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 Post subject: Is this normal practice?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2013 3:39 pm 
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Joined: Tue Oct 05, 2010 5:48 pm
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Just flicking through our local senior school's recent letters (my two are about the start there) and noticed a letter about the upcoming languages GCSE's. I think it relates to controlled assessments, which I think are being fazed out soon? But the letter reads that the children have all been told what they will have to say and write in the oral and written controlled assessments and can they now spend as much time as possible learning by heart (!) their answers both at home and at school. They can research both their written and oral answers as much as possible (get word perfect translations from relatives/friends/elsewhere if they choose) which they need to learn off by heart to be rewritten/repeated during the controlled assessment. There will apparently be at least 3 assessments and the best 2 will be put forward to the exam board to try to achieve the best mark possible :shock: Is this normal practice now? It seems like borderline cheating. Practicing an answer to a known question for a few months before repeating it verbatim infront of the examiner doesn't show much of an understanding of the language surely.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2013 3:41 pm 
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That's not how we run it in my school ...


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2013 3:50 pm 
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I was actually dreading someone saying that. I just presumed it must be normal practice. I don't know what to say actually. It's standard practice for Spanish, French and German. Practice, practice, practice, the answer you have to the known questions. Learn them by rote over and over (the letter asks parents to listen to their child repeating the same answers!) so that in the controlled assessment you can simply repeat it all :shock: Utterly pointless apart from upping the pass mark for the school surely. How on earth does it help the child understand the language or give an accurate mark for their general ability to speak and understand said language?


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2013 3:57 pm 
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April fools joke ?? Surely this isn't how it happens now??


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2013 4:00 pm 
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I have taught MFL to GCSE and A level, but most recently 3 years ago. I am afraid this is pretty widespread and yes, essentially the system is as you describe. I taught children from different schools who had specific needs which kept them out of school so have experienced quite a few schools (including grammars) and to a greater or lesser extent yes this is what happens. It ranges from being given the material to learn by heart to encouraging pupils to write it and learn it by heart after correction from a teacher. I am sorry to say I have experience of teachers 'mouthing' answers (because they are being recorded); and there is certainly a 'best 2 of 3' system. If you did exams like I did in the 1980s where you rocked up and had no idea what you were going to be asked, then this is a shock for sure. I do not think you will find much variation between schools as the subject matter for oral exams is prescribed by the exam boards; children will usually have to present a speech of some kind which they can then be questioned on. At AS level this is still the case to a great extent and not until A level is there anything like the kind of 'free speech' element that we used to have to do much earlier.

I had not better say what I think of it.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2013 4:05 pm 
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And they say exams aren't getting easier...


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2013 4:22 pm 
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stroudydad wrote:
And they say exams aren't getting easier...
It is one reason given for the decline in uptake of MFL at A level. Anecdotally, it is a major shock to children to have to try and do some thinking in the language. I always tried to teach my pupils to 'think in German' or whatever, rather than just translating colloquialisms from English('how do you say 'it is dead boring' in Russian Miss?') - but actually there is no real need for them to have any kind of 'feel' for a language until they get beyond GCSE. As a linguist it upsets me to be honest, but there was feeling that oral exams were too stressful for them so the content was reduced.
Quote:
Students will complete two controlled assessment tasks. These tasks are untiered. Differentiation is by outcome, not by task. These may be drawn from the exemplar tasks we provide or they may be adapted by teachers for their students. Teachers may also devise their own tasks.
Both tasks will be in the form of a dialogue. The tasks will be marked by the teacher and submitted to AQA for moderation. The work of individual students may be informed by working with others but they must provide an individual response. Where model answers are published, students must not reproduce any sections of continuous prose provided in such answers. Whilst students may use individual sentences from model answers, they must not reproduce several consecutive sentences from such answers in their own response. A student’s response must not be identical to that of another student in the centre or to any published model answer. Students must not submit the same task for Speaking and Writing.
This is from the newest AQA GCSE German specification. Make of it what you will.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2013 4:26 pm 
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Amber wrote:
If you did exams like I did in the 1980s where you rocked up and had no idea what you were going to be asked, then this is a shock for sure.

Blimey, it certainly is Amber! Still have nightmares about forgetting the French for plaster in my oral exam - went all 'round the Wrekin asking for something to cover a wound in the hope of a flash of inspiration! Nothing .... mind was a complete blank. My teacher just looked at me as if I was insane, and certainly didn't mouth the answer :shock:

JD


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2013 4:34 pm 
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Yes I had a similar issue over the German word for 'tie' (as in, the item of clothing) - the examiner (in those days it was an external examiner, ie a stranger) just sat there impassively while I went on about that thing which men put round their necks to decorate their shirts. And yet, of course, 'die Krawatte' is a whole load easier than all the prepositions and cases needed in my rather more complex version.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2013 4:49 pm 
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I still wake up in cold sweats remembering walking into my German oral to be greeted by my German teacher and her tape recorder: she had an unnatural nervous grin which put the heebies up me straight away...and then horror of horrors, proceeded to ask me about Johann Sebastian Bach!!! I was actually quite impressed that I came out with a C!!!


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