Showing posts from August, 2012

Myths of the tough examiner explored

"I failed my exam because the examiners were tough this year." "This exam board is tougher than that one." Surprisingly, it does not actually work the way that these comments suppose. Examiners do not start (or finish) the process with a policy to be harsh or strict, unless there is significant political interference with the process, which could undermine public confidence in the exam system. Where you start, ideally , is with a benchmark, sometimes called a 'descriptor'. As the name indicates this categorisation attempts to describe the kind of work that is deemed appropriate in each category:  e.g. 'A' = excellent: independent thinking and critical skills, high level of subject knowledge of all the topics outlined in the syllabus/curriculum. The benchmarks in turn ought correspond to national subject standards. When these have been agreed, everyone in the process has to stick to them. There are also international standards of comp

eBook or xBox? Designing a 15-point programme to promote reading

There is a great gap between those children who have discovered reading and take delight in it; and those who are resistant and have to be dragged to it. There are also many alternatives to reading; the modern world offers a vast range of audio-visual and  interactive distractions. How do we respond to these challenges and how to we begin to promote enjoyment in reading? In recent years I have been asked to work with parents and children to improve reading skills. I have been asked to take part in this heroic struggle! Indeed, there is strong evidence that boys' reading skills are increasingly falling behind those of girls, and that boys come back to school after the summer holidays with poor reading skills. Let's investigate two questions: How do we guide and support the enjoyment in reading and help to improve skills? How could we link reading to creativity, community, and interactivity? The results . Here are 15 motivational tips (with an emphasis on readi

SMART Revision Planning for Exams - 16 Tips

You have probably come across the SMARTER model as a way of organising a project.  It works like this S          Specific              Significant, Stretching, Simple M         Measurable              Meaningful, Motivational, Manageable A         Attainable Appropriate, Achievable, Agreed, Assignable, Actionable, Ambitious, Aligned, Aspirational, Acceptable, Action-focused R          Relevant           Result-Based, Results-oriented, Resourced, Resonant, Realistic T          Timely Time-oriented, -framed, -based, -bound, -Specific, -tabled, -limited, Trackable, Tangible E          Evaluate, Ethical, Excitable, Enjoyable, Engaging, Ecological R          Reevaluate, Rewarded, Reassess, Revisit, Recordable, Rewarding In order to apply these practical strategies to your revision work for exams, I would also recommend: Short blocks of time for work A balanced workload between all subjects means variety  Days off work for leisure Writi

The School Shakespeare Newspaper / Activities

In recent years we have moved a long way from teacher-led Practical Criticism Q&A. As learners we are always searching for fun ways to explore texts. Experience demonstrates that allowing children to be creative is an excellent way to build critical engagement. Fun means deeper learning, and in my view, play cultivates questions. So let's have the courage to allow our students to play with plots and create their own interpretations of them. This approach need not displace traditional literary/critical writing exercises. Rather, it serves as a way of incubating enjoyable and engaging point(s) of entry to the text. How does this approach work? I'm not going to write up a detailed lesson plan, but you will find a short case study below. The newspaper model can be adapted to any text. (I recently worked with this approach using Charles Dickens's Great Expectations .) The project briefly sketched below will also help the learners to be more aware of style, tone, a

Examination Trauma and Stress Anxiety

Examination Trauma and Stress The period leading up to the examination can be as stressful as the results day that follows. For many people taking exams the experience is worse than a trip to the hospital or the dentist. The trauma may last for years. This is what the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud said about exams Everyone who has received his certificate of matriculation after passing his final examination at school complains of the persistence with which he is plagued by anxiety-dreams in which he has failed, or must go through his course again, etc. For the holder of a university degree this typical dream is replaced by another, which represents that he has not taken his doctor's degree, to which he vainly objects, while still asleep, that he has already been practising for years, or is already a university lecturer or the senior partner of a firm of lawyers, and so on. These are the ineradicable memories of the punishments we suffered as children for misd

Why English Exams are here to stay

Exams are increasingly popular because we are living in a competitive environment. We are also seeing a return to traditional values in education and training. Exams suit the mass market. In some ways they are quite efficient as a method of selection. Because exams are easy to assess and are free from the issues of plagiarism and other forms of cheating that have proliferated in coursework, they are back in fashion across the education sector. Cheating in exams in quite difficult and it is easy to detect when it happens.  In contrast, my research shows that with the right money ($100) it is now very easy to purchase online a plagiarism-proof, first class, or A* Essay for your coursework . In that context I believe that we will be seeing greater reliance on exams in the future, and more of them will be marked by machines in a move toward improved technological efficiency of the educational production line. Their place in the system is secured. Over a million young peo