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WJEC - WELSH BOARD - GCSE

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					                   WJEC - WELSH BOARD - GCSE

                        Feed back from MCK

                      Date of course: 2/12/2004

FAO: HAR - SLA - LID

I have returned from the course more than ever convinced that the
Welsh Board English & English Literature exams offer colleagues
as well as pupils the best option for the efficient delivery of:

   Two subjects for the price of one, still within the three time-
    tabled hours per week we presently enjoy!
   Sustained high levels of appropriate results for our range of
    ability in JFS.
   Opportunities to increase our value-added at KS4.
   Enable us to carry both the requirements for GCSE coursework
    as well as the huge additional demands on time made by AS -
    and in some cases A2 - coursework.

Some detail:

English at GCSE

We could greatly reduce the burden of coursework both for
ourselves as well as our pupils by a switch to WJEC. One thing
which was constantly reiterated by the course leaders was, that in
planning what to teach, teachers should carefully weigh up the
differences between curriculum demands - made by those such as
QCA - and what can be effectively assessed by both ourselves as
well as any external marking agency. At the course, the
implications for teaching when this difference is fully appreciated,
were immediate and were made explicit:

   Shakespeare: a whole play may be read but for assessment, what
    is required by WJEC is simply a sharply focused assignment on
    a character, a scene, or a particularly important speech. There is
    no requirement to demonstrate knowledge of the whole play.
   Poetry: QCA may demand its 1000 lines but WJEC, taking the
    view that assessing 1000 lines is impossible, requires pupils
    simply to write about one poem; at most, two. Differentiation
    lies in the choice of that poem. For English, comparison is not
    required.
   Diverse Cultures and Traditions: WJEC assess this requirement
    through poetry. WJEC does not require any knowledge or
    research into cultural background of the poet. Indeed, WJEC
    warns that such research invites irrelevance as well as
    plagiarism. The 'diversity' lies in the choice of poem and pupils
    should write about it as they would about any poem. The only
    exclusion would be a ban on choosing a poet from the
    recognised canon of English Literature.
   (In Eng. Lit. - Novels & Prose: WJEC does not require students
    to demonstrate knowledge of a whole text. The proposal scenes
    in Pride and prejudice would make a very good assignment; a
    focus on Dickens and his ability to describe places would
    qualify; a particular scene brought to life by Steinbeck would
    qualify.)
   Pre-1914: a further point worth noting is that in English
    Literature, for pre 1914 pieces used in comparison work, the
    written submission need not focus exclusively on the pre 1914
    piece. For instance, in a comparison of a Tennyson poem with
    one by Sassoon, the selection of the Tennyson piece will meet
    the pre-1914 rubric.
   Pupils' writing. Two pieces of writing are required in the WJEC
    folder for English. However, both should be seen as specific
    practice for the terminal exams and should demand the same
    skills as required in the exam. They are in effect the best
    selections from pupils' practice for the examination and should
    demonstrate the ability to describe, narrate and write
    transactional pieces.
   Comparative work is not required by the WJEC except in
    English Lit. where two short stories will suffice or the
    comparison of just two poems - one pre 1914 and one post 1914.
    Dual use of pieces is permitted across English and English
    Literature.
   Selection of coursework folders: unlike the other boards, the
    WJEC invites the school to select the folders it wishes to send to
    the WJEC with the only provisos being that at least two folders
    come from each teaching group and the complete ability-range
    of pupils is represented. The ratio is one folder per 10 to 15
    pupils.
   Terminal Exams: The WJEC prides itself in the fact that its
    exams are entirely predictable! The reason is that this Board
    wishes to test skills - as opposed to content - and award pupils'
    efforts as appropriate. The Chief Examiner was on hand to make
    this very point himself. "I have only ever set six questions in
    English" over the many years in which he has been in post.
   Thus, pupils may expect in reading to face one extract from a
    20thC. novel - differentiated according to tier of entry - Paper 1;
    and two pieces in Paper 2 - one a media piece and one a piece of
    non-fiction literature - such as a Bill Bryson piece. Again, these
    pieces will be differentiated.
   Writing in the terminal exams: Pupils will face questions which
    will not differ in any way from the type of writing practice that
    should have been part of their coursework folder: i.e., the ability
    to describe, narrate and write transactional pieces.

I hope that I have given a useful guide to yesterday's course and
respectfully hope that my report is not consigned to gather dust! I
would most respectfully state my own wish to continue my liaison
with WJEC with my current Year 10. The thought of our pupils
having to plough through the Edexcel Anthology - already dated in
its media offerings, together with the fact that annotation of texts is
no longer permitted, propels me to think in terms of a skills based
exam and a greatly reduced burden of coursework. Coursework
never did carry - and still doesn't - the marks commensurate with
the wear and tear on everyone concerned in its production,
marking, moderation and general administration. Lastly, if any
examination board is true to the spirit of the 2001 Literacy
Framework and its advice to teachers, that coverage of texts was no
longer the predominant focus in English, then it must be the
WJEC!

Please - now that OFSTED is out of the way, may we give this matter
our urgent attention!

MCK

				
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