Coursework

The holidays are over (for me, at least!) and the first job on my To Do list is attack the department office. Although the room is used on a daily basis in term time – it’s where the kettle and fridge live! – there are lots of shelves full of debris accumulated over the years. First on my hit list is the mountain of GCSE coursework and controlled assessments. Some of them date back to 2006, back when coursework was actually coursework. These projects represent hours of work, for both the pupils and for us teachers who had to mark them. Although it pains me to throw out all that effort, it’s been a nice trip down memory lane: reminders of pupils who have long-since left and, in many cases, graduated or moved successfully into the world of work.

The new GCSE Business in 2017 is likely to be fully examined, rather than having a project component to the assessment. While this prospect gives me a massive feeling of relief (think of all the hours we’ll all save!) it does mean that pupils lose the chance to develop a set of business skills that can’t be assessed in an examination. The process of drafting, trialling, and then redrafting a market research questionnaire is hard to replicate in the exam hall. The opportunity to work with reasonably big sets of data is difficult in timed conditions. Would pre-released data overcome this, with questions asked in exam conditions? Possibly, although it still means that teachers will be under pressure to teach exactly to the test, so that little Jonny will be able to regurgitate the mean, median and mode of the data without any understanding of what this tells him.

The other thing I like about Controlled Assessment is that it consists of big, open-ended tasks – the 6 and 8 mark questions on the exam papers are nowhere near as demanding as producing a piece of extended writing for several hours. Could this type of task be replicated in an exam? It’s hard to see how, given the time constraints.

Ofqual are doing a consultation on the new GCSE course, so I guess I’d better add that to my To Do list. If you fancy it too, the document is here, with a deadline of September 24th.

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