Can we compete? Do A levels match the world's best?

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Presentation by Dennis Opposs at 'A new look at standards' event

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Can we compete? Do A levels match the world's best?

  1. 1. Can we compete? Do A levels match the world's best? Dennis Opposs Director of Standards
  2. 2. International comparisons work <ul><li>Six-year research programme </li></ul><ul><li>Investigate the demand of assessments taken internationally in comparison to those taken in England </li></ul>
  3. 3. Ofqual’s new standards objective <ul><li>The qualifications standards objective is to secure that ̶ </li></ul><ul><li>(a) regulated qualifications give a reliable indication of knowledge, skills and understanding, and </li></ul><ul><li>(b) regulated qualifications indicate ̶ </li></ul><ul><li>(i) a consistent level of attainment (including over time) between comparable regulated qualifications, and </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(ii) a consistent level of attainment (but not over time) between regulated qualifications and comparable qualifications (including those awarded outside the United Kingdom) which are not qualifications to which this Part applies. </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. International comparisons work <ul><li>The first of these studies focuses on assessments available to senior secondary learners intending to progress to university in the UK </li></ul>
  5. 5. The two types of studies <ul><li>PISA, TIMSS, PIRLS </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A special test designed to be a benchmark against itself </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Test written through international collaboration to assess a common understanding of ‘quality’ </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sample of all students </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>What Ofqual is looking at </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>What students do as part of their normal school assessment </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Assessments written in the context of each system, reflecting their values, curriculum and purpose </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Assessments for students looking to higher education </li></ul></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Existing studies <ul><li>‘ On their own, cross-sectional international comparisons such as PISA cannot identify cause-and-effect relationships between certain factors and educational outcomes, especially in relation to the classroom and the processes of teaching and learning that take place there’ </li></ul><ul><li>OECD 2011 </li></ul>
  7. 7. Senior secondary assessment <ul><li>Chemistry </li></ul><ul><li>English (national language or main language of tuition) </li></ul><ul><li>History </li></ul><ul><li>Mathematics </li></ul>
  8. 9. Other systems <ul><li>International Baccalaureate </li></ul><ul><li>The ACT, USA </li></ul><ul><li>Cambridge Pre-U </li></ul><ul><li>Cambridge International </li></ul><ul><li>A levels </li></ul>
  9. 10. Senior secondary assessments <ul><li>Some assessments have the specific purpose of selecting students for higher education (for example a matriculation examination) </li></ul><ul><li>Others are assessments of educational achievement that in addition are used to identify students for higher education (of which A levels are one) </li></ul>
  10. 11. Methodology <ul><li>The demand of each assessment was judged in relation to its appropriateness in preparing learners for entry to honours level degree study in England </li></ul>
  11. 12. Curriculum comparisons England (A levels) Subject A Subject B Subject C Denmark (Gymnasium) Danish English 2nd foreign language History Classical studies Physics Physical education An artistic subject Mathematics Religion Social science Two of biology, chemistry and natural geography Multi-subject coursework Electives Specialised study Hong Kong (HKDSE) Chinese language English language Mathematics Liberal studies Elective
  12. 13. Curriculum - Assessment what is taught v what is assessed
  13. 14. Emerging findings <ul><li>Independent research and extended essays </li></ul><ul><li>Internally set assessment </li></ul><ul><li>Multiple-choice questions </li></ul><ul><li>Mark schemes </li></ul><ul><li>Predictability </li></ul>
  14. 15. Emerging findings – Mathematics <ul><li>Pure mathematics or applications </li></ul><ul><li>Levels </li></ul><ul><li>New technology </li></ul><ul><li>Mechanics </li></ul>
  15. 16. Emerging findings – Chemistry <ul><li>Balance of coverage </li></ul><ul><li>Challenging topics </li></ul><ul><li>Mathematical content </li></ul>
  16. 17. Emerging findings – English <ul><li>What is English? </li></ul><ul><li>What is a text? </li></ul><ul><li>Types of assessments </li></ul>
  17. 18. Emerging findings – History <ul><li>What is history? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>citizenship? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>study skills and concepts? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>rote learning facts and figures? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Types of assessments </li></ul>
  18. 19. Emerging findings – Summary <ul><li>Layers of breadth and depth </li></ul><ul><li>Assessment variety </li></ul><ul><li>Producing the best A levels </li></ul>
  19. 20. Future studies – 16+,11+ <ul><li>Criteria for selection of systems </li></ul><ul><li>Subjects: mathematics and English; others? </li></ul>

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