Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Curriculum Council PD events

Curriculum council events are always attended with a healthy amount of skepticism. They have typically been fairly patronising towards teachers in their approach, devoid of usable content and fairly defensive of their purpose.

The most recent compulsory moderation was the latest shmozzle. The requirements sent to teachers during the reporting period were as follows for each course gathering materials for four students, an A, B, C & D student:

"Each file must consist of all completed assessment tasks that have contributed to the grade for the first semester unit or all tasks completed so far if units are being delivered concurrently, including:

• the assessment outline for the units/s
• the tasks/ task briefs/ task descriptions and marking keys indicating the allocation of marks
• a complete set of all marked tasks for each student (Including the Semester 1 Examination if one is used).

It is advisable that schools supply photocopies of the assessment tasks (not the originals). Where possible indications of the school and students name should be removed from each of the tasks and the student work."

This might sound like an easy task, but photocopying and anonymising 4-5 tasks for four students (up to 10 pages per task) plus a 10 pg exam, marking keys, unit outlines, descriptors is about 240 pages of photocopying and a fair amount of work at a busy time of year. Do this for two courses and it is 500 pages of photocopying.

Teachers would have appreciated knowing the requirement at the start of the year and then the task would have had negligible impact (as it could have been collected as the term progressed). As there is no moderation generally in year 11, these materials are not normally kept in the same ordered manner year 12 materials are kept. There were many stories of teachers needing to spend considerable time during the break gathering materials. This may have been exacerbated by a lack of feedback from school admin to teachers of requirements as information became available.

The task itself on the day involved 10 teachers examining the marking of fellow teachers and stating whether their grade based on a cursory inspection of the results of students. The process failed to some degree because 80% of DET schools were using the same exam (from the TDC). Thus what we saw was the same exam 5-6 times, we examined the percentage score of the exam and defined a grade accordingly (80%+ -A, 65-80% B, 50-65% C and 35-50% D) or thereabouts depending on the level of difficulty of associated assessments.

A better use of time (but not the purpose of the meeting as I was chastised by the Curriculum Council person at great length) would have been to swap EPWs, discuss timing and difficulty levels of the courses and how students are performing in the courses. I was told to ensure that I wrote my feedback down. I responded that I had been down that path before and would no longer spend time on unread feedback but she was welcome to feed back my concerns. I find my blog a much more therapeutic venue for developing my understanding of the coursework.

There were some key findings:

It was reported by teachers that there is major concern about students passing from 2CD to 3AB in year 12 as the difficulty jump is seen as more than possible for the majority of students (many students are destined to repeat the same course). Another issue has been raised that there is not enough "teaching time" for low ability students in the 1BC course which seems to be more focused on assessing past learning than having time to teach new material.

The Curriculum Council representative raised issues with the Saddler 3AB text stating that it was flawed and that the Westone resources were superior. I nearly fell over when she said that, as I have found the Westone resources near useless as it is far too investigative for my liking. It should be noted though that this may be my teaching limitation and a reflection of my cohort, rather than an issue with the Westone resources. The usability of the OT Lee materials were questioned by a number of teachers (although I like them as a supplementary text) and in general it was considered that Saddler texts were the preferred text, albeit you needed to be careful where content exceeded the course requirements.

There is a lot of confusion about what the TEE papers will look like and teachers are waiting impatiently for example papers. It was generally considered that it would have been preferable to have been given full TEE exemplar papers for each module before schools had to create and run courses.

My favourite issue raised though related to a hearsay Curriculum Council comment made by a teacher in the 3A MAS moderation meeting that the curriculum for the 3A courses is aimed at 30% of mathematics students as opposed to the old Introcalc & G&T course that aimed at about 10% of students. This raised mirth from the whole room of senior teachers who indicated that if this was the case, the course was failing in its objective.

As the most junior member at the 3A moderation meeting I attended, I did appreciate the feedback given by the more senior members. For this the meeting was worthwhile.


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