As part of the school’s year 11 “gearing up” strategies for summer exams, pupils are all taken off of timetable in the last week of the autumn term in order to sit mock exams – probably not an uncommon activity in many secondary schools. They sit at least one exam paper for each subject they study. My year 11s sat a full Sociology Paper 2 exam.
Therefore some of my Christmas break was taken with mock marking, although I did not mark them in their entirety – I have found it very useful to give pupils the marking criteria and a green pen for them to mark their own papers.
Having their green markings on the exam paper is hugely beneficial to me so I can see how aware and astute they are with applying the criteria to their own efforts. The exercise of evaluating their own work is hugely beneficial to their development too. It aids awareness of specialist concepts from the course specification and encourages an understanding of how examiners will mark, and therefore how best to word or set out a response in order to get the most credits.
In class during January we are also sitting a full Sociology Paper 1. This will provide reliable evidence for progress checks and will also show the pupils themselves just what results they can achieve now that we are in their examination year.
When it comes to the marking, I am also honing my skills. The method I have adopted is to mark each of the shorter questions together in order to gain a consistent marking strategy. This ensures that I become as familiar as possible with the mark scheme and it also allows me to benchmark pupils against each other to give consistent marking. Moving onto the second “session” of marking, I will then focus on the longer exam-style questions.
This week is our deadline for inputting spring progress grades, attitude and mock grades on the management information system. Having this current data has proved very useful in accurately qualifying what progress has been made. Their progress grades are “fine graded” (as explained in my previous column: http://bit.ly/1C4NiDq) to allow a greater understanding of the level they are working at; their attitude assessment is very much intended to help celebrate excellent application and behaviour; and their mock grades are to show what they can actually deliver in practice.
Some pupils will be pleased, others disappointed. However, hopefully with the feedback and support I endeavour to provide, these grades will be motivational for their “home run” towards GCSEs.
For my year 11 sociologists, we have one remaining topic to finish and we have then completed the learning. We will be moving onto revision after February half-term. What the mocks have allowed me to do is identify who is strong at responding to the shorter mark answers that cover more of the core aspects of sociology and those pupils who are more effective at answering the essay-based questions, where application, analysis and evaluation are necessary.
Once we move into revision session, in addition to recalling and applying knowledge and understanding, I will group pupils to work on activities that suit their exam practice needs.
I will also be differentiating by mixing groups for them to share their strengths and best practice with others who may struggle with either shorter or longer mark questions.
I have their parents’ evening this week, so informing their parents of progress with some measured examples accompanied with recommendations will be really valuable.
Encouraging the pupils to attend will mean we can have the benefit of a triangulated dialogue...
SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of sociology and philosophy from a school in the South of England.