Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

GCSE History


  • Please log in to reply
27 replies to this topic

#1 Dan Lyndon

Dan Lyndon

    Super Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,403 posts

Posted 10 June 2003 - 04:02 PM

I have come home from invigilating the GCSE paper 1 today, and must confess to being rather miserable. I spent the two hours staring at despondent faces, with a number of my boys feeling so defeated that they barely answered half of the questions. Why? mainly because they could not access the questions. Yes they had covered the topics, yes they had spent time in revision lessons, yes (some of them) had worked bloody hard to prepare for the exam, but my cohort of inner city, some refugee, some SEN, some ESOL boys found it very hard to know what the questions were asking them to do. I won't quote the paper, which sits on my desk as I type this, but there are surely simpler ways of writing some of the questions. Another issue is the amount of 'own knowledge' that is required on paper 1. There were 2 questions out of the nine which did not require own knowledge - 10 marks out of 80. The change in emphasis to more overview questions as well meant that students now have to know 2000 years of history to answer one question on the medicine section - to paraphrase ' why did Greek ideas last until the 19th C?' This is a very demanding task for the students that I teach.
Now of course I appreciate that the exam board will say that this is a differentiated paper covering A* - G. This hardly seems to be the case seeing as the E, F and G students can't understand half of the questions. I say it is about time we had a foundation paper for GCSE History, we are shooting ourselves in the foot if we don't, seeing as it is widely recognised that History is one of the 'hardest' subjects on the curriculum.
Sorry if this posting is so negative, it just feels like my boys (and I) have just had 2 years hard work rather washed down the proverbial.

Edited by Dan Lyndon, 10 June 2003 - 04:05 PM.

Until the lion has a historian of his own, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
comptonhistory.com
blackhistory4schools.com

#2 Richard Drew

Richard Drew

    Super Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,594 posts

Posted 10 June 2003 - 04:10 PM

strangely, i've had the opposite experience today. loads of smiling faces as my mid/bottom set GCSE came out of their germany exam overjoyed at the paper they had received.

i now have a number of students pumped up and ready to to even better next week. these kids are now aiming for B's or even A's, but would have been sure to be in foundation paper without even the option to do this well.

the debate continues.........
user posted image

#3 alison denton

alison denton

    Long-term Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 541 posts

Posted 10 June 2003 - 04:18 PM

The fact that it is possible for any pupil to (theoretically) get A* on a common paper can be motivating for pupils who are otherwise consigned to the murky waters of foundation papers and lower tiers in other subjects. At least in History they are doing the same as the 'clever kids'.
It is worth looking closely at what other boards offer at GCSE - some boards' papers are more easily accessible than others for the whole ability range. Pay close attention to the specimen markschemes too - what exactly do pupils have to DO to gain high level marks? Is this within the grasp of your 'lower ability' pupils?

#4 Nichola Boughey

Nichola Boughey

    Nichola

  • Admin
  • 2,191 posts

Posted 10 June 2003 - 05:04 PM

I hold mixed opinions on my GCSE paper today.

Section B of Edexcel's Economic and Social History paper was straightforward and I liked the questions - so long as the girls revised they would be ok as the questions were straightforward.

Section C was slightly squiffy as the actual paper asked about roads and canals - had hoped for railways - and the more in depth questions had the dates taken out of the stimulus box - not like their practice paper.

So first half was good - even if Yr. 11 attempted to answer the Section A which had not been taught to them - and the second was semi-ok! ;)

#5 Dan Lyndon

Dan Lyndon

    Super Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,403 posts

Posted 10 June 2003 - 05:29 PM

Have just returned from a nice swim - it is amazing what 20 lengths of the local pool can do to give you a fresh perspective. It is interesting reading other people's comments. I guess that I felt a bit frustrated knowing the students that I teach that had invested so much time and effort into this exam and came out of it feeling like they had not achieved their potential. I also realise that had the students that I taught at my previous school taken the same exam, then it would have been a much easier paper for them and the majority would have got good grades on that paper. Still I guess we have still got paper 2 to look 'forward to' and you never know, the marker might be feeling a bit generous ....
Until the lion has a historian of his own, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
comptonhistory.com
blackhistory4schools.com

#6 Dan Moorhouse

Dan Moorhouse

    Six Star General

  • Admin
  • 3,547 posts

Posted 10 June 2003 - 06:44 PM

As noted in another thread, I've received complaints from students about the phrasing of questions, the poor quality of images in the paper and have had the same said to me from collagues who helped to invigilate. Interestingly the external invigilator said that it was by far the most difficult paper he had seen yet...

#7 Andrew Field

Andrew Field

    Andrew

  • Admin
  • 6,948 posts

Posted 10 June 2003 - 06:53 PM

As noted in another thread, I've received complaints from students about the phrasing of questions, the poor quality of images in the paper and have had the same said to me from collagues who helped to invigilate. Interestingly the external invigilator said that it was by far the most difficult paper he had seen yet...

Not that I've seen the paper at all, but when we are able to produce full colour multi-page inserts for Year 9 SAT exams, poor quality images in history GCSE papers are totally unacceptable. I suppose it does offer the opportunity for the students to critizise the quality of the source, but this doesn't help those who have been encouraged to look for the hidden meanings behind the source - how can they when it is a blurred mess?

What a shame.


Generate your own versions of my games, quizzes and eLearning activities: ContentGenerator.net

#8 mattzb

mattzb

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 235 posts

Posted 10 June 2003 - 07:41 PM

I thought that the exam today (edexcel shp medicine and weimar / nazi germany) was pretty fair. Though they could have hung themselves on question 1 of the nazis by writing wwwaaaaaaaayyyyyy too much, the option questions should have been fairly straightforward :blink: (and crossing everydamnthingelse too)
Is it just me or is public health becoming the key question for the compulsory? Hippocrates looked okay - as long as they did not go into Galen too much... Pare was a "peach" (to quote my subject head)

#9 JohnDClare

JohnDClare

    Six Star General

  • Admin
  • 3,190 posts

Posted 10 June 2003 - 08:50 PM

1. A recent edition of Teaching History with an article by Chris Culpin (I think), in which he said that for some pupils, GCSE is so easy it is barely worth doing/ for others, it is hard beyond comprehension. TRUE.
2. Ongoing complaints that History is MUCH, MUCH harder than many other subjects (not least, Geography) - though I'm not convinced that the differences aren't ironed out by easier marking.

I share Dan's disappointment. Today's AQA B paper 'analysis' questions all asked 'Which was more important as a reason - a or b?' Which is fair enough, but we haven't taught them how to deal with that kind of question, and my staff are left wondering whether the pupils will have managed to understand what the question was really asking.

I've complained about the questions in History GCSE exams for a long time.
They add another layer of difficulty to what is alteady a conceptually hard subject for my pupils to appropriate. What the questions do is add a layer of obscurity over the facts, concepts and skills - so we have to TEACH the pupils how to recognise/deal with different ways the question might be presented/ what the questions really mean.
When my pupils know what the question is really asking, they can often answer it very well. The problem is that so often the real import of the question just goes over the top of their heads.

Thus, in today's paper:
'Describe how Chamberlain helped to prevent war over the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia in September 1938'.
I wonder if it would be possible to find a clumsier way of phrasing it. I suspect that the examiners were trying to make it easier (???) for the pupils by unpacking what they wanted the pupils to say. But really, it's a VERY difficult question. It's asking how Chamberlain tried to avoid war AND about the Sudeten crisis both in the same question.
What, I wonder, would have been so bad about asking simply:
Describe the Sudeten crisis of September 1938.

Even worse:
'Describe how the organisation of the League of Nations was meant to keep the peace.'
If you look at the question as an adult, it's a very nuanced and difficult question. 'Was meant' is a very loaded phrase.
And 'the organisation' of the LoN is VERY ambiguous.
The way the wording is phrased I think suggests that they want the pupils to list the elements of the way the League was organised (Council/ Secretariat etc), and to explain for each how it was meant to keep the peace. (So again, we have two questions in one - describe organisation/ explain how kept peace) But 'organisation' can also mean 'body' (as in .org), so, arguably, the question MIGHT mean the LoN as an organisation - 'Describe how the LoN organisation tried to keep the peace'.
What would have been so wrong with:
'Describe the organisation and powers of the LoN'.

What makes all this so depressing is that pupils doing other options/questions were not faced with such ambiguities in their 'describe' questions - cf:
describe the Schlieffen Plan
describe the decision made at Yalta and potsdam
describe Soviet involvement in Afghanistan 1979-1989.

I don't think the problem is in the grading - I think the problems get ironed out in the marking. The main problem is that my pupils see what are potentially 'gift' questions and don't do them because they are turned away by the obscurity of the language.

I wonder whether it's a cultural thing - whether the phrasing of the question means it is more obscure for certain cultural groups than for others. Are children from a working-class area, for instance, where perhaps nuanced conversation round the dinner table is not such a frequent occurrence, disadvantaged by the phrasing of the questions? To go back to the Chamberlain question, I think that the way that question is phrased, for someone with the ability to read the language, actually unpacks exactly what the examiner wants the pupils to say/write about/expound. For my pupils, the wording simply obfuscates the real question. But I COULD have asked my pupils that question in a way which they would have been able to answer, and answer it well.
And I wonder where EFL pupils stand in all this?

I recognise the arguments for a single paper, but I really think we need to move to a two-tier system.

But I also think that the examiners need to look to the phrasing of their questions.

#10 Shamrock

Shamrock

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 149 posts

Posted 10 June 2003 - 10:43 PM

Oh dear!
I knew one of my arch students was depressed after his history AS last week. He put Gladstone instead of Disraelli or vice versa.
I have just heard he committed suicide at 4.00 pm today.
:( I'm shocked.

#11 Dave Wallbanks

Dave Wallbanks

    Super Member

  • Admin
  • 1,444 posts

Posted 10 June 2003 - 11:02 PM

I swapped from AQA directly and solely because of the question styling. I got the impression that the examiners were trying to be deliberately obscure and showing how clever they were without addressing the question of what do we want pupils to tell us? As the result was a room of perplexed lower attainers I decided enough was enough. It's time to rejig the GCSE and have everybody decide what do they really want from the GCSE because frankly I don't think the exams are good enough for my kids in that they don't let them show their skills and knowledge in questions that state "tell us this". I know there's the question a lot of you will put about about academic rigour. Well b***** rigour, my pupils worked damned hard under AQA only to suffer at the hands of some truly dreadful examining.
There is a light and it never goes out.
Go pray in my church!
http://www.nufc.com

#12 alison denton

alison denton

    Long-term Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 541 posts

Posted 11 June 2003 - 03:08 PM

Are all of you with English examining boards? WJEC History is available to everyone, and whilst there are the inevitable moans about the paper, some of your problems don't occur:
1. The question stems are always the same - year to year, option to option and sub-question to sub-question, following an incline of difficulty. There IS comparability
2. Generic markschemes show you easily what pupils must do to get top levels, and although this encourages 'teaching to the exam', given the pressure on staff and pupils to 'perform' this is very helpful.
3. The exam papers are rigorously scrutinised by a moderation panel including teachers before they are printed, so nuances within questions are ironed out. Questions are rarely capable of misinterpretation
4. Questions are as wide as possible, allowing candidates to bring in knowledge they have, and show what they understand and can do.

Most of the options offered by the English boards are there too, and only 2 options specify any Welsh History (and they can be avoided)

Best of all - if you need guidance/ advice you can pick up the phone and speak to a real human being in charge of History!!!!!

#13 Richard Drew

Richard Drew

    Super Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,594 posts

Posted 11 June 2003 - 03:24 PM

Are all of you with English examining boards? WJEC History is available to everyone, and whilst there are the inevitable moans about the paper, some of your problems don't occur:
1. The question stems are always the same - year to year, option to option and sub-question to sub-question, following an incline of difficulty. There IS comparability
2. Generic markschemes show you easily what pupils must do to get top levels, and although this encourages 'teaching to the exam', given the pressure on staff and pupils to 'perform' this is very helpful.
3. The exam papers are rigorously scrutinised by a moderation panel including teachers before they are printed, so nuances within questions are ironed out. Questions are rarely capable of misinterpretation
4. Questions are as wide as possible, allowing candidates to bring in knowledge they have, and show what they understand and can do.

Most of the options offered by the English boards are there too, and only 2 options specify any Welsh History (and they can be avoided)

Best of all - if you need guidance/ advice you can pick up the phone and speak to a real human being in charge of History!!!!!

absolutely. i recommend WJEC to anyone who is looking for a way to avoid a lot of the problems people have mentioned
user posted image

#14 Jacko

Jacko

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 167 posts

Posted 11 June 2003 - 05:47 PM

Today's AQA B paper 'analysis' questions all asked 'Which was more important as a reason - a or b?' Which is fair enough, but we haven't taught them how to deal with that kind of question,

My feelings exactly John. I wrote a Year 10 paper which was based on the style of question given in the specimen paper we were sent. I then used the Specimen Paper itself for my mock. Then we get something quite different in the exam.

My main gripe with the paper, however, as I have mentioned elsewhere, was the rubric. I know we had been sent a copy of this to prepare students but it my case it arrive the week they left on study leave. I sent it out to them with an accompanying note trying to explain about the different Options on Section A. Several of them came to me yesterday before the exam to seek reassurance about it. I went into the exam, went through the rubric with them, told them (as we are allowed) exactly what option we had studied and how many questions had to be answered on it. I then left the hall and one the invigilators told me that I'd hardly got through the door before one kid put his hand up and said "So do we have to do all of these."

Later in the afternoon I was in a leadership team meeting. One of the Assistant Head's (an English teacher!) needed clarification after reading it and the Head was astonished at the level of literacy needed to respond to the questions at all compared to other exams!

#15 JohnDClare

JohnDClare

    Six Star General

  • Admin
  • 3,190 posts

Posted 14 June 2003 - 08:38 AM

I agree with Jacko. Our examinations' officer refused to read out the rubric, and we had to parachute in a History teacher just to do that and then leave.

On reflection, I have decided that I have even more gripes about the AQA Modern World Paper 1 than simply the phrasing of the questions.

1. WHAT IT LEFT OUT disappointed me. (I think my biggest upset was the decision to focus on the U2 incident for half of the Cold War question.) The pupils are learning HUGE amounts of stuff which just isn't used or needed at all - and the examiners focus in on something you've merely told them it happened. This boils down, of course, to the syllabus-in-the-first-place. It is just far too big! How one is supposed to fit everything in amazes me.

2. Consequently, for the moderately- and less-able pupil, the GCSE Modern World History Paper becomes - from start to finish - 'A PAPER TO CATCH YOU OUT'.

* it requires learning vast amounts of factual and conceptual material and then asks questions on a fraction of it. So any pupil who learned the stuff unevenly can be punished because the bits they didn't learn came up.
* it often asks questions in an obscure and nuanced way - so children without the cultural or language skills can miss the point of the question and lose the opportunity to show what they know even when they actually do know the stuff on that topic.
* it routinely asks questions that pupils may not have directly considered in their studies (eg ALL those either/or questions this year) - requiring them to 'think on their feet' in the pressure of an exam.

How could things be made better?
a. Reduce syllabus content. This would allow better, more inventive teaching at KS4 (something that everyone is screaming about anyway).
b. Keep the sourcework questions. I have no problem with testing pupils' skills - I can teach them a skill, and they can more (or less) learn it, and it's valid to examine that. These questions, also, tend to be asked in a 'standard' way which flags up for the pupil what they have to demonstrate.
c. On the essay questions, ask routine (boring) questions about mainline topics:
* 'Describe the events of the Sudetenland Crisis of 1938'
* 'Why did the Cold War break out after 1945?'
[Pupils want to be thrilled and challenged in their lessons, not in their exam - to try to set 'interesting' and inventive questions in an exam risks simply bewildering them, and that is not fair.]
* And where you have an 'opinion' essay, give it a title so the pupils know what topic they are being asked about:
'Why Hitler's Foreign Policy was Successful
"The most important factor in allowing Hitler to succeed in his foreign policy was Chamberlain's policy of appeasement." Do you agree?'
And ask such questions in a number of standardised ways, so that teachers can warn and prepare their pupils for what they will meet.

What would be wrong with such an approach? The better pupils would STILL write better answers! There need not necessarily be any improvement in the grades given - presumably easier questions would simply evoke more demanding markschemes. But more pupils would leave the exam feeling that they had done justice to themselves. And it would favour the honest slogger (who has tried so hard learn everything) over the bullshitter with a nice turn of written phrase.




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users