a listening exam, reading/writing exam and one speaking exam. Everything is marked by the exam board. It is now accredited and counts towards the Ebacc and in league tables.
  5. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    When schools/departments chose the exam route for Writing, it resulted in the pupils being properly taught so that they could deal with an unknown task and produce coherent text.
    Schools that had a 6th Form were well-advised to follow the examination route as it prepared pupilks better for AS/A2.
    Most schools without a 6th Form chose Coursework as getting a Grade C for pupils who struggled to write English coherently was the all that mattered.
  6. gsglover

    gsglover Occasional commenter

    I would add that when there was a possibility of coursework writing or a terminal exam, over 80% of schools chose coursework for obvious reasons, particularly for students who were not continuing to advanced level. We once did a control group with similar ability students and those doing coursework were 1 and a half grades better at the end.

  7. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    Was that based on teaching the two groups in the same way or were the examination group taught a more structured understanding of the language to enable them to produce their own sentences?
  8. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    Sounds like a step in the right direction!
  9. I think that CAs are a good idea, but the rules are rubbish. In Germany, we have a system of "CAs" throughout all years in all main subjects ((M)FL, German, Maths, Physics, Chemistry...) and for all subjects in Ys 11 and 12. Children have to be told at least one week in advance and they know that it's about the topic(s) they have been doing until the exam, but the teacher is allowed to exclude topics/grammar points which haven't been practiced enough (we have to make the exams for ourselves). There are two to four CAs per year, depending on the time allocated to the subject and the year (Ys 11 and 12 have only one CA per term). In MFL, most CAs test two to three skills (it's not always possible to include listening and reading comprehension), and in the lower years there's always a grammar part (my Y7s had simple past-present perfect and modal verbs in their last CA). There are also speaking CAs (one per year, starting in Y7, 8 or 9, depending on the school).
    The difference to England is that pupils do know what the task will be about, but they don't know the task. They start training how to cope with unknown tasks in primary school, and by the time they start secondary school (Y5), they are absolutely fine with it. Teachers are responsible for the tasks, but they can't write the answers for children, because everybody would notice :D. All CAs count towards their final grade. All grades from Ys 11 and 12 count towards their A-Level grades. If pupils get a bad mark in one CA, that's usually not that harsh because if they do better in the other ones, they can improve their grade. And class participation counts 50% in Ys 11 and 12 and at least 25% in lower years.
  10. Does Germany have the same target-driven culture as the UK in education ? Do teachers get the blame if a pupil can't / won't get a good grade? My Spanish friend can't believe we put up with this! If they really want honesty and trust in the CAs I think there needs to be a culture shift. There is too much at stake at the moment (pay progression, stress).

  11. AQA have had to re-submit their igcse spec (=certificate) because it included a coursework option and they must be 100% exam. Pity, it was a very good assessment, I hope they sort it soon.
  12. The answer is that we are starting to get the blame. Up to now, it was always the pupils who were blamed for their bad grades, now parents blame the teacher. But fortunately, headmasters don't. Yet.

  13. Well that's lucky for you, and I hope they don't. I fear that you may not be quite so keen about CAs once they start using the grades to calculate how much value you have added or how many targets you have met / missed !
  14. I disagree. To me speaking and writing are very differnt skills. If I take myself, for example, I am able to write confidently in a number of languages because I have studied, and been taught, the grammar but I am completely unable to speak them confidently. This is because when writing I have the time to think things through and to think logically. When speaking I do not have time to do this.
    I make no secret of the fact that I know such practice takes place, but to presume that every teacher across the country prepares their pupils in this way is very unfair.
  15. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    I find that pupils are generally prepared like Pavlov's dog for oral work in MFL. They rehearse set dialogues.
    This leads to a situation where they can appropriately answer, for instance, the question " What's your house like?" but will give the same answer for , "where is your house?" because the trigger word if 'house'.
    They aren't actually listening to the question and identifying the key words. I've covered loads of Yr11 classes on supply days and it no longer shocks me how few pupils can identify the basic question words ( who, why, where, when and how?) I actually have laminated cards to give out with those words on them.
    They rehearse all sorts of fixed sentence answers for giving directions in the town but when, in the future, they ask someone abroad where the station or the Post office is, they will be clueless to follow the reply if it isn't made up of, "take the second road on the left" or "go straight ahead".
    Being properly prepared for composing your own sentences will allow you to also compose your own spoken utterances. They may not be quick responses but I'm sure a sympathetic native speaker would listen patiently as you express yourself. They may have mistakes in them or be unfinished but you will be saying what you want to say, not be parrotting the only things that you have rote learned, with little understanding for why the language is correct.
  16. smoothnewt

    smoothnewt Star commenter

    My main gripe is that the system is unfair on weaker candidates. We do WJEC and to gain a C grade candidates have to write two largely accurate pieces, each of which must be at least 200 words in length. This is a really tall order for many of ours who are not in the top sets. Under the old exam system (AQA or NEAB as was) I distinctly recall that the foundation reading exam comprised three sections: section one involved writing a kind of shopping list of five or six items, section two involved writing a postcard, and section three involved another relatively short, or certainly "do-able" task. There is a chasm separating what was required to gain a C grade in writing back in the day and what is required under the current system.
  17. smoothnewt

    smoothnewt Star commenter

    But surely the fact that the system is open to such abuse, and therefore "unsecure", means it is not fit for purpose?
  18. smoothnewt

    smoothnewt Star commenter

  19. While the debate is interesting and thought provoking, I'm still interested if anyone has found CAs to be of benefit. I suspect though that very few people do think they are a good thing for language learners and I feel I have an answer to the question in my first post.
    I suppose, for those who like the idea of an exam, you could treat CAs as terminal exams. You could teach your MFL as you see fit for 2 years and set a 2 two hour unseen (or seen acouple of weeks before the test date) papers taken in spring of Y11. You could do something similar for the orals I suppose. High risk in this day and age..or maybe not as you'd have taught real French/Spanish/German for the preceding 20 or so months!
    While the current high stakes accountability continues, I suspect that very few will opt to take this course of action.
    So CAs are helpful in boosting grades, propping up league tables and placating Ofsted. They may be helpful in helping some children learn. They are absolutely useless as a method of assessment because of the ambiguities in mark schemes, the range of different exam boards, the temptation to cheat or at least sail close to the wind, poor moderation procedures and the huge discrepency between the grade descriptors at higher level and the actual ability/competency of many children who 'achieve' at higher level.

  20. Well, but I have to explain myself to the head if I don't have enough 3s (equivalent to Cs). But the other way round than in Britain: too many As and Bs mean the CA was too easy, and you have to penalize the pupils for having learnt what they should have learnt....


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