In this brave new world in which reformed GCSE specifications have created more exams than ever before, the piles of mock papers are growing increasingly tall.
Schools have organised the sitting of practice exams quite idiosyncratically, with a variety of models out there, often depending on factors such as whether the school favours a two or three-year KS4. Our year 10 students at Durrington will finish their first mock examination period at the end of next week and will have a second exam period immediately before Christmas. To supplement this a few other mocks for certain subjects will be dotted about elsewhere (some on INSET days).
These mock periods involve a huge chunk of summative assessment and by extension marking for teachers. For this investment of time and effort to be worthwhile we should pause to consider how the completed exam papers can be put to most use, and how as teachers we can ensure they have the greatest possible impact on learning. Below are five tips for how this might be achieved:
- Whole class feedback – Individual targets for students can be useful, but they are not the only approach. Another method is to mark the papers with raw scores only but at the same time write down common mistakes or misconceptions. In your feedback lesson, rather than having the students do 15 different things, re-teach these sections of the course to all.
- Find the best and use them as worked examples – Pick out a few excellent answers to the trickiest questions. Scan these, hand out copies and project them on the board. Jointly unpick the answers with the class, highlighting the reasons for their brilliance and any parts that could be improved further.
- Re-model – If you find there is a particular answer that students have struggled with use your feedback lesson to remodel this with them. Do this “live” with a blank whiteboard and your pen. Take a metacognitive approach and explain your thinking as you move through your answer.
- Build in self-evaluation – Another metacognitive strategy this one. Having completed one or several of the above strategies allow students to evaluate the reasons for their success or lack of it on particular questions. You could structure this by giving them a range of reasons to choose from, for example reasons for losing marks could include: lack of knowledge, misunderstood the question, ran out of time, forgot the technique etc.
- Return to them – In the build up to the next mock period return to the year 10 versions. This needs to be done with care as you don’t want to demotivate students by reminding them of an exam aberration. However, you could share a class overview, including the class average they achieved on each individual question. This could then be used to refocus them on how to tackle those that they found most challenging.
As well as these suggestions it is also worth remembering that mock exams do have their limitations. Ultimately, they will only be assessing a relatively narrow section of the curriculum, and therefore do not uncover the full range of student strengths and weaknesses. These need to be drawn out through more regular formative assessment.
Durrington teachers are currently having pigeon holes stuffed with bundles of exams ready for marking. For those in a similar position these suggestions will hopefully help make the marking and feedback process as meaningful as possible.
Posted by Chris Runeckles