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Strategic learning and the qualifications arms race
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Strategic learning and the qualifications arms race


Presentation by Jo-Anne Baird …

Presentation by Jo-Anne Baird
Pearson Professor of Educational Assessment

Published in Education
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  • Michael Gove - Exam boards exist to measure ability, not engage in crude social engineering. 28 September 2011
  • Current A-levels already stretching Students hard-working and anxious about exams No reward for displaying skills beyond those expected


  • 1. Strategic learning & the qualifications arms race Jo-Anne Baird Pearson Professor of Educational Assessment
  • 2. Policy proliferation
    • Curriculum 2000 A-levels, New A-levels 2010 – synopsis, stretch and challenge, modularity, A*
    • GCSE changes 2003, 2009 – modularity, coursework, vocational GCSEs, international GCSE
    • Diplomas (plus consideration of the Tomlinson proposals)
    • Functional Skills
    • Extended Projects
    • Foundation learning
    • Qualifications Credit Framework
    • VCEs
    • Assessing Pupil Progress
    • Piloting of single level tests, world class tests
    • Withdrawal of GNVQ, VCE, Key Stage 3 tests, Key Stage 2 science tests
  • 3. Reform cycle
  • 4. Views of A-levels
    • I think in my subject area I’d go a step further ... A-level actively discriminates against the most able students. ... I think there’s too much recall …we have significant amounts where they need to be able to regurgitate definitions, erm, which are fairly insignificant really…
    • Chemistry teacher
    • ‘ Everything was very formulaic which was quite annoying because we just spent all year sort of learning how to answer the questions more than anything else. No one really wanted to take any risks in their exam results.
    • Psychology student
    • I literally learnt the mark scheme. I was like, well there’s no point in trying to go into the details of why this [biological process] works. I knew exactly what wording they wanted. Biology student
  • 5. Performativity culture
    • Students must be strategic learners – test wisdom is not new, just more prevalent and available transparently to the masses
    • Teachers have vested interests in getting students through examinations – they choose the examination
    • Cannot withhold publication of examination materials
    • Students are learning higher level skills (eg how to construct an essay) as well as acquiring knowledge: we need both
    • Preparing for qualifications dominates young people’s lives
    • Competition is hotter than in our day
  • 6. Getting standards right
    • Do not rush system-level change
    • Establish review periods & structures to keep education current
    • Invest more time and effort in making sure the standards (curriculum & outcomes) are what we need to compete in the knowledge economy
      • For progression to Higher Education
      • For the 21 st Century workplace
      • For comparisons with other countries
    Ofqual- A new look at standards Page