Assessment Point follow-up

Last night, via Twitter, I read Tom Sherrington‘s post about the formative use of summative assessment and that jolted me into thinking more carefully about how I was going to use the results from the Assessment Point tests. The Y12 tests did a pretty good job at splitting the pack – scores ranged from 8/30 to 27/30 – but it seems a bit daft to have that knowledge in a spreadsheet but do nothing with it. After all, why find out if someone’s underperforming if you’re not going to do anything about it?

I am fairly ambivalent about the use of re-tests, but I get the impression that several of our underperformers did little to no revision, and I want to get the message across that this is unacceptable – in the linear world we need students to be building a solid foundation, and that means that they need to be consolidating their knowledge properly right from the beginning. This time, the ‘pass’ mark was 15, a mere 50% (which is a D in the current BUSS3 paper) so everyone getting 15 or lower will be coming back at break time next week for a “chat” and a re-test.

Longer term, I think I’ll put the “pass mark” up a bit each time: that should encourage everyone to raise their game. There’s a danger that our weakest students will spend their lives in a cycle of test-and-re-test hell, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with high expectations, provided we’re giving them support rather than leaving them to flounder. At least regular tests will help to keep the content fresh!

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Assessment points

One of the things I was very keen to introduce as HOD was a series of assessments that were common for every class. I couldn’t think of anything other than “Assessment Point” to call them, so that’s what they are (much as one of my Y13 tries to persuade me to call them pop quizzes!) For the Sixth Form, APs happen about every four weeks; this ties in with our school reporting timetable, so in theory it makes coherent sense.

In reality, what happened is that I forgot about the APs until the time when they were scheduled to happen, so everything has slipped a little – our first internal reports are due in a couple of days’ time, and Y12 have still to sit their first AP – but you can’t have everything all of the time. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself!

I was particularly keen to get the APs in place to help with consolidation – each AP tests all of the topics covered in the course to date, and this will mean that students are going back over their notes and revision materials on at least a monthly basis. This will be important for the linear course, but also for our Y13 students, some of whom are sitting on pretty uninspiring AS grades and need a structured reason to go back over their AS notes alongside the A2 stuff. Hopefully this spacing will help improve their recall, as well as helping to break down the compartmentalisation of knowledge; after all, A2 modules are synoptic.

The format of these APs is something that I’m less certain about, and it will be interesting to see how they develop over the next year or so. This time round it’s been short answers (and some multi-choice for the Y12), which is fine for subject content and great for marking(!), but I think that we need to move to longer answers as the pupils’ knowledge gets more robust. This can happen fairly quickly with Y13, but I’m less certain about when to move Y12 on to much longer answers in tests. We’ve already started writing explanations (and one class have had a go at an essay already), thinking about quality of written communication, but I’d rather spend a bit more time getting the written foundations in place before pushing them in an exam. Another thing to discuss at department meeting…!

IT excitement

For a while now I’ve been looking for a simple way to project the pupils’ work up onto the board, whether that’s answers to an exam question, notes from discussion, or even good diagrams in Economics. We don’t have a wifi network in the building, so screencasting, in whatever form, is a no-go. I’ve been using a clunky solution which involves taking photos on my mobile, connecting the phone to the computer via USB, then opening the DCIM folder: it works, but it ain’t pretty!

Some time last year, John Tomsett blogged about explicity modelling thinking with his Economics class as a way of developing exam technique; he followed this up with another post about a teacher doing this process with a visualiser. A visualiser? THAT’s what they’re called! Clearly I am a long way behind the technological curve.

During the final week of the summer holiday, the HOD for Economics and I discovered that we’d got money left in the budget. After ordering all the new spec resources we could justify, I persauded him to let me spend eighty quid on my own visualiser. Technically it’s the department’s visualiser, but I’m not going to split hairs about that! It arrived on the first day of term, and I’ve only just got round to setting it up, but already I’m excited about the possibilities – my Y13 are tackling their first BUSS3 paper this week, and the ability to show them how I’d like them to annotate the case-study is going to be invaluable. As we read it together, I can make notes, which they can then see on the board – talk about making the implicit explicit!

Now all I need a long USB extension cable so I can use it in the middle of my classroom…

Building knowledge

I read a blog (http://teachingandlearning.org.uk/2015/05/14/the-summer-exam-season/) the other day that helped to crystallise some of my thinking about building better long-term knowledge. One of my plans is to build a ‘nothing new’ lesson every fortnight into the scheme of work. Half of this lesson is to be spent going back over topics covered earlier in the course. It could be through a case-study, or teacher-led questioning, or maybe some short answers, but whatever the format it should be using concepts developed in previous weeks and months. The other half of the ‘nothing new’ lesson is to be spent on some real-world knowledge, but more of that another day.

I’m also planning to make every end-of-topic test one that covers the entire course, so that students are revising everything every time they prepare for a test: I’m hoping that laying these foundations will make it easier when it comes to preparing for the linear exams. I worry that if we try to do everything in the final months of the course then we will run out of time. For the typical Business student, who tends to be at the weaker end of the academic spectrum, this should hopefully make a big difference.