Tag Archives: Examinations

Reflections on the SQA Technical Consultation⤴

from @ stuckwithphysics.co.uk

On Friday 14th August, the SQA announced its Arrangements for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses in the 2020-21 session. This included links to the SQA's Technical Consultation on proposals for modifications to the assessment arrangements for the 2021 exam diet. The announcement also included links to a survey which closed for responses on Monday 24th August. The announcement stated that confirmed modifications would be published in the week beginning 31st August.

I responded to the survey both as a teacher and a parent, but didn't make any copies of my responses, so what follows is from memory.

I was not at all happy with the proposals for the sciences, which amounted to nothing other than a return to the shorter format examination papers of a few years ago. Having lost about a month of teaching time, simply taking 30 minutes out of the exam does nothing at all to help students or teachers. The notion that this reduces work for staff as they will be able to write shorter prelims is laughable. If anything this will create work as prelims will need to be rewritten to match the shortened format.
The failure to recognise that Covid-19 procedures in schools are making practical work exceptionally difficult to conduct, and the lack of a decision to remove the assignment components of science courses does nothing to reduce pressure on students or teachers. Such a decision might have freed up some time to allow courses to be better covered in the reduced time available.

Other options that might have been considered include -
+ reformatting exams to include a mix of mandatory and optional questions, allowing schools to decide which content to leave out in order to compensate for the time lost under lockdown
+ delaying the exam diet until June to allow greater time to complete courses
+ specifying content in courses to be removed to allow the remaining content to be covered effectively

In other subjects proposed changes include removal of coursework components or sections of courses (reduced folio pieces and the removal of the speaking component in English), with no reduction in the examination duration.

Another major concern is about the worth of the consultation exercise at all. With SQA having made it very difficult to understand the related documentation - it is loaded with edu-jargon and emphatically not written for the lay reader - they made it very difficult for students or their parents to respond to the survey.

Whilst many teachers will have responded to the consultation, the limited time available between the release of the proposals on 14th August and the closure of the survey on 24th August will have limited the number and extent of responses.

The plan for SQA to confirm their finalised arrangements during the week beginning 31st August gives little cause to believe that much attention can or will be paid to the survey responses.

I sincerely hope that SQA will do the right thing, listening to teachers, students and parents, and come up with a fair and workable set of modifications.

Thoughts on Assessment (given all that’s been going on)⤴

from @ stuckwithphysics.co.uk

The recent issues surrounding assessment and certification both in Scotland and around the UK, have prompted a great deal of discussion.
With a recent increase in traffic to this blog, mainly to my previous posts on assessment, following a piece I had published in the Times Educational Supplement, I thought it'd be worth putting together an alternative model for assessment and certification.

I should stress that these ideas are not solely my own, they come from discussions with many of the great teachers I count myself lucky to know through Twitter, TeachMeet and Pedagoo, from visits to Canada and the USA, where I heard about systems very different to those here and from an overwhelming sense that what we are currently doing to assess and certificate the learners in our schools isn't good enough.

I'm not suggesting that we get rid of exams. They clearly have their place, but it shouldn't be the only method by which learners in our schools can demonstrate their skills and knowledge. Nor am I suggesting that everything should be internally assessed, this too has its flaws, not the least of which is workload for already time-poor teachers.

My suggested system has four main components -

1. All units at all levels should be assessed online via an eAssessment platform provided by SQA (this already exists in the form of SQA Solar). Unit assessments should be Pass/Fail, with each unit gaining SCQF points at the appropriate level. Students should attempt units when they are ready, and multiple attempts available to students to show they have achieved minimum level of competence (this could be time locked to prevent immediate retest, like the DVLA Driving theory test). This arrangement would need reliable ICT in schools, but if all schools are currently able to undertake the SNSA, then there is already existing capacity which can be built upon.

2. Coursework components should be elective and gain students additional SCQF points. This would avoid the significant burden of multiple assignments for students following more than one in science or social subjects course, allowing a single exemplification of generic skills within a subject area.

3. All terminal exams at all levels (including N4 if there is sufficient demand) should be elective, allowing students to gain additional SCQF points. This would allow flexible routes for students to bypass exams if not required for their chosen path. Students who require Higher passes, i.e. for university entry, are still able to meet these requirements.

4. All learners accumulate 'learner credits' via a unique online profile, which could be integrated into, or linked to their Glow account. This would allow all of a learner's achievements, not just SQA, but Prince's Trust Achieve, John Muir Award, Duke of Edinburgh Award, Saltire Award and any of a range of other awarding bodies included in the SCQF framework, to be recorded. Each achievement could be electronically 'tagged' with metadata to detail the knowledge, skills and experiences underlying the award (using Mozilla Open Badges or similar). These could be cross referenced with searchable index of skills & awards which could be used by employers, FE colleges and Universities to assist in candidate selection.

I don't pretend that my proposed model is perfect, I know it would take a great deal of investment, both in financial terms and in terms of time, to develop and bring about such a set of changes.

What I do know is that, given all that's been going on, we are long overdue for a serious discussion about how we assess and certificate our learners. Such a discussion cannot be left to those in the walled gardens of the SQA, Education Scotland and the Scottish Government - they're most of the reason that things are so greatly in need of reform.

The #SillySeason by @TeacherToolkit⤴


It’s that time of the academic year that is known to some as, the ‘Silly Season‘. Context: Picture yourself 2 or 3 weeks ago before the Easter break … Just when you thought exhaustion couldn’t get any worse, despite a brief respite, you find yourself back at school with work ‘up-to-your-ears’. For the experienced teacher, … Continue reading