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What should we want from GCSEs & A levels?

What should we want from GCSEs & A levels?



Tim Oates, Group Director of Assessment Research and Development for Cambridge Assessment

Tim Oates, Group Director of Assessment Research and Development for Cambridge Assessment



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    What should we want from GCSEs & A levels? What should we want from GCSEs & A levels? Presentation Transcript

    • A new look at standards: What should we want from GCSEs and A levels? Presentation by Tim Oates Group Director Assessment Research and Development (ARD) 13 October 2011
    • Complex systems
      • Our partial data refer to epiphenomena; we need to apprehend deep structures and concealed trends
      • We need to understand examinations in the context of ‘curriculum coherence’
      • Careful thinking or split thinking? We need to understand the limits of our sphere of action (modesty and self-control) but simultaneously the extent of impact and dependencies (sophistication in understanding and in strategic planning)
    • Exam system has grown into a monster
      • ‘…” the volume of assessment has left awarding bodies overstretched, resulting in errors in questions, high dissatisfaction with marking and inconsistency in grades”…’
      • ‘…” the volume of assessment over the final three years of secondary school … requires, if it is to be conducted as well as it possibly can be, a far greater application of resource”…’
      • ‘… the OCR exam board awarded an A* to 19 per cent of HMC pupils for Physics, while for Edexcel the figure was almost 25 per cent. For Economics, AQA awarded and A* to 16 per cent of HMC candidates but for OCR the figure was 11 per cent…’.
      • Important locus of control issues embedded in this statement
      • Important implied and explicit models regarding standards
      Times 07 Sept 2011 Kenneth Durham University College School Hampstead/HMC
    • The Cambridge Standards Debate
      • Have we moved on?
    • Why the debate?
      • The existence of mechanisms for possible subtle grade drift
      • Evidence from diverse sources – enough to stimulate anxiety
    • Promoting clarity
      • standards of demand
      • content standards
      • standards of attainment
      • standards over time
      • standards between specifications
      • standards between subjects
      • standards between types of qualifications
      • teaching standards and standards of education
    • Mechanisms
      • A period of constant change in structure and content
      • Removal of bias, enhancement of accessibility and transparency of assessments
      • Benefit of the doubt
      • Increased support via mark schemes, text books
      • Emphasis on inclusion
      • Focus on attainment – solely on ‘exam performance’
      • Modularisation and complex routes
      • Changing cohorts, subject choice
      • Massive investment in education
    • Where to, from here?
      • We should understand, with precision, the impact of efforts to improve standards of attainment
      • Reduce the frequency and scope of change in qualifications
      • Qualifications should be owned through partnership between schools, Higher Education, employers and awarding bodies
      • Fitness for purpose, clarity of purpose and validity – pre-eminent concerns for determining standards
    • The purposes and functions of qualifications
      • Documenting outcomes of learning
      • Supporting specific, valid inference(s) regarding the candidates’ possession of specific knowledge, skills and/or understanding
      • Signalling
      • Valuation of different aspects of knowledge, skills and understanding
      • Discrimination and selection
      • Controlling flows into specific occupations and regulating the labour market
      • Empowering citizens
      • Realigning the control of professions
      • Measuring the level of skills and knowledge in the national, sectoral system
      • Measuring the performance of the education system
      • Ensuring linkage of content of programmes (training) to work
      • Recognising the actual knowledge, skills and competences required in performance
      • Fill gaps and update requirements in knowledge, skills and competences
      • Guaranteeing the quality of provision for learners
      • Guaranteeing the quality of provision for funding agencies
      • Affecting the identity of learners
      • Effecting social integration
      • Conferring status on qualified individuals
      • Processes of recognition, accreditation and ‘valuation’ of prior learning
      • Managing competences within enterprises
      • Offering inclusion
      • Providing orientation, guidance
      • Controlling the education and training system generally and the qualifications system specifically
      • Enacting reform in education and training
      • Influencing the content of learning programmes
      • Conditioning or shaping pedagogy
      • Conditioning or shaping assessment
      • Developing zones of mutual trust (between users of qualifications)
      • Providing an accountability mechanism
      • Invoking specific models of competence
      • Giving status to institutional/provider offering
      • Shifting control from one agency to another
      • Shifting control for assessment in the system
      • Protecting the content, standing and identity of a profession
      • Providing feedback to learners (formative and diagnostic function)
      • Helping teachers and trainers understand the strengths and weaknesses of their provision (evaluative function)
      • Introducing innovation
      • Protecting consumers
      • Delivering public benefits
      • Meeting international licensing requirements
    • A thousand tiny steps…
      • Access, defensibility, and efficiency
      • (drift in item forms)
      • Standards maintenance – the magnitude of ‘movement’
      • (drift in attainment standards)
      • Content standards/validity
      • (drift in validity, currency, credibility and learning progression)
    • The interaction of public understanding and policy
      • The shock and horror of ‘error’
      • ‘ Measurement accuracy’ – monitoring it, reducing it
      • Dylan Wiliam: ‘….80 hour exams should do it…’
      • How long would you like assessment to be, what do you want them to look like, what do you want them to cost?
      • Instruction-sensitive assessment
    • A/AS level examinations Bassett, D. 2011. Inside Government Forum. Reform of National Exams: Impact on schools and students . 7 July. One Great George Street, Westminster. Briefing notes, BN43 (2009), IFS Candidates Entries Papers Cost (includes correction for inflation) Expenditure on education in England 1970 103,000 (£89.32) 441,898 (£20.82) 643,750 (£14.29) £9.2m £28bn 1990 185,000 (£102.16) 615,725 (£30.70) 1,388,250 (£13.61) £18.9m £45bn 2000 231,351 (£131.83) 672,518 (£45.35) 2,168,916 (£14.06) £30.5m £52bn 2008 256,622 (£275.50) 741,356 (£95.37) 5,455,655 (£12.96) £70.7m £80bn
    • The race to the bottom
      • What is worse?
      • for it to be present but not detect it; the ‘total ignorance ’ option
      • for the public to think that it occurs but it does not (and we cannot demonstrate that it does not); the ‘ innocent imprisoned ’ option
      • to have it, to not be committed to quantifying it, nor to having policy to arrest it; the ‘ defiantly irresponsible ’ option
      • A key claim regarding regulation is removal and/or prevention of competition on standards
    • A new look at standards: What should we want from GCSEs and A levels? Presentation by Tim Oates Group Director Assessment Research and Development (ARD) 13 October 2011